The Indian Student Association at VCU celebrated their own version of Holi, or the Festival of Colors, in Monroe Park this past Friday by filling the air with colorful powders and screams of laughter.
Holi is traditionally celebrated in India to signify the beginning of spring. Historians have found evidence that the Holi festival existed centuries before Christ, according to holifestival.org. Originally performed in India by married women as a way to bring well-being to their families, the festival is now celebrated by millions of people across Asia. This year marks the third time the Indian Student Association at VCU has put together a Holi celebration.
Madhur Batra, president of the association, said ISA decided to bring more Indian culture to VCU’s campus in 2011 by organizing their own version of Holi.
“We try to bring as much culture as we can to VCU through the Indian community,” Batra said. “It’s non-religious so everyone can join … and it basically just brings the entire VCU community together.”
Traditionally, people gather wood days before Holi for the lighting of a bonfire called “Holika,” according to holifestival.org. Holika signifies the “devil-minded sister” of the demon King Hiranyakashyap. The day before Holi, Holika is burned to signify victory of good over evil. During the festival, people spray colored water or powders on each other in celebration.
As soon as 4 p.m. struck in Monroe Park on Friday, students pelted each other with water balloons and dumped colored powder on each others’ heads. Everyone was encouraged to wear white to signify peace.
Freshman and member of ISA, Dana Ramanan said she helped organize the celebration. Ramanan said the throwing of colors is a way of wishing people well.
“It’s not just for Indian people,” Ramanan said. “It’s for everyone who wants to celebrate spring, celebrate peace and celebrate Indian culture.”
One of the organizers drove to New Jersey to get colors for the festival. Ramanan said another member used colors that were brought directly from India. Atika Tabassum, a senior at VCU, said she grew up watching people celebrate Holi in Bollywood movies. After having fun participating in the festival at VCU last year, Tabassum said she made sure to bring her friends the second-time around.
“I loved it (last year), so I made them all come out,” Tabassum said. “ISA also brings the culture here for students who can’t experience it otherwise.”
Batra said this year was the largest turnout ISA has experienced, and estimated there were about 100 participants. At times, random passerby would see the excitement and grab some colored powder to join in, which made the scene even more festive. Batra said the ISA has more events planned in the future in order to continue celebrating Indian culture on campus.