Amidst clouds of color, family, friends and even pets celebrate the festival of Holi on March 8. Holi, a Hindu celebration, originated in South Asia, but is now celebrated in many parts of the world, including Oxford.
On March 4, The Indian and Nepalese Student Association made Holi feel more like home this year for those celebrating.
“We’re trying to make this event where they don’t miss their family as much and try to build a little Ole Miss family with all the people around us,” Krishna Soni, president of the Indian Student Association, said.
Shefali Pawar, a graduate electrical engineering student, has not celebrated Holi in India with her family for four years.
“(Saturday) brought back the memories of all the fun I used to have with my family and friends back in India,” Pawar said. “I’m truly grateful and really appreciate all the work that was put in by the Nepalese Student Association and the Indian Student Association.”
The festival of Holi is not just for those who practice Hinduism. Over the past decades, Holi has been celebrated all over the world. For those who are Hindu, Holi originated from many different stories.
SK Mendoza Forrest, instructor of Religion Hinduism and the Ancient Near East, said explanations of Holi’s origins vary depending on the region, but all share a theme of good over evil, life over death or spring over winter.
“I have spent a lot of time in various areas in India,” Forrest said. “And depending on the area, and even the religion, there are various myths explaining the origins of Holi. It is a spring festival, like others around the world. Some Hindus celebrate it as the triumph of good over evil.”
One mythology Soni and Forrest mentioned was an evil king Hiranya Kashipu, who was very powerful and hated the gods. His son Prahlad, however, worshiped Vishnu, the god of preservation. The king was furious at his disobedient son and plotted with his daughter Holika to kill Prahlad. Holika, who was immune to fire, asked her brother to enter a great fire with her, in hopes of killing him. Holika dies despite her immunity to fire, destroying the evil king’s plot.
According to Forrest, another myth addresses racial prejudice against the dark-skinned god Krishna.
“Krishna … was in love with a girl, Radha, but he fretted that she might reject him for his black skin,” Forrest said. “He finally confessed his love and he asked that she paint him whatever color she wanted. She used many colors, and that is why Holi is also celebrated by throwing colored powders and by wiping powders on faces.”
For many Hindus at the university, the closet temple is in Nashville. For those who did not want to go to the temple and celebrate, they celebrated on Saturday. The organizations handed out candles, water guns, colors and water balloons and played popular Bollywood music. Attendees were not afraid to get messy, and a dog was even doused in pink powder. The event hosted approximately 200 people.
“It starts with somebody that you love and respect. That’s the first person to apply color to,” Soni said. “So usually the elders or your parents or siblings or or even your partner. … But if they’re not there, it’s just your perspective on who to apply colors to.”
Sandip Rai, the president of the Nepalese Student Association, brought both student associations together to create a community.
“I used to get excited about Holi as a kid,” Rai said. “I remember stacking colors in my pocket and going out with my friends to color other people from different neighborhoods. It used to be very competitive back in those days.”
In an article for Time Magazine, “Here’s Everything You Need to Know About Holi, the Hindu Festival of Colors,” Abhishyant Kidangoor explains that each color has a different meaning. For example, red symbolizes love and green symbolizes fertility and new beginnings.
Along with colors and water, the event also offered Holi snacks such as samosa, lassi, pakoda and sweets.
“I mean, it’s just a celebration,” Soni said. “It’s more fun than you can say it’s cultural, because everybody comes together, everybody wants to have fun, they’re all happy, energetic, and even the music is blasting. The energy builds up from person to person and it’s very chaotic”
Holi represents new beginnings and brings in good energy for the spring season, no matter whether one practices Hinduism or not.
“You don’t have to know much about Holi,” Rai said. “If you love to have fun and bring out your inner child, this festival is for you.”