By Rachel Kuipers
Groups of students clothed in old white t-shirts gathered on McKeldin Mall on April 5 to play Holi, prepared to dance and be doused in vibrantly colored powder.
Holi is a Hindu event originally celebrated in India, said Hindu Student Council Seva, or Community Service, Chair Lakshmi Kirkire
The celebration began with a prayer, led by members of the Hindu Student Council. The prayer, called an arati, “involves using a lamp … and offering it to the deities,” said Kirkire. She said they also sometime use a camphor, a flammable waxy material burned in place of a lamp as an offering.
After the prayer, Hindu Student Council members threw handfuls or small bags of colored powder into the crowd while music inspired dancing. Festivalgoers grabbed handfuls and rubbed it on their friends and strangers’ faces, ensuring not one person went uncolored. For a few moments after each color was thrown, a colorful haze floated over the crowd.
“It’s a very fun and, with the colors, a very unique experience,” said junior public health science major Jayanee Thanki, who went to the event because her friends had never played Holi and they wanted the experience.
“I’m Indian so I’ve been playing Holi since I was a little kid, but this is my first time playing in America,” she said. “I celebrated in India. It was different; there were more people and it was just Indian people, but here I see so many different cultures participating.”
Hindu Student Council Secretary Shradha Sahani estimated 700-800 people attended throughout the day.
“The event signifies the beginning of spring,” Sahani said. “It symbolizes new beginnings and the triumph of good over evil.”
In India, Holi celebrations are larger than the festival hosted by the HSC at the university, Sahani said. Though the basics of the celebration are similar, in India people use water guns and water balloons in addition to the color the festival is known for.
“Holi is traditionally celebrated in this manner and so we keep true to that,” said Kirkire. “We do like to mix it up a little with a DJ, a pool, and a slip n’ slide, because we find they add to the fun and energy of the event. We also have our entire event 100 percent free, which some schools don’t do.”
UMD’s Hindu Student Council held Holi a month after the official celebration day partly in wait for warmer weather, Kirkire, a junior biological sciences and Spanish double major said.
“We wanted it to be pleasant so people could enjoy the day. Another part was just booking the mall and finding available dates. April 5 just happened to be the date we could get so we went with it.”
The Hindu Student Council had to book the mall a month in advance of Holi, book a DJ, arrange for access to tables and a hose through the university and purchase a pool. The HSC also had to get color.
“Some of [the color] was donated from a local temple but the rest we bought,” Kirkire said.
It took more than two and a half hours for the even to use all of the color, and by that time everyone there was covered in the powder and beginning to disperse.
Kirkire said the group had to set up three hours before the event, and there were a few setbacks despite the preparation.
“It turned out really well in the end, but there were some hitches,” she said. “A table we got from facilities was broken when we got it, the hose wasn’t long enough and the pool was hard to blow up. But in the end, everything was a huge success and we look forward to repeating it again!”