UMD Gears Up for its Annual Holi Celebration

By Jeremy Bell
For Unwind magazine

If you’ve ever wanted to be covered in rainbows but didn’t want to do a color run, you may enjoy the Hindu festival of Holi. Holi is a celebration of the triumph of good over evil, and it is a national holiday in India. In 2017, Indians celebrated Holi on March 13 by throwing colors and water at their friends, families, and strangers. 

Every year, the University of Maryland Hindu Students Council hosts an event celebrating Holi. This year’s event is scheduled a little later, with a date of May 7.

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Jennifer Egan celebrates Holi in 2015. Photo by Rachel Kalusin.

“We have a really good turnout from all walks of campus,” said the group. “Indian students, as well as many other groups of people, come out and celebrate Holi with us and we love it!”

Amber Fox, a recent graduate of this university, said her friends love to celebrate Holi with other students. “I definitely know all different people who’ve gone over the last few years and loved it,” Fox said.

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Monica Sarphare enjoys Holi in 2015. Photo by Rachel Kalusin.

In India, Holi is celebrated over two days. On the first day, “people celebrate Holi by lighting a huge pyre and revolving around it and offering ‘dhana,’” said Shriraj Gandhi, an Indian international student here at the university. “And the next day is ‘Dhuleti’ which is when people play with water and colors,” he said. “But Dhuleti has become a cultural phenomenon, not just a religious thing, so many people participate.”

The legend goes that a boy by the name of Prahlad escaped a burning pyre unburnt after being targeted by his father, a demon king. The king sent his fire resistant sister, Holika, into the fire to lure Prahlad into the bonfire. However, Prahlad’s devotion to Lord Vishnu, a Hindu god who preserves and protects the universe, allowed him to enter unscathed, and Holika’s malicious intent stripped her of her resistance. Holika’s fiery death became the namesake for Holi.

Raghav Gupta is an international student from Delhi who went to the Holi celebration on campus last year.

Although he enjoys the university’s event , he said “in India, it is wild. We play Holi with ketchup, mud, eggs, beer, and what not.”

He said they use permanent colors, eat greasy food, and perform dances that accompanies  all kinds of music. He loves to tell his American friends about the homemade “water balls” that people throw at strangers and a drink called “bhaang,” a concoction of marijuana, milk, and nuts that everyone, except for minors, drinks.

Gupta also talked about the cultural significances of Holi.

“It is a tradition to meet and greet your elders,” he said. It’s also a way “people resolve conflicts by eating together and coloring each other.”

However, once the celebration dies down, “you have to worship the god and the reason why we celebrate Holi,” Gupta said. “Everything wrong ends someday.”

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