While many students will be celebrating Easter or Passover with their families, students participating in the university’s celebration will storm the mall with fists full of colored powder, which they will throw on each other to celebrate the Hindu tradition and welcome the Spring season.
With more than 2,000 RSVP’s on the event’s Facebook page, senior material science engineering major and the Hindu Student Center’s President Tejas Devaraj said Holi has been a longtime spring tradition on campus.
“It’s celebrated across the globe in the spring, which is a time of rebirth, happiness and camaraderie,” said Devaraj, who has been helping organize UMD’s Holi for all four of her years at the university. “One of the things that we learned about Holi growing up was that no one is spared from the color, whether you’re young or you’re old, you’re rich or you’re poor. So it’s kind of cool in the way that it erases judgment, by making everyone look the same in the end and everyone can just have a good time.”
To some students’ dismay, the color event will fall on the same day as Easter Sunday, preventing those who practice from attending.
“As far as I know Christian people, mostly from the Bengali community, can’t make it because we gotta go to church in the morning and have plans throughout the whole day along with cultural programs and some of us can’t miss it due to responsibilities,” wrote Cynthia Gomes on the event’s Facebook page, followed by a sad face emoji. “Maybe next year.”
The Hindu Student Center assured students that the event will feature more of the hypoallergenic colored powder than last year, courtesy of its sponsors Association of United Hindu and Jain Temples, and that the event may potentially run for hours.
And while the colored powder is known to stain the clothes of participants, Devaraj said the colors will fade to shades of pastel after a few washes and
The powder will also wash off of skin, posing no bodily harm to attendees.
“You might blow your nose or clean your ears and find green, but it’s totally safe,” Devaraj said.
The history behind the celebration of Holi stems from an ancient Hindu folk tale about a demon named Holika, a little boy whose devotion to Hindu God Vishnu ran deep and the triumph of good over evil, Devaraj said.
“The little boy was tricked by the demon to step into a fire, but because he was so devoted, he wasn’t burned,” Devaraj said.
Instead, the demon, who was once granted immunity to fire, was burned, Devaraj said.
This tale, which has been passed down from generation to the next, has crafted a celebration centering around the belief that if you are a good and devoted person, then you will prevail.
The traditions associated with Holi vary, however.
“There [are] a lot of different practices,” Devaraj said. “India is extremely diverse, so people celebrate it many different ways from the North to the South. Traditions can be slightly different. In some places, bonfire is also a part of the celebration.”
Sunday’s event will include music mixed by DJ Kush.
The D.C.disc jockey, known for his eclectic style, ranging from the sounds of Bollywood, Bhangra, Top 40 and House music, has provided music for Holi for the last three years.
“If it’s your first time at a Holi event, you can expect to see a lot of colors, lots of dancing, slip and slides or other games, giveaways, and of course music,” Kush said.
But if you’re a returning “Holi-er,” this semester’s event will be dissimilar from venues prior, Kush said.
“I have done this for the students for about three years now and it’s been different every time,” Kush said. “Ever since the first year, the crowd has gotten to be bigger, so I am hoping for a bigger turn out.”
Devaraj hinted that a surprise may be presented during the venue.
Keep your eyes peeled while you are are dancing in color, Devaraj said.
Brittany Britto is a graduate student and can be reached at email@example.com.