The University Record, April 15, 1998

Students celebrate colorful Indian festival of 'Holi'

T-shirts proclaiming 'I Survived the First-Ever Holifest' did not stay white for long once students got hold of the colored powder. Photo by Bob Kalmbach

By Paula Saha

It was billed as "Paintball Indian Style," and almost 250 students showed up on Palmer Field last Saturday afternoon for a color-slinging, water-pitching, no-holds-barred celebration of springtime. The first ever Holifest '97, organized by the Hindu Students' Council, was, by all accounts, a roaring success.

"This is the reason I wanted to do it," exclaimed Rohit Garg, one of the event organizers, gesturing toward the color-splattered field. "Just look at everyone!"

According to Garg, the event marks the first time the Hindu festival of "Holi" has ever been observed at the U-M in the traditional outdoors sense, with water fights and colored powder. Maureen Hartford, vice-president for student affairs, opened the festivities. Indian food was on hand, and a DJ spun popular, danceable Indian tunes as students spent the afternoon playing in the sun, shooting waterguns and smearing each other with the bags of purple, pink, yellow, orange and green powder.

According to HSC core member Vidya Kumar, "Holi" also traditionally commemorates the ancient legend of a demon-king whose son Prahlada disobeyed him by worshipping God. Angry at Prahlada's disobedience, the demon-king tried numerous times to kill his son, but God's intervention prevented his death. Finally, it was decided that the demon-king's sister Holika, who was immune to fire, would sit with the Prahlada on her lap until he burned. Once again, God intervened, and instead of the Prahlada burning, Holika did. As the flames engulfed her, she realized the good in the child and called out to all to remember this day as a celebration of the triumph of good over evil.

"In India, on Holi, many people burn bonfires to remember the story," explains Kumar. "Also, the colors worn on the outside at Holi time represent the happiness and good that we should keep inside every day."