ISA brings Indian holiday Festival of Colors to UIndy

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Red, blue, green and yellow colors flew through the air and marshmallows roasted over a fire as the Indian Student Association hosted its own Holi Festival of Colors at the Campus Apartments on March 20.

Holi is a spring festival that has been celebrated for centuries in India. It is based on the story of Hiranyakashipu, who forced the kingdom to worship him instead of God. His son, Prahlad, went against his father’s wish and continued to pray to Vishnu.

Hiranyakashipu decided to kill his son and asked his sister, Holika, who was immune to fire, to burn Prahlad to death. At the end of the fire, however, Prahlad was still alive because of his devotion to Vishnu and Holika was dead.

Holi is celebrated for two days in India with a large bonfire on the first night, and the color celebration is the next day. The University of Indianapolis celebration lasted four hours, but still included a bonfire, a chocolate fountain and playing with colored powders. According to graduate student and president of ISA Bhumi Rathod, Holi symbolizes many things for those who celebrate it.

“The festivals are done so we can bring all the people together,” Rathod said. “Everyone gets to play together, and it is not separated by gender or social class. It’s a time for uncles, cousins and all the family really to come together and celebrate. We also celebrate to emphasize good over bad in the world.”

Students play with colored powders at the Holi Festival of Colors. The event was hosted by the Indian Student Association and included a bonfire and chocolate fountain. Photo by Tetiana Ntomnits

Students play with colored powders at the Holi Festival of Colors. The event was hosted by the Indian Student Association and included a bonfire and chocolate fountain. Photo by Tetiana Ntomnits

While planning the event was time-consuming, Rathod said that finding ways to get the necessary supplies was the most difficult aspect.

“I and a few others have only been here seven months,” Rathod said. “And none of us have cars, so we had to beg our friends and people we know to take us to the store so we could buy supplies and food. It took a lot of planning.”

The event was open not only to students involved in ISA, but to the campus community. Junior psychology and pre-occupational therapy major Caryn Kiel was interested in coming to this event to learn more about the festival and Indian culture as a whole.

“I’m a part of Interfaith, and one of the big things is to learn about different cultures.  I don’t know much about Indian culture, so I decided this would be a good place to start,” Kiel said. “I think it is very important to embrace diversity, and the best way to do that is to get people to see the diversity and celebrate it.”

Rathod also hopes students will take away knowledge about her culture and understand the events that occur in India.

“I hope students take knowledge about our festival from this,” Rathod said.
“I don’t think anyone has ever participated in Holi on this campus, so we want to show them more of our culture. We had Diwali, the festival of lights, and now this is another festival. And so we just want the world to know what all exactly happens in India. We don’t just have Diwali, we have other things, too.”

While ISA has no other events planned for this semester, Kiel said she hopes to see more cultural events like this on campus and more students attend them.

“Students should really attend these events in order to be educated,” Kiel said, “and be able to interact better with their peers.”

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