As the snow has long since melted, and the flowers are now fresh in bloom, it looks as though spring is here to stay. On April 2, the University of Mary Washington celebrated the change of seasons through the Hindu tradition of Holi.
Originating from India and Nepal, Holi, or the Festival of Colors, is held on the Phalguna Purnima, or the last full moon in the Hindu month of Phalguna. People traditionally dress in white and throw abir, or colored powder, as they run and dance through the crowds.
According to Hindu legend, the powder of Holi is thought to symbolize the flames by which the courageous Prahlada was persecuted. Instead of worshipping his father, the demon King Hiranyakashipu, Prahlada remained faithful to Vishnu, god of protection and sustenance.
The UMW adaptation, of course, takes on its own unique form. Held on Jefferson Square this year as opposed to Ball Cirlce, hundreds of students lined up to receive abir packets of all colors. Before the celebration began, however, students were treated with a special performance from UMW Eagle Bhangra. Junior Covenant Babatunde, Class of 2015, introduced the team.
Following the Bhangra performance, Sam Relken, a junior English major, welcomed the student body to Holi. A member of UMW’s International Living Community, Relken took part in organizing the event along with his fellow residents of Framar Hall. After basic Holi etiquette was discussed, everyone joined in for a count-down from ten.
Handfuls of color flung in every direction, the mass of once-white shirts were instantly splattered in powder. It was near impossible for students not to enjoy themselves.
“Holi was my favorite event this year,” said freshman Nancy Milroy. “I’m in the International Living Community and on the Bhangra team. It was wonderful to be able to showcase each of these to my peers to raise awareness of other cultural practices.” Milroy then added, “The throwing of the colors was beautiful. It is a sight that every UMW student should witness.”
Junior Fatemah Ahmadi could not agree more.
“I love Holi,” said Ahmadi. “I think it is a nice colorful way to celebrate the coming of spring while you learn something new about another culture.”
The use of colored powder is an example of how the powder used in Holi has evolved over time. Traditionally, abir consisted of various medicinal herbs, such as Kumkum, Haldi, and Bilva. It was believed these herbs would prevent the fevers and colds so often associated with the change of seasons.
Once the abir ran dry and the powder-throwing stopped, students lined up for cotton candy and snow cones. As the music played, friends chatted and took plenty of pictures to document their experience.