By KELLY EMMERICH
Jefferson Square burst into an array of color as friends and strangers alike threw colors at one another in celebration of Holi. Hosted by University of Mary Washington’s Framar International Housing, Holi was a beautiful display of tradition, culture and colorful chalk powder.
The Hindu festival Holi celebrates the beginning of spring through the act of throwing colorfully dyed chalk powder in the air. Although Holi is a festival celebrated primarily in India, it is universally practiced and enjoyed.
Many UMW students have not participated in a Holi festival before attending school here, and most do not celebrate Hindu traditions but still appreciated the Hindu festival.
Ahad Shahid, a freshman computer science major, said he enjoyed the celebration.
“Holi was much better than I expected,” said Shahid. “I didn’t know what to expect because I’d never been, but it was like being in a cloud of color.”
In addition to Shahid, many students commented on how Holi was a joyous celebration. Ariana DuBar, a freshman classics major, found the event to be different and educational.
“It was both a great way to relieve stress for the upcoming finals and to feel connected to the Hindu tradition,” said DuBar.
Although the event helps students relieve stress, Holi is a festival built on a traditionally spiritual foundation. According to Hindu mythology, there are several legends about the origins of Holi.
The most popular legend is called The Holika-Prahlad, where an egomaniac king named Hiranyakashipu commanded his followers to worship him as a god. His son, Prahlad, refused to do so and devoted himself to Vishnu, another Hindu god.
Hiranyakashipu angrily ordered his sister, Holika, to kill his son. Holika possessed the power to walk through fire unscathed, yet the king ordered her to walk through the fire holding Prahlad. Prahlad chanted the names of gods and was not engulfed by the fire. However, Holika did not realize that her powers were ineffective if she entered the flames alone, and, as a result, she perished in the flames.
There are many other legends that the Holi festival is based off, such as “The Story of Dhundhi,” “The Kamadeva Myth” and the “Radha-Krishna” legend. The most famous story, however, is the Holika-Prahlad legend.
The group that hosted the event, Framar House, is an International Living Center on campus. It was traditionally called the “Spanish House” because when the college acquired it in 1946 it housed the Spanish majors.
Now students from different backgrounds and majors may apply to live in Framar, which annually hosts Holi on the first full moon in either late March or early April. This corresponds to when the festival is traditionally celebrated in India.
Enhancing the spirit of the event was the participation of the UMW Eagle Bhangra Club. The dancers performed to traditional Indian music, setting the tone for the entire festival.
Bhangra is a genre of dance and music that originated in the Punjab region of Southeast Asia, and it is danced at weddings, harvests and other celebratory occasions.
Collegiate Bhangra helps to introduce students to other cultures by inviting American students to learn about Indian culture through the art of dance, along with the participation of foreign exchange students.
The event was a beautiful mixture of cultures and dancing, creating a kaleidoscope of color. Educational and fun, this event stands to remain a popular tradition at UMW.