Spectators at the Pirate softball game last Saturday saw a strange sight coming out of Ivy Hill Park. Students covered from head to toe in brightly colored dust and smears. Nineteen Seton Hall students, including myself, got together to celebrate the Indian tradition of Holi, put on by Youngistan, Seton Hall University’s Hindi Language Club.
What amounted to friends throwing paint dust into their friends’ faces came from a strong tradition. One of the main facilitators of the event, Sagarika Gujar, said that Holi is the festival of colors celebrated by Indians to welcome the spring.
“The religious story behind the festival is that on the night before Rang Panchami, the festival welcoming spring, we have a bonfire celebrating Prahlad’s victory over the demoness Holika with the help of Lord Vishnu,” Gujar said. “During the bonfire, people air out their grievances and put a coconut into the fire, letting bygones be bygones.”
According to tradition, the following day, after everyone’s hostility has disappeared in the flames, people come out to celebrate the festival of colors in a playful and happy manner.
“The gulal (deep red color) is the traditional color. It is the symbol of love,” Gujar said. “It is the same color married women apply to their forehead.”
After this history was explained, students were instructed to take some of the gulal dust with two fingers and put streaks on both cheeks of another and say “Happy Holi.” Within minutes, dust was flying everywhere and we were all laughing, screaming, and covered in multi-colored dust.
Holi is also one day unmarried men and women are allowed to touch; in the Hindu tradition, they are never supposed to come into contact. Something as elementary and simple as hitting or nudging the boy or girl you like is something most take for granted in the United States.
As students walked away from Ivy Hill with colorful dust trailing behind them, remnants were left behind all over the rugby field, making a rainbow in the grass. We received many strange looks as we walked back to our dorms.
Although it has snowed now twice this week, it still feels like spring after celebrating Holi out in the sunshine Saturday. It is an event full of tradition
and fun that all can partake in, no matter their background.
Caitlin Cunningham can be reached at email@example.com.