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'Covers the campus like the magnolias'
"Covers the campus like the magnolias"

Old Gold & Black

"Covers the campus like the magnolias"

Old Gold & Black

Blossoming in color: Wake Forest celebrates Holi

Co-hosts HSA and SASA bring Hindu springtime celebration to campus
Isabella Parolini
On Saturday, March 30, 2024, the Hindu Student Association (HSA) and the South Asian Student Association (SASA) hosted a Holi spring festival of colors celebration on Manchester Plaza. The event began with offerings of food and a variety of performances, followed by the first colors being thrown into the air by all.

On March 30, members of the Wake Forest community gathered on Manchester Plaza to celebrate the Hindu festival Holi. Hosted by the Hindu Student Association (HSA) and the South Asian Student Association (SASA), one of the first sunny days of the year brought a large crowd. 

Holi is known around the world for its colored powder (“gulal”) and water gun (“pichkari”) fights. Rooted in Hinduism, the festival of color marks the beginning of spring, symbolizes new beginnings and celebrates the love between Hindu gods Radha and Krishna. 

“One thing I really appreciate about celebrating on campus is that everyone who doesn’t celebrate or isn’t familiar with the culture is so appreciative,” President of HSA Meera Doran said. “Having the space and chance to celebrate can give you a taste of what you’re missing at home.”

The celebration began with musical performances from student organizations, including Deacon Dhamaal, Momentum, Lost In Translation (L.I.T), Innuendo and a solo dance performance from sophomore Priya Mendiratta. Attendees gathered around the fire pits in Manchester Plaza to watch, and others stood in line for Indian food from local restaurant Curry and Noodle. 

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“Performing is always super fun,” Doran said. “I’m one of the choreographers for Deacon Dhamaal, and it’s always satisfying when it goes well.”

With Bollywood music curated by Wake Radio playing in the background and the smell of gulab jamun, an Indian dessert, in the air, graduate student Ahan Swamy couldn’t help but think of home. 

“I used to celebrate Holi a lot [in India], but being disconnected from home, celebrating here really reestablishes that connection,” Swamy said.

Ananya Lal, a senior from New Delhi, India who is a member of both SASA and HSA, commented on the curiosity that her non-Indian friends expressed. 

“They were apprehensive at first, but each year I’ve brought them they’ve always loved it,” Lal said. “I get text messages saying, ‘What was that?’ and ‘What was that dessert that we ate?’”

The food and performances were followed by the distribution of water guns and two packets of colored powder per person. Most attendees had a white T-shirt provided by the organizers and sunglasses to protect their eyes. After a quick group picture, the chaos began.

The fights lasted for almost an hour, with attendees going back to grab more colored powder and refill their guns. Smiles filled Manchester Plaza and the empty bucket of water only left attendees wanting more.

It was fun to see how my Hindu friends celebrated the holiday and how it brought them so much joy. I felt honored to be a part of it, it was amazing.

— Alizeh Chamadri, Class of 2026

When asked about the experience planning the event, Doran explained the months of preparation that goes into the four-hour celebration. Alongside co-hosting with SASA, service fraternity Alpha Phi Omega (APO) also helped out.

“We started planning in December,” Doran said. “It felt like everything that could’ve gone wrong did, but because we started planning so early, we did a great job of fixing every issue.” 

Amidst the fun, some Hindu students shed light on the purpose of an event like Holi.

Both Lal and former HSA President Aman Khemlani attended the Un Encanto OLAS Formal hosted by the Organization of Latin American Students the night before and emphasized the importance of showing up to celebrate other cultures on a campus they believe lacks adequate diversity.

“A lot of people from campus are from small, rural towns, and they don’t know anything besides their bubble,” Khemlani said. “You can’t blame them; [Lal and I] don’t know stuff about other cultures. But experiences like Holi and the OLAS formal are some of the best ways to expose yourself to different food, music and traditions.” 

The celebration included multiple performances, including a solo dance from sophomore Priya Mendiratta. (Isabella Parolini)

Sophomore Alizeh Chamadri, secretary of SASA, explained how as a Muslim student of Indian ethnicity from Atlanta, GA., she felt she had a different perspective from others attending the event.

“Last year was my first time [celebrating] Holi,” Chamradi said, while explaining how her favorite part of this year’s event was getting a cooler of ice poured on her by her friends, which she admitted was also simultaneously “terrible.” 

She continued: “It was fun to see how my Hindu friends celebrated the holiday and how it brought them so much joy. I felt honored to be a part of it, it was amazing.”

Associate Vice President for Campus Life and Dean of Students Matt Clifford also attended the event. Although disappointed to have missed the colors, he encouraged students to continue stretching their comfort zones outside of the classroom.

“Wake Forest is committed and steeped in the liberal arts tradition, which means we’re trying in the classroom to expose [students] to different ways of thinking,” Clifford said. “Why should that stop there?” 

Senior Mia Handler echoed Clifford’s sentiments and was grateful to have the opportunity to experience other cultures.

“Part of being in college is trying new things,” Handler said, covered head to toe in colored powder. “I feel like if you’re a curious person, which … I hope you are, you just want to learn more about the world.”

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About the Contributor
Shaila Prasad
Shaila Prasad, Deputy Editor
Shaila is a junior from New Delhi, India, and South Florida majoring in economics and minoring in journalism and psychology. Outside of the OGB, you can find her listening to Tyler, the Creator, scrolling through Depop and taking pickleball incredibly seriously. 

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