Fifth annual Holi celebration at Wake Forest arrives with flying colors

Fifth annual Holi celebration at Wake Forest arrives with flying colors

Only 10 seconds. That’s how long it took for Manchester plaza to be overtaken by a rainbow dust cloud.

On Saturday, April 8, students, faculty and members of the Winston-Salem community gathered on the lower quad and threw pink, blue, purple, yellow, orange and green color dust at one another.   

The massive color ceremony marked the South Asian Student Association’s fifth annual celebration of Holi, the Hindu festival of color. 

“Holi is a time when everyone comes together to celebrate color and life,” said senior Yasmin Uddin, member of the Indian fusion dance team Deacon Dhamaal.   “It’s a happy event.”

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SASA captured the spirit of Holi by providing traditional Indian cuisine and music as well as water balloons, water guns and 21 boxes filled with individual bags of powdered color. Participants lined up to eat samosas and marinated paneer tikka as they eagerly awaited the 10-second countdown to the color festival. 

Deacon Dhamaal kicked off the festival with a series of performances, filling the air with color dust as they danced. Following the performances, members of SASA read excerpts explaining the history and significance of Holi.

According to the Vishnu legend, Holi represents the triumph of good over evil.  Celebrated throughout India and Nepal in early March, the festival marks the arrival of spring. 

Families and friends begin celebrating the night before Holi, known as Chhoti Holi, by performing rituals in front of bonfires and praying for all inner evil to be destroyed. 

“During Holi, everyone is equal. All troubles go away and relationships are rebuilt,” said SASA Vice President Arnav Bhardi, who grew up celebrating Holi with his family in India.

The next day, Rangwali Holi, is a time for forgiveness and marks a new beginning, as friends, families, strangers, foes, children and elders all smear and drench each other in powdered color.  Doused in rainbow powder, the community sings and dances down the street, as they visit homes of friends and families. 

The festival has also gained popularity among non-Hindus around the world, as people in South Asia, Europe and North America now join in the celebration of color, love and happiness. 

Over the past five years, SASA has worked to increase the community’s awareness of Wake Forest’s Holi celebration.

“We did a lot of marketing this year,” said SASA President Laya Mohan. “We had a countdown on Facebook and Instagram leading up to the festival.  Friday was ‘Get Hype for Holi’ and we created a separate snapchat filter to spread the word.”

The club’s efforts have certainly been successful as last year 300 people attended the event, compared to the 25 who attended the first year in 2012. 

This year, the Wake Forest community embraced the essence of Holi as participants smiled and laughed, while professors, students and children threw water balloons, dumped powdered color and sprayed one another with water guns.

“I felt like a kid again as we all got slapped, chased and smeared with color,” said senior Chizaoba Ukairo, who attended the event for the first time this year.  

After chasing and splattering one another with color, participants cooled off with refreshing mango lassi, a blend of yogurt, spices and fruit.   

Museum Anthropology Professor Andrew Gurstelle added, “Holi is not only a great festival because it brings different social groups together, but is also a wonderful day because I got to hit one of my students in the face with color.”

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