GSU Celebrates Holi Festival of Colors

Danielle Wardlow and Michelle Norsworthy

What is Holi?

A Hindu celebration also known as the Festival of Colors, Holi is well over one thousand years old. Originating in northern India, the festival celebrates the triumph of good over evil and the welcoming of spring, Juli Gittinger, religious studies professor, said.

“Holi is a beautiful cultural holiday, rich in Indian and Hindu spirituality coupled with [the] exuberance and joy of the coming of spring,” Jacek Lubecki, director of the Center for International Studies, said. “With beautiful colors and music to accompany the celebrations, Holi is the perfect Indian holiday to be held on college campuses.”

According to Hinduism Today, Hindu tradition teaches that there was once a great king who became arrogant in his power and began to believe he was God. When his son, Prahlad, refused to worship his father due to his devotion to the god Vishnu, the king plotted to have him killed. Prahlad had an aunt, a demoness named Holika, who could not be harmed by fire – the king had Holika trick Prahlad into climbing onto a burning pyre with her. However, Prahlad’s piety protected him from the flames.

How is it celebrated?

The celebration of Holi begins the night before, with a bonfire, where the demoness Holika is burned in effigy to represent the victory of good, Gittinger said. In places that celebrate in a more traditional manner, each individual will bring a piece of wood to fuel the fire.

“Then the day of Holi, everybody dresses in light colors and goes out and celebrates in the street in a very sort of carnival-esque way,” Gittinger said.

The most public Holi tradition is the throwing of colored powder at other revelers, a practice that inspired American organizers to create the now-popular “Color Run,” forms of which are held all over the country. In more recent years, people will fill balloons and water guns with colored water.

Holi is often celebrated with pranks, food, dancing and the popular throwing of richly colored powder called gulal. Though gulal washes out, and is nontoxic, participants who take part in the festivities are advised to wear white tee shirts, or clothes they don’t mind getting a little messy.

“You will be a target,” Gittinger said. “It doesn’t matter how old you are. You can be 101 – you are going to be hit with color.”

It is also a very equalizing time, Gittinger said, when men and women as well as members of different castes interact freely in the streets.

Each person being covered in colored powder is the unifying factor in this Holi tradition, as it symbolically covers the differences that separate people like social status, race, creed and sex. An idea that the Multicultural Student Center embraces.

But aside from the fun public celebrations, Holi is also a time for forgiveness. After the celebrations, people go home, wash up and spend time with their families.

Public heath graduate assistant Rakhi Trivedi said that is is very common for feuding neighbors and friends to mend relationships during Holi.

“If somebody is holding a grudge against someone during the festival, they would just talk and say ‘let’s forget it and let’s be friends,’” Trivedi said. “That is actually the occasion.”

Holi at GSU

“One of the goals of the Multicultural Student Center is to produce programs and activities intended to raise multicultural awareness and appreciation of diversity across the campus… The Holi Festival does exactly that,” Mrs. Dorsey Baldwin, director of the MSC, said. “We were excited that some students and faculty members came to us with the idea of having this cultural program on our campus and we are equally excited to make this a tradition on our campus.”

The Multicultural Student Center and the Center for International Studies will host a Holi celebration for the students of Georgia Southern University this Wednesday. There will be several speakers giving background on the history and meaning of the holiday, as well as Bollywood dancers, said MSC graduate assistant Sushma Kurella.

“And then the countdown begins and the students will start playing Holi,” Kurella said.

The event will be held Wednesday, March 11, at 6 p.m. outside the University Store and Dining Commons.

Nadia Dreid contributed to this report.