Keep Calm and Holi On

It’s a sunny afternoon on March 30th and the whole Indian student community is there! The fields of University of Texas Dallas (UTD) are buzzing with excitement. A collaborative effort of the Indian Student Association (ISA) and the Hindu Student Association( HSA), Holi was celebrated with great fervor and proved to be a huge success. The event was attended by over 200 UTD students. The day itself was marked by extreme fanfare and fun. This was one of the biggest celebrations in the Dallas Indian community and it was heart-warming to see people from all parts of the nation together and united to have fun. Colored powders called ‘abeer’ or ‘gulal’ wase thrown into the air and smeared on faces and bodies. There was extreme exuberance and all passersby were struck by colorful images of celebration with color, music and most importantly lots of fun. Shashi Dongur, President of HSA at UTD was pretty kicked and said ” UTD has seen 2 great Hindu festivals this year, Diwali and Holi. As a president of HSA, I am proud to say that we incorporated both bhakti – Puja – and fun -throwing colors – during Holi. What was unforgettable was that there were at least 100 other strangers on the grounds but no one cared if they knew them or not. Color in hand and a face to throw it at was all that was needed.”
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In an effort to fund this Holi event, HAS at UTD had organized two prior fundraising events at Chilli’s and Genghis Grill. These two fundraisers generated enough collections to have over 600 packets of color and over 5 drums of water. The event was held four days after our school’s annual traditional Splatter dance in which people put paint over each other. Comparisons were natural but each attendee felt like our event bypassed theirs. Akshay Jaipuria, a member of HSA exclaimed, “Holi was a very successful event and there were a lot of people who came out to celebrate the festival of colors. The music by Gaurav Rao got the crowd together to have a great time and swoon to his beats.” Gopika Sajit was celebrating for the first time and had this to say “I enjoyed the dancing and sneakily pouring colors over other people! It was so much fun, kind of like having a food fight.” Gopika who also brought her Chinese friend along with her, said,”Well Holi is one of the most well known Indian festivals I think and I wanted my friend to experience a fun festival. She enjoyed it a lot and in the end wasn’t even sticking around me and went off to dance with other people.”
Behind all the festivity lies a truly deep significance, a legend that marks the victory of good over evil. Long ago, the earth was won upon by the Demon King Hiranayakashyap. He was egoistical and commanded everybody in his kingdom to worship only him. But to his great disappointment, his son, Prahlad became an ardent devotee of Lord Naarayana and refused to worship his father. Hiranyakashyap resorted to several tricks to kill his son Prahlad but he was rescued by Lord Vishnu every time. Finally, he asked his sister, Holika to enter a blazing fire with Prahlad in her lap. He was aware that she had a boon, whereby, she could enter the fire unscathed. Treacherously, Holika coaxed young Prahlad to sit in her lap and she herself took her seat in a blazing fire. However, fate played a cruel trick and she was killed in the fire. The legend has it that the boon worked only when she entered the fire alone. On the other hand, Prahlad, who kept chanting the name of Lord Naarayana, came out unharmed, as Lord Vishnu blessed him for his extreme devotion. And hence, Holi derives its name from Holika. This significance is still celebrated in large parts of India particularly the northern states. On the eve of Holi, huge bonfires are lit and effigies of Holika are burnt. Once burnt down to ashes, devotees take some of this fire to their homes to purge themselves and purify their homes too.
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Someone has aptly said ” Holi is the apt time to break the ice, renew relationships and link yourself with those that you wanted to with a bit of color.” Being present in the fields that day, I was able to forge new friendships and also reconnect with lost ones. Being international and away from home, it was even more special for me to experience this bonding and family-like atmosphere.