On a sunny Thursday afternoon, the splash from a water gun painted people in white shirts pink, hazes of green and yellow powder and the shouts, “Happy Holi!” filled the air.
Hosted by the Interfaith Council and Media Free Dinners, the annual Holi Celebration event at DePauw attracted students and local families to enjoy the Hindu-origin color festival.
Holi on campus started with tastes of Indian foods in the backyard of the Center for Diversity and Inclusion. There, sophomore Rajshree Upadhyay explained the tradition of Holi along with information cards put on the tables.
According to Upadhyay, who is from Nepal, Holi signifies multiple meanings like the good harvest of the year, the mythological victory of good over evil, fixing broken relationships, along with many other interpretations. The event on campus was celebrating the second phase of the festival, “Rangwali Holi” which means “Holi with colors and water.”
“Holi is not just a religious celebration, it also has cultural significance, and it’s not only restricted to the people of Hindu faith,” Upadhyay said. “Holi is also, even back home, an excuse for people to come together, celebrate the weather, make friendships stronger, make memories, [and] just have a good time.”
After the dinner, people played with colors in Hamilton Park. The organizers provided free plain white T-shirts, waterplay toys and twenty two-pound bags of powdered colors: pink, orange, yellow, and green.
“I'm so glad I attended DePauw's Holi celebration this year,” said senior Elizabeth Brunell. She enjoyed having delicious food and getting to learn about the tradition of Holi. “And then throwing all the colors was just really fun … and now my hair is green.”
Junior Soowon Yeom had a great time at the Holi celebration, although she was surprised that it took her 30 minutes of a shower to wash the paint away afterward. “It was really good because we threw paints even though we were not that friendly,” she said. As an exchange student who has just arrived this semester, Yeom said it was a fun time to start to intermingle with people at DePauw.
While excitedly playing with powders, senior Caesar Tobar-Acosta also appreciated the festival of colors as “a stepping stone into inclusion.” “We tend to follow more Christian beliefs on this campus, but in order to become more diverse with how we understand religion and difference, we have to start somewhere,” Tobar-Acosta said. “Holi is a beautiful festival, and if people can see that, they can use that as the catalyst to learn more.”