Anabel Taylor courtyard was battleground for a war of bright green, pink, purple and yellow this weekend, where the Hindu Student Council (HSC) held their annual celebration of Holi, the Indian festival of color. Students, professors and members of the community were given the chance to smear the faces of friends and strangers with colored powder called “gulal,” and enjoy Indian snacks, sweets and music in celebration.
The centuries old tradition of Holi is a celebration of equality. “On Holi […] nationality, religion, social status and all other social barriers are broken,” stated Riti Singh ’07, president of HSC.
“Politicians and children, royalty and laypeople, and in the case of Cornell University, students and professors ‘play’ Holi together.” Singh said that, by sponsoring the event, HSC hopes to “teach the campus about Indian culture through food, music and active participation.”
The crowd that Holi has attracted in past years has always been diverse. Many present on Saturday were non-Indians who had attended Holi in previous years. Others were experiencing the unique excitement and energy for the first time. Wei-Li Woo ’08, expressed enthusiasm and interest in the celebration, jokingly stating the celebration was a “way for creative revenge.”
Others, like Kim Cuozzo ’06, heard about Holi through friends and housemates. “[It’s] something you don’t do often” said Cuozzo, commenting on the uniqueness of the celebration.
As soon as bags of “gulal” were distributed, the participants along with the courtyard pavement and grass were spotted with bright color. It seemed as though the main targets were those who appeared to be most clean. Crowds flocked around new arrivals, showering them with color before they even had a chance to obtain their own bags of gulal. HSC members running the event also became victim to the mischievous nature of participants.
Besides Indian food and music, the festivities included henna artists who decorated the hands of participants. This traditional Indian art, called “mehndi,” was popular with many students and community members who attended Holi.
This was HSC’s third year sponsoring the celebration of Holi. The organization, founded in Spring 2002, was established from the merging of two previous organizations, Bhakti – Society for Hindu Cultural Awareness, and the Society for Hindu Religious Interest (SHRI).
HSC strives to combine programs that these two groups have held in the past and to promote and practice Hindu culture and ideals.
The organization’s mission has both cultural and religious aspects.
“During the year, we hold weekly bhajan [prayer song] sessions, and larger pujas [prayer ceremonies] to celebrate many of the significant religious holidays,” states Singh. In addition, HSC participates in the cultural Diwali Show held annually by Society for India in November.
Singh, along with others in attendance were happy with the success and turnout at the event this year, “It seems as if everyone left happy and covered in color!”
Archived article by Sanika Kulkarni