Typically home to problem sets and study sessions, the Engineering Quad got a splash of color on Saturday, as members of the Cornell community gathered to celebrate Holi, the Hindu festival of colors.
With over 500 participants in attendance, not a white shirt was in sight as students threw “rang,” a colored powder typically used for the festival, at one another as Bollywood music played in the background
The event was organized by Cornell’s Hindu Student Council. The celebration, which was canceled in both 2020 and 2021 due to the pandemic, marks the first in-person Holi at Cornell for many in the South Asian community.
“There are so many people who haven’t experienced Cornell Holi yet in their time at college,” said Aashna Brahmbhatt ’22, a senior council member and previous president of HSC. “So, it was really important to us that we got to share this with the community again.”
Members of Cornell’s HSC relied on a few seniors’ fading memories of spring 2019 to put the event together. With much of the board being underclassmen and juniors, the organization had little previous experience to draw from.
“I had to try and remember, what were we doing? How did we plan it? What was the setup?” Brahmbhatt said. “But it’s so rewarding to go through all that work, and then see people enjoying our event that we worked so hard to put together.”
The event ran from 1:30 to 4:30 pm. Within minutes, colors were flying in the air as attendees lined up to get their bags of rang, also the Hindi word for “color”. Effat Rahman ’24 was one such student, coming to experience her first Holi.
“Before I started college I saw all the older college students that I know go to Holi and it’s like a big cultural thing and everybody partakes of it,” Rahman said. “I had never done it so I thought it would be really fun to try it out.”
Flavia Scott ’24 similarly came to celebrate Holi after hearing about it from her friends, and not having been able to experience it last year.
“Last year people would mention these big activities, but we couldn’t really imagine because we weren’t even in class,” Scott said. “So to actually go out and experience these things is really cool.”
Both Rahman and Scott noted that this year’s Holi exceeded their expectations, and are excited to keep attending during their next two years of college.
Though impressed with the turnout, Neel Mehta ’23, vice president of HSC, noted that in past years, Holi saw an attendance of upwards of 1100 to 1200 students. He hopes that this year’s Holi will remind people of just how fun the beloved Cornell tradition is.
“It’s kind of like reestablishing a tradition,” Mehta said. “But I think we’re in a good place and hopefully it’ll keep growing in the next couple of years.”
As the celebration wound down, many sat in groups on the surrounding lawn with samosas and mango lassi in hand, marking the end to a colorful day.
“[Holi] is one of the few festivals that we have where you can openly show emotion and openly celebrate with literally anyone and everyone and I think that’s really beautiful,” Mehta said. “It’s not just Indian people here, it’s people of all different races and religions coming together and I think that’s a really beautiful thing.”