A crowd of Roger Williams University students gathered together on the lawn behind Global Heritage Hall on Sunday, April 30 for the Multicultural Student Union’s Holi celebration with food, music, colorful powder, and Henna.
“The powder throw comes about for the Indian spring solstice, which happens around this time in the Indian year. It’s meant to be a renewal of life for people of the Hindu religion and India. They practice it to give each other good favor in the new season,” sophomore Jen Vanderheyden said during the information session that students attended prior to the powder throwing.
Vanderheyden also spoke on the importance of colors in the Hindu religion, as well as what they represent.
“Each color is very intentional, and each person will choose a color to throw on a stranger, just to show them that they are wishing them health and happiness in the coming season,” she explained to the crowd.
For instance, red is a symbol of fertility and love. Many brides in India will wear a red sari when they get married, and many married women wear a red dot on their forehead to symbolize luck and love in their marriage. Yellow promotes health and well-being and green represents nature and life in the new season.
When students arrived at the event, they were greeted by free ice cream cones from “Like No Udder,” as well as free shirts to wear during the powder-throwing. MSU members also passed out sunglasses, jokingly warning students that they would need it for the powder throwing.
“I didn’t really know a lot [about Holi] before today, but the different meanings behind the colors and the origin of the whole throwing of colors was really cool,” said sophomore Amanda Guilbeault.
“I’m covered [in powder] and I love it,” laughed sophomore Anastasia Wilson, adding that the powder throwing was her favorite part of the event because it granted students further insight into another culture that exists in the world.
Having helped to organize a Holi event for her youth club, sophomore Cesi Ozturkkan already had some background knowledge about Holi Festival. However, she was interested to learn more about the cultural meaning behind some of the colors.
There was widespread agreement amongst those who organized the event and those who attended that it was very important to include an information session.
“I really wanted to make sure that we gave a good cultural and religious background to Holi because, in previous years, we’ve done the colored powder and not given a lot of context. I feel like that was a little disrespectful to the cultural practice,” Vanderheyden said.
She added, “The entire organization as a whole decided that the way we did Holi in the past wasn’t really how we wanted to be representing it. We really wanted to make sure that we weren’t appropriating, we were appreciating.”
Like many in attendance, Guilbeault echoed this sentiment.
“It was important to include the pre-event info session so that people understand what it means, and they’re not just throwing colors everywhere,” she said.