Bodies collide, hands fly up and plastic packets flutter to the ground, spilling powder that stains pure white garb bright fuchsia and plum. Feet move up and down, dancing to the beat of Bollywood music blaring across an open field.
Though the event was organized by the Indian Student Association (ISA), anyone was welcome to celebrate the Hindu holiday Holi by splashing other participants with colors at the Lower Sports Complex Saturday. According to ISA president Anshul Shah, Holi is celebrated in India as a festival of love and colors, representing the arrival of spring.
Video by Spenser Judd
Traditionally, Holi signifies the victory of good over evil and the end of winter. On the day of the festival, people are encouraged to meet one another, forget, forgive and repair broken relationships. In addition, it is a day for giving thanks. Many people celebrate Holi at home with family and friends.
Though ISA calls the color-throwing party “Holi,” the name actually refers to the prayer portion of the holiday. During Holi, Indian families pray at Hindu temples. The festival of colors is technically called “Dhuleti,” which happens the day after Holi prayers.
“As the holiday has become more westernized, common cultures have started to refer to the entire festival as ‘Holi,’” business administration sophomore Shah said.
Shah explained that inviting people from all backgrounds to cultural events like Holi furthers diversity and inclusivity on campus.
“At Cal Poly, most of the people that come aren’t actually Indian,” Shah said. “It’s really cool seeing other people, all types of people embrace our culture. I think it’s the absolute coolest thing, Cal Poly really pushing inclusivity and diversity. ISA has been able to feed off of this transition within Cal Poly’s culture. I see only good things coming out of that.”
For computer engineering freshman Pramika Kumar, coloring strangers alongside friends was a big part of the fun.
“You can hit anyone,” Kumar said. “It’s not weird to go up to a stranger and hit them with color. Everyone ends up colored anyways, you can barely tell who people are.”
Indians of all faiths generally participate in Holi. Those who do practice Hinduism will pray at a temple and then throw colors in the parking lot of the same temple the next day in the presence of their friends and family.
Shah said Holi is typically held at the end of March or beginning of April, but due to scheduling conflicts with Associated Students, Inc., ISA had to delay the event until May. Participants reserved packets of color the week before the festival. On the day of the festival, the group crowded around the speaker and microphone to listen for their cue to begin throwing. When the bass dropped during Jai Wolf’s “Indian Summer,” arms and colors soared in unison.
ISA has celebrated Holi for more than five years with past festivals held at Santa Rosa Park garnering large turnouts. Past Holis attracted almost 200 guests and Shah said the event has only grown. ISA member Arinee Rahman said ISA decided to switch locations to attract more people.
“We are trying to attract more freshmen and students that live on campus by having the event on campus at the WOW-A-RAMA fields,” journalism senior Rahman said.
ISA also grew in the past five years with Holi being one of its biggest events of the year, along with its fall banquet Diwali.
“I don’t usually go to the meetings that are often, but when I heard about Holi I wanted to go because it brings the community together and is a fun way to mess around with my friends,” computer science freshman Ankita Koratkar said.