Delivering American University's news and views since 1925. | Sunday, October 22, 2017

SASA hosts annual Holi celebration on the quad

Organization uses “festival of colors” to expose students to South Asian culture

SASA hosts annual Holi celebration on the quad

This past Sunday, students gathered on the quad to throw colored powder at one another at the South Asian Student Association’s Holi event.

Holi is a Hindu festival known as the “festival of colors” or the “festival of love,” said Vaishant Sharma, a junior in the School of International Studies and the vice president of the South Asian Student Association.

The festival is celebrated each year from March to April, as it marks the beginning of spring. The process of throwing colors is typically a one day event, though dates and practices vary among traditions. Participants typically wear white and throw colored powder at one another to celebrate the holiday.

"Holi is a really festive time for people to celebrate spring through the use of color,” Sharma said. “It’s good for communities to meet and enjoy time together, especially [on] college campuses.”

Sharma said that Holi was a staple event of spring for him growing up and that it’s important for him to continue the tradition at AU.

“I grew up in a predominantly white area of Rhode Island, so me and my mom used to go play Holi in Massachusetts,” he said. “That was a really important time of the year for me, where I could interact with people from my origin and my descent community. I think it kind of signified this moment where I was able to take part in something special to my family.”

Sharma said that at each Holi event, SASA uses its platform to educate students about the South Asian culture and experience. 

“Holi gives SASA a very good platform to not only distinguish Hinduism, but also South Asia as a holistic cultural experience,” he said. “Going back to the exposure aspect, bringing South Asian events and interests to the forefront has garnered a lot of fascination from students.”

Sharma said that AU Holi is a particularly popular event for students. He said that while Holi is a good way to educate AU students about Hindu traditions, participants can often neglect its cultural significance.

“It’s kind of become a common problem maybe across a lot of Western countries, that Holi is simply just powdered color,” he said. “I don’t think the problem is the people, but it’s the people’s exposure to the culture.” 

Jon Gonzalez, a sophomore in the School of Public Affairs, also went to Holi last year with his friends. He said he didn’t know much about the event before participating.

“The event is really unique,” he said. “It’s a festival celebrating another heritage, and you get to experience what that’s like. It’s nice to be able to experience another culture and learn about it.”

Gonzalez said that watching the Bhangra dance performance at AU Holi last year allowed him to learn more about South Asian culture.

“One of the really interesting parts of it was the traditional dance they had,” he said. “It’s not just ‘I’m here to throw paint packets at my friends.’ It’s a display of Indian culture.”

Since Holi is its largest spring event, Sharma said that SASA enjoys bringing students together during the springtime.

“With AU not having as many South Asians as a lot of other schools, it gives our community and the broader community a chance to come together,” he said. “There’s a lot more to be learned about Holi and broader South Asian culture.”

ekhan@theeagleonline.com


Never miss a story.

Get our weekly newsletter in your inbox.