Each spring, William & Mary students throw on their white T-shirts and band together in the Sunken Garden where they silence stereotypes and rejoice in their differences by participating in the Hindu Festival of Colors known as Holi.
Presented by the Hindu, Sikh and Jain Students Association, Holi signifies the victory of good over evil, the arrival of spring and an opportunity to meet others, play, laugh and learn. By throwing colored powder at friends and complete strangers, differences are dissolved as everyone becomes adorned with the vibrant hues.
Primarily observed in India, Nepal and other regions of the world with significant populations of Hindus or people of Indian origin, in recent years the festival has spread to parts of Europe and North America as a celebration of love, frolic and color.
W&M’s celebration of Holi brings out hundreds of students from an array of different cultural and religious backgrounds. Traditionally, the students gather in a circle and when someone calls out “Holi Hai!” the crowd instantly becomes immersed in an explosion of rainbow colored powder. While the festival is a fun occasion to celebrate the arrival of spring, it also provides the educational opportunity to inform participants about what the event signifies for their Hindu classmates.
Holi commemorates various events in Hindu mythology, but for most Hindus it provides a temporary opportunity to disregard social norms, indulge in merrymaking and generally “let loose.” After the throwing of the colors, students relax in the Sunken Garden, taking colorful photos with their friends, listening to music and playing games.
Though the event signifies a unique purpose for Hindus, it also allows students from different races, genders, classes and sexualities to unite under one universal cause for celebration: equality. “We often use the saying ‘One Tribe, One Family’ at W&M and it’s during Holi where I feel most connected to my Tribe family,” said one participant.
The Hindu, Sikh and Jain Students Association is an organization that focuses on bringing Hindu culture and traditions to the university, and is comprised of members of those faiths and anyone else interested in learning more.