Holi festival brings students together

In the midst of all the booths, rides, and Buggy races of Carnival was a rather festive and playful event that took place at noon Saturday. The event is commonly known as Holi, and the celebrations on campus are sponsored and organized every year by OM, the spiritual organization for Hindus, Jains, and Sikhs on campus. Holi is a festival of colors in which family and friends rub brightly colored powder called gulal onto each others’ faces while wishing “Happy Holi!” in the process. At Saturday’s celebration on Flagstaff Hill, people were not only colored on the face but also from head to toe.

Holi also has cultural significance, as it symbolizes the victory of good or evil in Indian history as well as the coming of spring. Specifically, it marks the failure of Holika — the sister of powerful king Hiranyakshyap. Hiranyakshyap considered himself a god and wanted everyone to worship him. When his son Prahlad began to worship Lord Vishnu, Hiranyakshyap demanded his sister to enter a blazing fire with his son in her lap. Legend says that Prahlad was saved due to his devotion to the lord while Holika was burned. Holi also marks the delight with which the Hindu god Krishna applied color to the Hindu goddess Radha’s face.

Despite this cultural background, the festival was welcoming to all who wished to attend and celebrate.
“We [OM] never discriminate, and say that [Holi] is open to everyone, and it’s clear from the turnout that it’s not just a bunch of Indian people. It’s people from all sorts of backgrounds,” said OM vice-president Sudeep Yegnashankaran, a junior ECE and biomedical engineering major.

Furthermore, when asked how he thought the festivities of this event fit into the overall theme of Carnival, Yegnashankaran had only positive things to say.

“Carnival is pretty much our only huge break during the spring semester and it’s much fun and celebration, and Holi is the happiest I’ve ever seen most of my friends,” he added. “It’s a very intimate occasion.”

At the end of the event, when everyone was soaked in colored powder and water, opinions about the experience of participating in the Carnegie Mellon version of the Holi festival varied among the attendees.

“[The best part was] basically getting to paint all my friends,” said statistics and SDS first-year Emily Lesinski.

“We just got back from a [Buggy] race, so it was kind of really fun to do normal things and unwind,” added biological sciences first-year Heather Lynn.

First-year chemical engineering major Rachel Bradley was one of many who had come to play Holi for the first time.

“I had to rush to the Forum showing at 3, so I got some strange looks, but I was proud of how colorful I was [and] I didn’t mind. I was a little worried that it wouldn’t come off of my skin for a while. Before the throwing of the paint started, I felt a little out of place and not knowing any of the songs didn’t help, but once the throwing started, I loved every second,” Bradley said.

Many, like H&SS first-year Pooja Shah, had also played Holi multiple times.

“The best part about Holi is the expression on your face when you look at yourself in the mirror after the event,” Shah said.