Hundreds of UM students gathered on Saturday with one mission in mind: to throw colored water balloons at one another.
The event, Holi: the Festival of Colors, is a tradition that comes from a symbolic legend in which good prevails over evil. In the Hindu legend, a demon king’s son, Prahlada, defeats his own evil father, Hiranyakashipu, and aunt Holika by remaining devoted to Vishnu, a Hindu deity. The festival gets its name from Holika.
The colors blue, pink, yellow, red and green filled the air March 31 when UM students celebrated Holi on the Foote Green. Traditionally, the colored powders were made from medicine in an attempt to ward off illnesses that were brought by spring.
For Indian Students Association member Viraj Shah, the colors symbolize unification.
Shah said one of the great things about the Holi festival is that everyone becomes one whole under the colors. Shah, a biology major, said people can’t see the skin tone underneath, what people look like or what their social economic status is. The festival provides an opportunity for everyone to see each other as equals.
“It’s like a symbol of unity and togetherness, and that’s what we’re here to celebrate,” said Shah, a junior.
Even though Holi is a Hindu holiday, for six consecutive years, UM students from all backgrounds have united to celebrate the beginning of spring and participate in the tradition.
Sophomore Millie Chokshi, public relations chair of ISA, said this year, the organizations hosting the event focused on making the event better than ever.
“We tried making the event bigger this year; we got more of everything basically – more powder, more food,” said Chokshi, a public health and Spanish double major.
Holi was organized by ISA with the Hindu Student Council and Delta Epsilon Psi, a South-Asian fraternity. The event was also co-sponsored by Student Government and Hurricane Productions. Student organizers said the event was aimed at bringing joy and harmony to the UM community.
A waterslide, brought specifically for the UM Holi festival, also got bigger this year: the 40-foot slide, named “Hurricane,” is considered to be the biggest one in South Florida, and it became a popular attraction for many students, who were excited to dive into the colored water.
For Chokshi, the Holi festival is one of the best ways to get together with other people in the community while spending time with friends and family.
“It’s a lot of fun, people get competitive and dump whole water coolers at each other,” she said.
Students enjoyed popcorn, Jeremiah’s, pizza and mango juice – and free T-shirts for the first 125 people – in between the friendly color war.
With the slogan “Color run but without the running,” ISA aimed to attract as many students as possible. The organization held giveaways on its Instagram page and used promotional videos with shots from last year’s Holi celebration to gather more people for the event.
Two hundred and fifty people attended the celebration last year. This year, an estimated 300 people attended.
“People just get together – doesn’t matter who you are, you’d get color thrown on,” Chokshi said. “People will just be like, ‘I don’t know who you are, but here’s color all over your face.’ It’s a lot of fun.”