Thursday, March 27 was one of those special days that Chatham students enjoy quite often on campus. Those who came to Anderson anytime during lunch hours on Thursday probably felt the Indian spirit that filled the dining hall.
Holi, the special Indian event held on campus on Thursday, was a celebration of the Festival of Colors–an ancient Hindu festival celebrated primarily in India, and which has become more popular throughout the world.
“It’s literally a festival of colors, and so to celebrate, people get water guns filled with water and colors and they just throw them at each other all day. You go visit your family, eat and spend the evening with them and relax” said Ciarra Karnes, a Graduate Assistant for the Student Affairs Department in an interview.
Colorfulness was brought into the lunch room as colored balloons were hanging on the chairs across the dining hall. Obviously, the celebration did not stop here. The cafeteria offered traditional Indian food that people “would eat in India to celebrate the Festival of Colors,” according to Karnes.
On the booth that Karnes had set near the back entrance of the dining hall, along with her colleague, they offered pamphlets that included more information about Holi, in addition to some pictures of different things that happen on Holi that people could come over and color with markers.
According to Mitali Purolit, an Indian Masters of Arts and Psychology student at Chatham, the tradition is a North Indian one. “Holi represents the onset of spring. But it is mainly celebrated in Northern India because they have four seasons there, as opposed to the West Coast, where I come from and where it barely rains for three months and for the rest of the year it’s humid and hot.”
According to Purolit, Holi is celebrated on the beginning of the spring season in the Hindu month “Phalgun Pumima” (Full Moon), which is translated into the end of February or sometime in March according to the Gregorian calendar.
“There’s many ancient stories behind the Holi festival, but it mainly signifies the victory of the good over the evil, the arrival of the spring and end of the heavy rain and sometimes snow in the North part of India,” said Purolit.
The one most commonly used colors in Holi is “gulal”, the pink color, according to Purolit. In previous times, Indians used authentic Indian colors to throw at each other (dry color powder to paint at each other’s faces), but now it has changed and became more chemical, thus created a whole new picture of it.
Another part of the Holi celebration is the music. Purolit points out, however, that music is a recent addition to Holi, as some Bollywood music is played and people dance as in any “DJ party.” “Things have changed a lot over the time, there’s been a twist to it, but in ancient times the whole meaning to it was to get together and celebrate spring with a lot of colors.”
Music was missing during the celebration at Chatham because a group of students who were supposed to be in charge of the music could not make it.
The idea to have the event came from the Student Affairs Department, to celebrate different cultures on campus. “We hold these events so everyone feels welcome and knows that this is a campus where wherever you come from, everybody wants to learn and celebrate whatever is traditional for you,” said Karnes.
Student Affairs came up with the recipes by talking to students who actually celebrate Holi who sent out some recipes, and in cooperation with Chef Dan, Chaat, Tandoori Chicken, Bibimbap and Jalebi and Frijoles Negros, all Indian food was served during lunch time. Also, Samosa and Jalebi were served as Indian dessert.
Sherin Sabu, an Indian Psychology Exchange Student at Chatham said: “This is a North Indian Festival. I’m from the South, and people from the South know nothing about those celebrations.” She expressed her contentment with Chatham’s tradition of accepting different cultures and trying to make students know about them, but added she wished they had some South Indian festivals too.
“Because of the diverse culture here, we’re trying to keep everybody happy. There is a lot of different ethnicities and it’s important for other students to experience Indian and other kinds of foods,” said Patricia Malloy, the General Manager of Anderson Dining Hall.