The Hindu Student Association hosted its second annual Holi on the Plaza on April 21. Baruch students congregated in a confined, rectangular space in the Plaza after picking up a shirt from the multipurpose room to wear to the event.
The start of the event was indicated not by the slowly expanding crowd sporting white Holi T-shirts, but by the loud blasts of music that punctuated the atmosphere. WBMB, a co-sponsor of the event, complemented the anticipatory ambiance by providing a playlist that ranged from contemporary artists such as The Weeknd to tuneful Indian dance songs.
The event began at the beginning of club hours. While the students were still gathering into the confined space, those who already made their way to the designated area started lining up in front of the powder distributors. Members of the HSA gave out cups that were half-filled with green, pink, purple, red and yellow powder.
Having received their powder, the participants chose not to wait even a minute longer.
Despite the constant stream of students still coming out of the multipurpose room and down to the Plaza for the event, students had already begun to “play.”
Pratima Mangar, vice president of the HSA, explained that Hindus use the word “play” to describe Holi’s main activity. Hindus throw color on each other to breed new resolutions. She explained that, “It does not have to be anyone you know. That is the spirit of the holiday. We have something, even if we do not know each other.”
Holi, the Hindu festival of colors, celebrates the coming of spring and the formation or maintenance of unity among its participants. Partakers typically celebrate the holiday by throwing vibrantly colored powder known as Holi Gulal at one another.
Holi is an ancient Hindu festival that was mentioned in documents dating as far back as the fourth century. It attempts to commemorate many Hindu legends and folktales that have been passed down for centuries. The most popular legend—and the one Holi is most known and celebrated for—is the story of Prahlad and Holika.
Prahlad was the son of a demon king who considered himself higher in authority and power than any other figure in the known universe. Prahlad, however, worshipped Vishnu, one of the Hindu gods who was part of the triad, the group who was collectively responsible for the creation, upkeep and destruction of the world. Vishnu preserved and protected the natural state of the universe.
Holi tradition calls for lighting a bonfire to signify the careful escape of Prahlad and to reflect protective forces against any lingering demons.
While a bonfire was not part of Holi on the Plaza, several games were. Early the celebration, Nardine Salama, Undergraduate Student Government’s executive vice president, took the microphone and directed the participants to separate into groups with the number of people she called out. The reason behind this separation was to break up previously-established groups that consisted of family members or friends, forcing students to interact with new faces.
Mangar mentioned that for this reason, she felt that the holiday she identified most with was Holi.
“Holi not only is the festival of color; it also celebrates a new year, in a sense. Americans celebrate their New Year by forming resolutions. Hindus do that too, but the resolutions differ somewhat. Our resolutions are about growth with people.”
Mangar entertained the notion that the goal of hosting Holi is to make the participant want to be a better person, which is why Holi is played with and open to everyone.
Complying with Mangar’s wishes for the event, the participants in Holi on the Plaza varied greatly; students, faculty members and even random passersby and their dogs seemed to enjoy the ceremony. Students of a multitude of ethnicities came together to partake.
During the first Holi on the Plaza, it seemed like the entire staff from the Office of Student Life came out to guide the event. Mangar expressed her happiness at seeing that this year, only a couple of representatives from Student Life came out to support the cause.
“This year it feels like we really have earned OSL’s trust,” she said.
Passersby also seemed moved by the events on the Plaza. Many casual dog walkers found themselves gravitating toward the site of the event because their dogs were intrigued by the fast-moving particles that resembled dust in the air. Some onlookers just waded along the campus, sneaking casual glances at the color hub.
The most continuous part of the event was Salama shouting into the microphone, attempting to break up the clusters of students directly in the middle of the space. The space was intentionally stretched out a bit in order to allow for greater movement among the crowd, but the students kept close together as a giant group.
Alba Rajanibala, secretary to the HSA, commented that, “Holi is one of the only religious events [at Baruch] that is also social. Hinduism is a lifestyle and to be a part of it, you do not have to be in on any of the traditions. All you have to do is have fun and appreciate how centuries-old traditions are still relevant and enjoyable.”