India’s Festival of Colors Comes to Arcadia

by Shubhechha Dhar on March 27, 2018

Coming from a land that celebrates more than 50 festivals every year, I knew I would miss them once I moved overseas— especially Holi.

Holi is one of India’s most popular and vibrant festivals, signifying the triumph of good over evil and celebrating the arrival of spring and harvests to come. As a child, I used to mark the date of Holi on my calendar and eagerly wait for March to arrive. My family and all of our neighbors would set up tables with packages of brightly colored powders— red, yellow, green, orange, pink, and blue— and an assortment of Indian sweets. Once the loud drums and music played in the background, we threw fistfuls of colors in the air and onto each other until the entire place was an incredible, vivid potpourri. Then we would soak each other with colored water guns.

I never thought I would get to celebrate Holi anywhere other than India. But much to my surprise, I got to celebrate it here at Arcadia. Yes, at Arcadia! Arcadia’s "Inside Hinduism" course (RE 265) and A.S.I.A. club collectively hosted Holi, decorating tables with colorful streamers on Haber Green and providing powdered colors and an array of Indian food, from samosas and naans to traditional Indian sweets.

“This is the very first time we have ever done a Holi festival,” said "Inside Hinduism" Professor Frankie Mallis, who planned Arcadia’s Holi celebration in an effort to bring her students’ class work to life. “As a part of the class, students also visit temples. The course is meant for students to experience Hinduism.”

Having never played Holi before, everyone seemed a bit hesitant to get color on themselves. But as soon as the first fist of color was thrown into the air, celebrants broke into an enthusiastic color fight, leaving Haber Green stained in shades of orange, yellow, and blue. There was no escape for anyone! Even those who walked past Haber Green were left with color-smeared faces.  

Seeing everyone play Holi and dance to folk and classic Bollywood music was the closest I’ve felt to being at home since arriving here. Although I wasn’t at my house, I was still at home. The best part was that I got to see my own culture through someone else’s eyes by interacting with the American students during their Holi experience.

“It’s a fun time!” said Kirby Sibiski, who is taking "Inside Hinduism" this semester. “This is the first time I’m eating Indian food. The samosas were my favorite.”

“I’m not a part of the 'Inside Hinduism' class, but my friend told me about this event,” said Leslie Remache. “This is my first encounter with Holi, and I love it. I’ve never tried Indian food before, and I’m surprised that I loved it ’cause I’m a really picky eater.”

We also had a small reunion with the Preview group from Arcadia that visited India last March and celebrated Holi with students in Mumbai. Showing them how to celebrate my favorite festival made me enjoy it in a way I never had before. They were as fascinated to learn about Holi as I was to tell them about it.

Preview students enjoying Holi in Mumbai.

Kara Richards, who went on India Preview last year, recounted her experience of celebrating Holi in India: “The closest thing I have ever experienced to this was when the Eagles won the Super Bowl. Everyone just went crazy! It was really, really cool.”

I have always felt the same euphoria celebrating Holi. But experiencing it on campus has taken my feeling for the holiday to new heights. To say I’m having a complete college experience is an understatement. Holi on campus brought home one step closer to me— all the way here at Arcadia.