Throwing Color to the Wind: Hindu Students’ Organization’s Holi Celebration

The Hindu Students’ Organization celebrated Holi April 6.

The Hindu Students’ Organization celebrated Holi April 6 with various events including prayer and throwing multicolored powder dyes.

Holi, a holiday celebrating the love between gods Radha and Krishna and spring, occurs once a year in accordance with the Hindu lunar calendar. Co-president of the Hindu Students’ Organization Abhi Kodukula said Holi has been celebrated at Loyola for an estimated 13 years.

The festivities began in Damen’s Sister Jean Dolores Schmidt, BVM Multi-Purpose Room with a form of prayer called Aarti, food and an educational presentation.

All participants were invited to take their shoes off and join in Aarti prayer. Marked by music, clapping and ringing bells, members waved a candle in circles while praying in front of a table functioning as an altar. 

The prayer was followed by a  performance by LUC Raag — a co-ed South Asian a cappella group — and a battery-powered bonfire ritual where attendees were encouraged to write down something they wanted to leave behind and toss it into the fake fire.

This portion of the event took place for participants to understand the meaning of the celebration beyond color throwing, according to second-year co-president of Hindu Students’ Organization Rujuta Durwas.

Kodukula said Holi is widely viewed by Hindus as a celebration of love, drawing from the story of Hindu gods Radha and Krishna. According to Sanskriti Magazine, the love between Radha and Krishna symbolizes the goal of union within the divine.

The mythology says Krishna has blue skin and is jealous of Radha’s fair skin. When complaining to his mother, she tells him to go out and color Radha’s face, removing the differences between them, according to The Society for the Confluence of Festivals in India.

The holiday fell on March 25, however Loyola’s Hindu Students Organization had a delayed celebration to avoid conflicting with the Easter break and to maximize attendance, according to Durwas.

Durwas said for her, celebrating the holiday is a reminder of letting go and moving on.

“We’re getting rid of the old and bringing in the new,” Durwas said. “Inviting color and light into our lives and learning from whatever happened before.”

As an Indian-American, second-year Hindu Students’ Organization treasurer Garv Vyas said he finds it difficult to connect with his parents’ heritage. While his parents are immigrants from India, he said he has become assimilated to American culture. Vyas said for him, celebrating Holi is a way to stay close to the experiences his parents had in India.

“I do feel it’s hard for me to stick to my roots, whether it be religious or cultural,” Vayas said. “So I see that as a very big part of my upbringing. That’s the reason I celebrate it.” 

Kodukula said his grandfather was a priest in India, resulting in his mother emphasizing religion through his childhood. Kodukula said while religion has been a constant in his life, the opportunity to be involved with Hindu Students’ Organization and celebrate Holi with peers helps him feel more in touch with his Hindu identity.

Second-year Anoushka Nair, Hindu Students’ Organization graphic designer, said she didn’t grow up religious but she still enjoys celebrating Holi. She said she thinks the day is primarily to express love and gratitude towards friends.

Nair said joining the Hindu Students’ Organization has helped her become more religious and feel more familiar with her culture at a predominantly white institution.

“It’s like a family away from home,” Nair said. “I’m more connected to my roots and more connected to my people.”

About 43% of undergraduate students in the 2023-24 school year are white or non-hispanic, according to Loyola’s Office of Institutional Effectiveness’ website.

Vyas said the ability to celebrate Holi at a predominantly white university makes him feel more included in the community. He said having the space to express religious and cultural beliefs on campus makes him feel like he isn’t part of a minority.

Despite the religious connection, Durwas said the organization opened their Holi celebration to all members of the community — regardless of religion. The whole Loyola community was invited to attend free of charge and non-Loyola members were asked to pay a dollar to attend.

Durwas said inclusivity and community building are foundations of the Hindu faith.

“It’s important to share our religion with everyone regardless of whether they follow it or not, from an educational standpoint but also a personal standpoint,” Durwas said.

Nair said she thinks the playful aspect of color throwing for the holiday makes the event easy for others to participate.

Each color thrown has a meaning associated with it, according to Nair. She said love is represented by red, and happiness and friendship are represented by yellow. 

Vyas said he thinks the colors symbolize purity and sharing love with other participants.

“When we throw colors at each other it’s to give them a sense of the beauty of the ritual,” Vyas said. “It can be seen as a blessing from each other.”

Featured image by Bri Guntz / The Phoenix

Brianna Guntz

Brianna Guntz