Students walking by the Burger Bowl this past Sunday were greeted by a surprising sight: a crowd of almost 100 people covered from head to toe in every color imaginable, running and laughing underneath clouds of shockingly bright colors. The cause for this optical explosion was the India Club at Tech, which was celebrating the Indian holiday of Holi.
Holi is an annual festival celebrated in India and countries with a large Indian population at the beginning of the spring. Participants take part in a war of colors, throwing colored powder and water at everyone around them. At this particular event, friends and members of Tech’s Indian community—as well as a few curious passers-by—flung handfuls of brightly colored powders and water at each other and into the air to the beat of modern Indian pop music.
“It’s something people look forward to every year, almost like Christmas,” said Tarun Aurora, third-year BME and vice president of marketing for the India Club. According to Aurora, however, festivities in America don’t hold a candle to those in India.
“What we did was nothing compared to what they do in India …. People over there will literally just line the streets and on your way to work or to the barber, you’ll just get splashed with color,” Aurora said.
That’s not to say, however, that American celebrations involve any less of a colorful mess. Aurora recalls last year’s festival, for example, when the colored powder was so concentrated it soaked into participants’ skin and stubbornly resisted being washed away.
The tradition of Holi originates from the Hindu story of Holika, a demoness who was burnt to death on top of a pyre through the efforts of the god Brahma and the hero Prahlada, a follower of the god Vishnu.
Also, in order to commemorate Holi, the India Club will be putting on its annual Holi Show on Saturday, April 18th at the Georgia World Congress Center. The Holi Show is India Club’s main event of the year. “It’s our largest event; every year we see anywhere from 1,700 to 2,000 people. It’s a cultural showcase: we have all these dance teams and different kinds of special acts,” Aurora said. The show will feature 13 different dance teams from universities and schools in the Atlanta area, and will be hosted by comedian Dan Nainan. This year, the show’s title is “Rang Barse,” which means “Color Rain,” a continuation of the tradition of giving the annual show a color-based name.
The Holi show is by no means only open to college students, however. “India Club has been around since 1979, but the Holi Show started around 15 years ago [and is] something the Atlanta Indian community expects .… It’s a family and college oriented show that caters to the entire Indian community,” said Vijay Palvia, fourth-year BIO and one of the India Club’s current co-presidents.
Aurora also stresses that the show is open to everyone who is interested. “What we’re trying to do is branch it out to anybody and everybody. The entire student community is invited, as well as everyone else in Atlanta who hears about it,” Aurora said.
Holi activities are not, however, the only events the India Club hosts during the year. According to Palvia, India Club also hosts a mixer for Indian students at the start of every year, in addition to several other religious festivals and non-religious events held throughout the year. Recent examples include the annual fall festival of Navratri, which the India Club celebrates with a traditional Gurba dance in the Student Center ballroom, and a seminar for students interested in doing consulting after college given by a handful of consulting firms.
The India Club also acts as a, in Aurora’s words, “home away from home” for Tech’s Indian population. “Because the majority of them are international students, they don’t go home but maybe once or twice a year. What we try to do is cater to every need of theirs and make it as close to home as we can,” Aurora said.
In addition to helping international students get by on campus, the India Club also helps get students to campus. “[The India Club’s] year starts at the beginning of the summer. Since we have so many Indian international students coming here, we had this transportation service called ICAT—India Club Airport Transportation. This summer, we picked up over 250 international students from the airport and dropped them off at Tech locations,” Aurora said.