Holi festival gives Tech a special color

Photo by Tyler Parker Student Publications

Although thousands of miles separate India and Tech, one of its oldest traditions finds new life on campus every spring.

On March 10, Jackets ran across Tech Green and doused each other in a stunning array of brightly colored powder to commemorate the Hindu festival of Holi. The festival is traditionally celebrated on March 25 across India, but celebrations across the world often occur on a variety of days within March in accordance with the Hindu lunisolar calendar month of Phalguna. In total, nearly 32 million people across the world “play Holi.”

The festival’s traditions originate from Hindu mythology. The throwing of colored powder is thought to represent the love between the god Krishna and his consort, Radha. The blue-skinned Krishna asks his adoptive mother, Yashoda, why he does not have Radha’s fair skin. Yashoda gives him a solution — while playing a game with Radha, he colors her face with powder so that the two are indistinguishable. Today, individual identities fade away under a rainbow haze as friends and strangers alike pelt each other with powder in honor of Krishna’s example. 

Tech’s celebration was organized by the India Club at Georgia Tech (ICGT).

“India Club’s mission is to spread Indian culture on campus,” said Vasav Jain, third-year CS and co-president of ICGT. “It’s one of our favorite festivals, 

so being able to share that feeling here is at the essence of what we do. I find Holi so special because I love dancing and the festival’s entire premise is playing with color and dancing — it really brings out your inner child.” 

Jain’s counterpart, Pratham Mehta, co-president and third-year CS, felt his connection to the Holi celebration is a lifelong one. 

“My birthday falls on Holi, so it’s one of the most special and auspicious days of the year for me. It’s even more special to celebrate it here,” Mehta said. 

Planning for the event started last fall, when Jain and Mehta ordered colors for the event. In the past, the potential for damage to Tech Green has kept the event from being hosted there. 

Fortunately, Jain and Mehta, along with the rest of ICGT’s executive board, were able to secure the field after making the decision to use organic color powders. 

“Within two days, it was impossible to tell that the event had even happened,” Mehta said. To add to the authenticity of the event, ICGT also provided thandai, a traditional north Indian cold drink of milk, nuts, saffron seeds and rose petals served during the festival. The group was able to organize the entire festival on a budget of $3,000. 

However, that does not mean everything in the planning process went smoothly. On the event’s original date of March 9, rainy conditions forced a postponement. In mere hours, ICGT had to figure out how to re-market the event and plan around other events on Sunday, March 10. Fortunately, the group was able to reschedule for that Sunday.

The change in time did not damper the turnout. Students came ready to play amidst popular Hindi songs like “Rang Barse Silsila” and “Balam Pichkari.” They emptied $3 color packets on their fellow Jackets for three hours between 3-6 p.m. in a vibrant display of Tech’s community coming together in celebration. That feeling of community is why students like Aakristhaa Kumar, second-year CS, find Holi so special. 

“I didn’t really have much experience with Holi play, but my first time was during my freshman year with my roommates and friend group. I really enjoyed it and now it’s become a tradition for my friends and I,” Kumar said.

As an international student from the United Arab Emirates, Kumar felt that the event celebrated the sense of belonging and close-knit community that she has found in her time at Tech. 

For Aastha Singh, second-year ME, playing Holi is nothing new. While growing up in Gainesville, Fla., Singh recounted how her local community all got together to celebrate every year. 

“Everyone would come out to a huge field at the University of Florida and play together … it was a really wonderful atmosphere,” Singh said. Upon arriving at Tech, she was excited to find that the tradition continued. 

While playing with the colors, each Holi celebrant is drawn to a particular favorite color. 

“Personally, I am a big fan of the yellow powder — it’s a lot of fun to make my friends look like Minions from ‘Despicable Me,’” Singh said. 

Jain has a slightly different take about choosing his favorite color. 

“I really like throwing the blue color because it makes people look like Smurfs,” he said. Blue is also traditionally associated with Krishna and holds a spiritual meaning. Sometimes, though, it is as simple as just liking the way that a particular powder looks. 

“Red is a really pretty color and it just makes everything look nice,” Kumar said. 

Mehta is also a fan of the brighter colors of Holi. 

“I think the vibrancy of pink stands out — I really like pink powder,” he said. 

Regardless of how one chooses to play Holi, the feeling of community connects each celebrant. For Mehta and Jain, the feeling of playing with the color and seeing everyone happy completely justified the time and effort put into the planning process. 

“Every year, we get this one shot of everyone throwing the color in the air. It’s a really nice feeling to be the ones in the front seeing that and knowing your team came together to accomplish this,” Mehta said on the event.