On Sunday, students and local community members alike celebrated Holi with an event hosted by the Indian Students Association. Holi is a traditional Hindu spring festival that celebrates the coming of spring and new beginnings, and is also known as a festival of colors and love. The festivities are so popular that they have been appropriated as color run events, which involve runners in a 5k or similar event being covered by people on the side with powder and water. Growing up in the Bay Area, I’d seen friends and classmates post pictures of the celebration, but I’d never gone to one myself before coming to RPI.
The event was originally scheduled for Saturday, but was moved to Sunday due to poor expected weather conditions. That turned out to be a good call, because Sunday was quite a beautiful day. While Robison Field was still a bit muddy from rain the day before, students came out in large groups to participate, and some were even barefoot.
Entry was $3, and participants were given a wristband and four tickets, which could each be traded in for a bag of colored powder. At the event, there were also samosas (an Indian fried dish filled with vegetables such as potatoes, onions, peas, and lentils) and water guns for sale; the samosas were good, if a little cold, but I can’t say much about the water guns. The few times I got collateral spray were bearable—in contrast, I saw ISA members drenching each other with tubs of water, and I can’t imagine that’d be fun for the target.
The powder came in a variety of colors: pink, orange, yellow, green, blue, and purple. Once you got your powder, you were free to throw it at anyone you wanted to… literally anyone. You could throw it on your friends, you could throw it on yourself, strangers would throw it at each other—while greeting each other a happy Holi!—and even a photographer that was there wasn’t safe from the colored powder. (It’s a good thing he had his camera in a plastic bag!) Spreading the color was fun and simple: you could grab a handful and toss it, take a pinch of powder and sprinkle it, smear it across faces and arms, or even just cover your hand and press a good ol’ five star onto someone’s clothing. (Cleaning it off wasn’t as fun—there was definitely residue left in my ears, and my clothes had a slight pink tint to them after washing.)
But you could also save your powder for a round. About every 15 minutes, they would announce over the speaker that there was another round. Everyone would proceed to split into two groups, line up on either the fire station side or the Mueller Center side, and then charge at each other to throw color. Many people planned for this, using their powder sparingly so that they would have enough for the next round.
Between rounds, people casually walked about, mingling with friends and strangers alike, sharing in the joy of spring and color. Music helped create an atmosphere as uplifting as the weather. Both Indian and American songs were being blasted at a very high volume, per Indian culture, and people danced like it was middle school again, jumping up and down, fist pumping, and making conga lines. In all, Sunday was wonderful to begin with, and ISA’s event made it that much more bright and colorful. It might not be everyone’s cup of tea, especially if you’re afraid of getting some powder in your eyes or mouth (the taste of the colored powder definitely isn’t my cup of tea), but I would personally recommend going at least once in your time at RPI. College is the perfect time to have messy fun, and who knows when you’ll come across a Holi event next?