Festival of color

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A cloud of colored dust rose over the South Mall as more than 1,000 people celebrated the ancient Hindu festival of Holi by throwing neon powder and water balloons at each other. Contemporary Indian music boomed while students covered in “rang,” the vibrantly colored powders, danced Saturday at the 19th annual event hosted by the Hindu Students Association. Also called the “Festival of Colors,” Holi marks the beginning of spring and celebrates the triumph of good over evil and the unification of different people, regardless of how they look. “It’s something completely different and people can just let loose,” said business sophomore Chris Lanier. The festival celebrates a Hindu myth in which the demon Hiranyakashipu was angry that his son Prahlada worshipped Lord Vishnu instead of himself. As punishment, his demon sister Holika carried Prahlada into a blazing fire, but Vishnu intervened, saving Prahlada. Holika suffered the fire instead. Undeclared freshman Reihaneh Hajibeigi said the event is more cultural than religious. “No one is here for the religious learning about the holiday,” Hajibeigi said. “It’s a big color party.” Hindus in India celebrate the victory of good over evil and the destruction of Holika by lighting bonfires the night before the Festival of Colors. “The event has a religious significance, but even if someone doesn’t come from that background, they can participate,” said Shashank Maruvada, 2008 graduate and officer of the national Hindu Students Association. In another story, the young Lord Krishna complained to his mother about the difference in color between his dark skin and his consort Radha’s pale skin, so his mother colored Radha to make her resemble Krishna. “If you extend that, it becomes what we had yesterday,” said Anand Jayanti, event co-chair and a pre-med and Plan II senior. “They come together, and they forget their differences — that’s the purpose of the coloring.” Jayanti said the rang used for the event was a high-quality organic compound. ”In the old days, since they didn’t have synthetic means of production, they’d use these herbs in the raw, and they’d basically use some natural colors to make them stained,” he said. It is not uncommon for people to take one or two weeks off from work for the extended celebration of the most popular holiday, said Apurva Batra, mechanical engineering senior and Hindu Students Association officer. “At the end of the day, we are all the same,” said Saagar Grover, accounting senior and Hindu Students Association financial director. “It is more about bringing people together than dividing them.”