A photographed experience of UF’s first Festival of Colors
Set against a backdrop of blue skies, goalie boxes and Macklemore’s “Thrift Shop,” Hume Field was ablaze with explosions of teal, crimson red, lime green, magenta, yellow — it was Holi.
Saturday’s festivities were UF’s first university-wide celebration of Holi, also called Holaka or Phagwa. The Hindu holiday is dedicated to winter’s end, music, feasting and equality. Everyone arrived donning white — canvases waiting to be pelted with dust. By the end of the celebration, each person left plastered in a spectrum of rainbow.
The celebration was hosted by UF Intercultural Engagement, the Indian Students Association and Student Government Multicultural Affairs Cabinet. Volunteers passed out Ziploc bags of pigmented cornstarch and flour, entrusting the hundreds of excited students with a total of 60 pounds of the powder.
But before the powder came a generous, free Krishna lunch followed by a talk on Holi traditions and the meaning behind the holiday. Traditional celebration welcomes the fresh agricultural season with not only color, but water, too. A handful of students stood in the crowd, clutching their water guns and juggling their stock of water balloons.
Dvaraka Das, a Hare Krishna devotee, joined UF’s Holi celebration singing “Hare Krishna,” just like when he celebrated Holi in Vrindavan, India. Vrindavan is the major pilgrimage site for all traditions of Hinduism.
“[It’s] the most holy city in all of India,” said Dvaraka.
I gestured toward the color-dusted field behind me and asked Dvaraka if it was an accurate translation. We turned to watch a group of freshmen chasing their friend with a bucket of water.
“They had Holi like this. A little more powder,” he chuckled. “They should have had a little more powder.”
The colors, the excitement and the gasps of surprise were all accounted for — just as Dvaraka described his Holi experience, but with a little extra UF touch. I doubt that Holi in Vrindavan had students running around, yelling “This is like Dayglow!”
“Young people are attracted to these fun things, so it’s nice that they get in touch with the Indian culture,” Krsodari, another Hare Krishna follower, said.
“In some ways,” she said, “they now have some of the secrets of spiritualism.”
However self-evident those secrets are is unknown, and for some of the students in attendance, I’m not sure they would invest the extra effort to find out. For further elaboration on the historical and cultural context of Holi past the celebration’s introductory talk, students were invited to find out more at www.festivalofcolorsuf.com.
I did enjoy the tasty-as-ever Hare Krishna lunch and I smiled in surprise when magenta powder puffed up in my face. I also, like Krsodari and Dvaraka, appreciate and support the intermingling of cultures and exchange of traditions. However, I’m left wondering how much of the cultural history actually stuck once the dust settled.
It took awhile for me to regain my respiratory abilities and vision, but once I had, I noticed the Hare Krishna’s Maha Mantra that cued the dancing and powder-tossing had faded. Instead, Lil’ Jon and The East Side Boyz stepped in with their chant… the one about the window, the walls, and getting low. I cringed at the cultural clash and the strangers’ body odor surrounding me and extracted myself from the moshpit to write about it.
If you missed UF’s last weekend, or attended but are up for another round, the Alachua Hare Krishna Temple is hosting an even bigger Holi festival on April 13.