Anyone who ventured too close to Palmer Field yesterday afternoon risked being drenched in dye and thrown into a mud pit by the more than 250 revelers gathered to celebrate Holi, the Indian festival of colors.

Jess Cox
A fellow reveler smears Engineering junior Neha Dhawan with a bright red powder during the celebration of the Hindu Holi festival yesterday on Palmer Field. Holi, a holiday celebrated in Northern India, heralds the coming of spring. (EUGENE ROBERTSON/Dai

Holi is a Hindu holiday celebrated in Northern India to herald the coming of spring. Yesterday’s burst of colorful revelry gave hundreds of Indian students a chance to celebrate their religious and ethnic heritage.

The Hindu Students Council, the group that sponsored the event, spared people’s clothes by using washable dye – a deviation from the way the holiday is traditionally celebrated.

“In India, they generally get permanent colors, but we don’t get that here – I don’t think people would be too happy,” said Nupur Srivastava, co-president of the Hindu Students Council.

Still, organizers tried to make the celebration as authentic as possible.

“It makes it a possibility for someone to be close to home even when they are not at home,” said Engineering senior Devansh Gupta.

But for some Indian students, the Holi celebrated on Palmer Field yesterday couldn’t compare to celebrations in India.

“It’s a lot more fun in India because everyone is celebrating,” said Engineering freshman Abhinav Chordia, who lived in India for eight years before moving to the United States.

After arriving, Chordia remained mud and dye free for two minutes after arriving before being blindsided and smeared with rung, or colored powder, by a woman who found his cleanliness problematic. As she knocked him over into the mud pit, she announced he was “too clean.”

The mud-flinging and color-smearing are not just a playful annual pastime. Although the holiday is famous for its use of brightly colored dyes, yesterday’s celebration marked the second day of a two-day festival.

Hindu Indians celebrate the first day of Holi by lighting a bonfire in the evening upon the arrival of the full moon. The bonfire is symbolic of the burning of Holika, a character in Hindu Mythology.

According to Hindu myths, Holika was the sister of King Hiranyakashipu, the king of demons, who in his arrogance demanded that all people in the world worship him.

When his own son, Prahlad, refused and instead worshipped the Hindu god Vishnu, Hiranyakashipu became angry and decided to kill Prahlad.

After many failed attempts to kill his son, he demanded that his son sit on the lap of his aunt Holika as she entered a fire. Holika had a shawl that was supposed to protect her from fire.

Prahlad prayed to Vishnu and obediently sat in the fire with Holika. However, instead of being consumed by the flames, Prahlad was unharmed and Holika burned to death.

Although Holi is a Hindu holiday, people of different religions annually flock to the streets to celebrate in North India.

“It’s just so much fun that everyone wants to participate,” Srivastava said. “Today was a microcosm of how Holi is celebrated in India. We had so many non-Indians as well as non-Hindus.”

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