Ancient Hindu festival, rite of spring, mass water fight, and unparalleled colorful campus event—the festival of Holi, as celebrated at UC Berkeley seemed all of those things Sunday, April 17, 2011.
Sponsored by the Indian Student Association, the event drew hundreds of students and other celebrants to fill the center of Lower Sproul Plaza on the UC Berkeley campus from late morning through early afternoon.
For nearly three hours participants lined up to buy packets of dyed maize and starch in 50 gram increments and enter a fenced area where the object was to enthusiastically pelt one another with the vivid powders and the resultant colored water.
Students from a multitude of ethnicities and backgrounds participated. Most arrived in white T-shirts. After a few minutes, the white cotton was liberally splotched, like the clothes of a kindergardener after finger painting, with patches of colors described by the Indian Student Association as “purple, yellow, green, pink, orange, magenta, baby pink.” A vivid blue was also apparent in the mix.
As the event went on, colors blended into a sort of irregular deep violet tone, especially as water from buckets, wading pools, and hoses showered over the crowd. Purple water pooled and sloshed over the pavement of the plaza.
Throbbing music was an ever-present counterpart. The participants sang, danced, and circulated through the crowd, laughing with both friends and strangers. Puffs of thrown powder exploded into the sky like miniature fireworks and formed a tangible, faintly gritty, haze or prismatic mist.
Holi, the festival of colors, commemorates the story of an Indian prince who was lured to an apparent death. About to be burned alive, his devotion to the true gods saved him from the flames while his executioner, thinking herself immune to the fire, died instead.
It was “The Triumph of Truth over Evil”, the packets of powder used on Sunday on campus read.
The Indian Student Association is also promoting, on Friday, April 22, Vaisakhi Bhangra Night, “full of food, dancing, and memories…” at International House.
See their website here: http://isa.berkeley.edu/