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ASU's Holi event draws thousands for colorful cultural celebration

An explosion of color transformed ASU's Tempe campus into a bright gathering of unity in the event hosted by the Indian Students' Association


Students at Holi event at the SDFC Fields hosted by the ASU Indian Student Association on Saturday, March 16, 2024.

On Saturday, a sea of eager participants, adorned in pristine white attire ranging from t-shirts to traditional garb, gathered behind the Tempe Sun Devil Fitness Complex's east chain-link fence, anticipation palpable in the air. 

As the gates opened, the crowd surged forward. A kaleidoscope of colors swirled around them, carried by the gentle breeze, creating a vibrant atmosphere alive with energy. Laughter, cheering and rhythmic beats of music filled the air as students and community members immersed themselves in Holi festivities. 

Organized by the Indian Students' Association, the event offered the ASU community the opportunity to witness a celebration of the Hindu holiday Holi.

According to event organizers, the celebration drew in approximately 2,000 individuals from diverse cultural backgrounds, transforming the grass field north of the Tempe SDFC into a playground of colors and camaraderie.

Also known as the Festival of Colors, Holi holds deeply rooted significance in Indian tradition. It heralds the arrival of spring, symbolizing the triumph of good over evil and the renewal of life. 

"Holi is the biggest festival we celebrate in India," said Aviral Jain, a graduate student studying global management. "There are a lot of different stories from it."

Holi's traditions vary across regions, each steeped in rich mythology and symbolism. 

"Holi is an event that is celebrated mostly in the northern part of India," said Akshay Sukumaran, a graduate student studying global management. "But during the recent years, we can actually see it going towards (southern) India as well."

Among these diverse practices lies a common thread. 

"Celebrating Holi is about letting go of negativity and welcoming all the positivity around you," said Krati Jain, a graduate student studying global management. 

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At ASU, Holi also serves as a moment of cultural exchange. The throwing of colors — red, blue, yellow, green, pink and indigo — symbolizes more than mere playfulness, it embodies a spirit of inclusivity and connection. 

"There is no boundary, basically," Jain said. "I'm not playing with a friend, I'm playing with strangers, and there, you develop connections."

As color is smeared on each person's cheek and a "happy Holi" is exchanged, a new connection is made. 

"This whole festival is about making friends and adding colors and spreading positivity," Sukumarn said. "That's it, there's nothing else."

The powder, known as Gulal, which is painted on cheeks and thrown into the air, also carries deeper meaning. Blue represents the god Krishna, green symbolizes rebirth, yellow is for turmeric and red signifies fertility or marriage. 

"It's more about playing with the color than anything else," Jain said. "Every color is beautiful."

Approximately 6,400 of ASU's international students come from India, according to ASU officials.

Arin Shaw, a member of the Indian Students' Association and a senior studying molecular biosciences and biotechnology, said the festival is a great representation of the south Asian country.

"It's very colorful, it is a very colorful country and it's a very culturally rich country," he said. "The festival just reflects that in a really great way."

Shaw decided to join ISA after learning about ASU's "huge population of Indian students." He said events like this are crucial for multiculturalism at the University.

"I realized that ISA had events which remind me of home and celebrated our culture," he said. "It's enriching, not just for Indians on campus but for every other individual, because they're getting to know about our culture more every single day with events like this."

Jain said events like Holi at ASU are important not only culturally but socially because of increased global conflict.

"Everywhere there are fights and disputes," Jain said. "It's a festival of letting go, and you're all accepting the negativities, forgiving everyone and celebrating the friendships, the brotherhood and the relationships."

Edited by Grey Gartin, Sadie Buggle and Caera Learmonth.

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