The Hindu celebration Holi, or as the Indian Students Association calls it “the most colorful event at Lehigh,” will be celebrated for the fourth year in a row.
The event will be held on the UC Front Lawn on Saturday, April 29 from 2-5 p.m. It was originally scheduled for April 22 but was postponed due to rain.
Holi, also called the Festival of Colors, is a two-day Hindu celebration marking the beginning of spring. Participants throw dry or wet paint at each other symbolizing significant aspects of Indian culture.
Rohit Thakare, ’18G, the India Club president, said Holi celebrates diversity. He said in India, the first day — which consists of a large bonfire — is specifically called Holi, but the two-day event is given the name to generalize the celebration as a whole.
Thakare said Holi first came from a rare Hindu mythological story not many people are aware of. The myth is the story of a Hindu lord who was bluish in color, so Hindu people would paint themselves blue to make him feel comfortable, Thakare said. This is where the practice of throwing paint at other celebrators, the main aspect of Holi, stemmed from.
The event is attended by over 600 students, faculty and residents of Bethlehem.
On Lehigh’s campus, Holi is celebrated slightly differently than it is in India. At Lehigh, it is celebrated after the actual date of Holi in India. Programming chair of ISA, Bhoomi Bhuptani, ’18, said this is mostly due to Pennsylvania’s cold weather during the time of the Indian celebration.
“In Lehigh, (Holi) is very clean and dry,” Thakare said. “In India, we throw water balloons. We add color and water and throw it on each other, which doesn’t go away for seven or eight days.”
The event on Saturday will also feature dance performances by Bhangra and Leela, flash mob-type dances and music by mr SUS.
The three clubs that organize the celebration at Lehigh — ISA, the India Club and the Asian Cultural Society — have been promoting the celebration on social media and by selling T-shirts in the University Center.
“We’ve found that the largest platform for advertising is social media,” Bhuptani said. “Lehigh ISA creates a Facebook event, and we have hundreds of responses to the invitation to the event.”
Members of these clubs even created a lip-sync video that was posted on YouTube to draw more public attention. The video features Lehigh students of different cultural backgrounds dancing and lip syncing around campus to a Bollywood Holi song.
Bhuptani said long collaboration meetings with the India Club and ACS are the basis of how Holi at Lehigh is organized, but the turnout mostly relies on other factors.
“Essentially, the thing about Holi which makes planning for it so interesting, is that there’s really only so much we can actually plan,” Bhuptani said. “We can organize logistics all we want but really it comes down to the people that join us to celebrate and how it goes from there.”
Michaela Ott, ’20, is planning on attending the celebration on Saturday and said she heard about the event from the posts on Facebook. Although Ott is not in the Indian Student’s Association, the India Club or the ACS, her friend in the India Club has encouraged her to attend. Ott has never been to a Holi celebration but said she is excited to experience the Hindu celebration.
“I definitely want to learn more about the cultural aspect,” Ott said.
Holi will help students and faculty of Lehigh and members of the Bethlehem community to not only enjoy a celebration on their Saturday afternoon but also expand their cultural knowledge of India and Hindu traditions.