On Saturday, March 3, SFU’s Convocation Mall was lit up with coloured powder, music, and dancing in celebration of the Holi Festival, an ancient Indian tradition.
The celebration has deep religious and cultural roots, as explained by the vice-president of events of the Indian Student Federation, Seerat Rana: “some folklores trace [Holi] back to the tale of Holika, a demoness, who was burnt by Lord Vishnu.”
“Holi [. . .] is a sign of victory of good over evil, celebration of the new harvest, welcoming spring, or celebrating the end of winter.” – Seerat Rana, vice-president of events, Indian Student Federation
The event was organized and brought to life by members of the ISF, a federation at SFU with the purpose of “unit[ing] all current, prospective, and alumni students of Indian origin.” The ISF seeks to make foreign students feel welcome and comfortable at SFU and give them a home-away-from-home, among students who share their culture. The club recognizes the hardships students can face when moving to a new country and school, and try to provide support.
Attendees were greeted with the smiling faces of ISF members, handing out colour packets and glow sticks. The colour packets were in bright shades of yellow, green, red, and pink.
“The colours actually relate to one of Lord Vishnu’s incarnations, Krishna,” Rana said. “The red colour, ‘gulal,’ which was traditionally the only colour, signifies love. Covering everyone’s face with the perfumed colours mean making everyone look equal. This idea tries to oppose the age-old caste and class system in India. Nowadays, it is more about fun, but the origin of colour was a social struggle in form of celebration.”
With colour packets in hand, attendees headed towards the DJ station, where DJ Khanvict and DJ Apogee from the Decibel Entertainment label were performing. Soon, powdered pigment was being spread and thrown all over, marking faces and clothes in bright, beautiful hues. When the powder packets were empty, attendees danced and sang along to remixes of traditional and modern songs, courtesy of the DJs.
Some first-time attendees, covered in green and yellow colours, commented on what they felt the significance of this celebration being held at SFU was: “It’s important to share and enjoy all the multiple cultures that make up SFU with all the students here. It makes foreign students feel welcome. Plus, it’s a lot of fun and the music is really good.”
Rana echoed these sentiments, “This festival is one of the biggest celebrations in India, and most of the Indian students have a lot of memories attached with it. Family and friends in India celebrate it, so obviously we feel left out in Canada. To avoid that feeling of missing out, it is really important to give students a chance to celebrate . . . especially during the hard times of midterms!”
Attendees reflected on their own experiences of Holi as children, where they would fill up water and colour balloons days in advance of the festival. Though no water was used at the SFU Holi Bash, guests could relive the essence of those memories. And even for students who had never attended Holi, the celebration provided a small taste of a rich and diverse culture.