Asha UIUC hosts annual Holi festival


Bang Nguyen

Asha UIUC hosted Holi, the Hindu festival of colors, to support education of underprivileged children in India. The festival was held at the Florida and Lincoln playing fields Saturday.

By Tess O'Brien, Staff writer

A cloud of red, blue, yellow, green and orange powders filled the air. The continually-growing crowd began settling down to  intermittent performances, ranging from belly dancers to children’s groups.

Holi, the Indian festival of colors, had begun.

Saturday, Asha UIUC, a nonprofit organization that works toward promoting the education of underprivileged children in India, held its annual Holi celebration at the Florida and Lincoln Fields in Urbana.

The festival, which announces the arrival of spring and the defeat of evil, is the group’s primary fundraiser for several education projects in India. Usually, the holiday is celebrated earlier in the year, but with the unpredictable weather in the area, Asha always hosts the festival in the second week of April.


During Show & Tell Central Illinois, Punit Singhvi, graduate student and member of Asha UIUC, described the mythology behind Holi. He emphasized the idea of the destruction of evil, telling the story of how the demoness Holika was burned to death by the god Vishnu.

“The devil or the evil was defeated by the lord which signifies the bringing of happiness, and this is what Holi celebrates,” Singhvi said. “People were so happy after that they expressed their joy through colors.”

Thousands of students and community members celebrated the festival. After buying a ticket, attendees were given bags filled with gulal, the traditional colored powders which are characteristic of the festival.

To play, people would smear or throw their gulal on anyone in sight, often wishing a cheerful “happy Holi” with the toss. Within minutes of arriving, attendees were completely covered in colors.

Shruti Sinha, freshman in Engineering, attends a Holi festival every year, but this was her first one at the University.

“I’ve been to bigger ones in the U.S., but this one is good too,” Sinha said. “It’s super fun and everyone is really nice. There’s just a lot of colors, and even if you don’t know people, everyone’s just happy to be there.”

Avani Patel, freshman in Engineering, said she particularly enjoyed the friendly nature of the celebration.

“I think it’s just that random people are coming up to you and are like, ‘Hi, you need some color. My name is so-and-so,’” Patel said. “You just meet so many people.”

The celebration lasted from noon to 5 p.m. Between the powder-throwing, attendees could take a break and grab a meal on the opposite side of the fields or watch one of the many shows of the day. Different Indian student organizations put on exhilarating dance performances and live DJs played Bollywood music and remixes of popular songs, keeping the crowd on their feet.

One of the more popular performances was from Bellydance UIUC, an RSO dedicated to teaching the art of belly dancing. Four of the members performed at the festival, wowing the audience with their coordinated, effortless movements and colorful attire. They were followed by several other live performers throughout the day.

Rithi Anandwade, freshman in LAS, was covered head to toe in red, green and yellow gulal at the event. She said the festival at the University was essentially the same as those in India.

“It’s a social event for everyone, even for people who don’t like socializing,” Anadwade said.

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