The shade of Texas live oaks covered an ancient Hindu celebration Saturday on the University of Texas’ South Mall. The throwing of colored paint signaled the beginning of the Hindu spring festival, Holi.
Students of a South Asian literature honors class from Texas State joined 2,000 other participants at UT to welcome the return of spring and the colors that come with it.
Nancy Wilson wanted to give her students a real Indian experience by bringing them to the celebration after reading books like The Death of Vishnu and The Kite Runner.
Pranavi Jonnalagadda, UT student and member of the Hindu Student Association, said the 25th annual Holi celebration was at least twice the size of last year’s.
“We had about 1,500 students register on Facebook,” said Jonnalagadda. “Now, there are at least 2,000 people here.”
Mallory Marcone, anthropology sophomore, said she was impressed by the size of the event. She said Indian culture is not normally so big in the United States because of the relatively low population.
The crowed mobbed booths as coordinators handed out bags of rang, a colorful, powdery paint made of starch and herbs. As soon as people received a bag of rang, they would run and chase friends.
People ran in every direction hurling orange, pink, yellow and green powder, splattering the white shirts of targets and creating a splash of bright color. Bollywood music played throughout the South Mall, energizing the crowd.
“It’s just a fun festival to bring everyone together and celebrate community,” said Jonnalagadda. “We just vitalize everyone for spring.”
The PA system sounded, “Let’s pass out the first rounds of water balloons.” when everyone was covered in colors.
The crowd roared, and then brightly colored water balloons were breaking over everyone.
Alex Hesselbrock, history senior, smiled after getting plastered with paint by friends.
“It’s a lot more than I thought it would be,” Hesselbrock said. “The culture was awesome to be a part of.”
Part of the crowd formed a chain that ran through the masses. People were pelted by balloons as they jumped up and down to the music.
Eesha Gulati, Asian studies sophomore, joined her class in Bollywood dancing before dissolving into laughter with the rest of the crowd. Gulati said Holi is her favorite day of the year.
“I like Holi more than I like my birthday,” Gulati said.
Marcone said she noticed the diversity of the participants. There were people of various races and ethnic groups present. Marcone said she thinks Holi was a great way to put aside differences and have a great time.
“You can be black, white or brown,” Marcone said. “You’re going to have pink, yellow and orange all over you by the end.”