On Saturday, the South Asian student group UCSB Indus hosted the annual celebration of Holi at Goleta Beach, where roughly 500 participants threw the colored powder gulal at each another to bring in the spring season.
UCSB Indus, which strives to spread the culture of the South Asian community, hosted the event for the second year in a row. Holi is a traditionally religious festival for Hindus, in which it is traditional to wear white clothing and splash each other with colored powder called gulal until everyone looks similarly colored. The custom is reflective of the day’s overall theme of making no distinction between each other’s social caste, skin color or gender. In recent years, it has spread to other communities and cultures as a ‘festival of colors.’
Indus imported 882 pounds, or about $2000 worth, of colored powder from India for the event and powder packets were distributed to participants. Hundreds of UCSB students and other community members smeared each other in bright colors while dancing to Indian music.
Second-year biology major and Co-Social Chair of Indus Sanya Singhal said the club decided to start celebrating the event last year, and also said Indus members plan to continue the tradition in coming years.
“Last year, as freshmen, we were all really surprised that [Holi] does not happen here at UCSB. The freshmen members of last year decided to put the event together, and it was a success,” Singhal said. “Since it went so well, we plan on making it an Indus tradition from here on out.”
In addition to the social nature of the event, Singhal said Holi has become a unique way for Indus to educate other campus community members about the cultural customs of South Asian regions.
According to Internal Vice President of Indus and fourth-year political science and global studies major Beejal Desai, the club hopes to provide a good time for students while also informing other students of the time-honored meaning behind the festival.
“We chose to celebrate Holi in SB to expand our culture and offer some insight and enjoyment into one of our festivals for the entire UCSB community,” Desai said. “We expected many people to attend and enjoy a day on the beach, while experiencing a part of India even thousands of miles overseas.”
Singhal said the club’s efforts to expose students to different cultural traditions is part of a broader message of cultural awareness.
“I would like the students here to be more educated about different cultures and respect those whom they are surrounded with,” Singhal said. “Perhaps being exposed to such events will make people become more culturally aware and want to go out an experience other events that happen here in SB.”
By the end of the day, the sand was sprinkled with a large assortment of colors as students washed off their colors in the ocean waters.
First-time attendee Jennifer Moreno, fourth-year economics and accounting major, said the event’s atmosphere was liberating as music played and colored powder was thrown around.
“I just thought it was people throwing powder at each other, but there was much more to that,” Moreno said. “There was a mob of enthusiastic people dancing, the DJ was playing his beats, powder filled the air — everyone was just so carefree.”