UC Santa Barbara Indus hosted a Holi celebration — an Indian festival celebrated with colorful powder — at Estero Park on April 10 at 3 p.m. with over 150 people in attendance.
UCSB Indus procured funding through the Isla Vista Recreation and Park District and the Isla Vista Community Relations Committee to host this event.
The celebration of Holi is tied to Hindu mythology where the demoness Holika attempted to burn a pious boy named Prahlad with fire. Prahlad was saved by divine intervention from Lord Vishnu while Holika succumbed to her own fires. The holiday is celebrated by Hindus across the world as people gather to throw colorful powder at and with their family and friends to celebrate the triumph of good over evil.
Zohaib Suhail, co-president of UCSB Indus and fourth-year chemistry major, expressed his excitement to host the organization’s annual event after a two-year hiatus from COVID-19.
“We planned everything last week, once we felt it was safe to have enough people show up and actually throw powder and have physical contact with each other,” Suhail said.
For the event, the organizers offered free packets of colored powder — in shades of orange, purple, green, red, yellow and teal — to participants and played music over speakers.
“We had a lot of people show up in white T-shirts, so colors showed up great on them,” Suhail said. “Not so easy to wash off afterwards, but it is what it is, and people were also running around dumping entire packets into peoples’ hair.”
Suhail said that after they ran out of powder — with an hour of the event still left — most people stayed to listen and dance to the outdoor music.
“Once we ran out of powder, we moved everyone closer to the speakers, and we just did dance circles. And afterwards, when the event was officially over, a few people actually went down to the beach to wash off the color in the ocean,” Suhail continued.
Isha Shah, fourth-year economics and accounting major, experienced Holi celebrations for the first time in her life through Indus’ event.
“I’m Indian, but I’ve never been to Holi. I just wanted to come out and support everyone that put the event on,” Shah said.
Shah served on the board of Indus during her first and second years at UCSB but was unable to attend Holi during the past several years due to the pandemic.
“The purpose of Holi is for the destruction of evil, which is super cool,” she said. “I’ve seen Holi events put on a lot of times, either here or in other neighborhoods, too, so I was like, ‘I really want to go to one before I graduate.’”
Rhea Desai, fourth-year electrical engineering major, expressed how Holi brings together a cross section of cultural communities and fosters an “energetic” and “supportive” environment of celebration.
“I love the color and that everyone’s [covered in] a mixture of different colors. And that’s all that matters in that moment,” Desai said.
This UCSB Holi celebration marked one of many for first-year physics major Addy Kapoor, an international student from India.
“I’ve been celebrating it since I was a kid, so it’s pretty important, especially for me because I’m a Hindu by religion.”
Kapoor compared his Holi experience in Santa Barbara to the festivals he grew up with in India, saying that he initially expected a lower turnout but was happily impressed by the sizable number of people that attended.
“It was great, a lot of fun, a lot of color,” Kapoor said. “I tried to put color on everybody — that was my goal.”
According to Kapoor, he put color on almost every attendee, except “people who gave me the eyes,” he joked.
“If they look at me eye to eye, then I don’t put color on them because I get scared,” he said.
Shah described the playful and sociable aspect of Holi, with strangers approaching one another to douse them in color.
“Even if you don’t know someone, people will go up to each other and just throw color on them,” Shah said.
Suhail said that for future events, he hopes to offer more colored powder and continue the UCSB Indus’ tradition of keeping the festival open to the Isla Vista community.
A version of this article appeared on p. 1 of the April 14 print edition of the Daily Nexus.