If you notice bright blue, green, pink and purple colors in the air as you walk by Scripps Amphitheater in the coming days, there’s no need to worry. The air is safe to breathe. The colorful clouds are a part of the annual Festival of Colors, a celebration within the annual Holi festival.
Holi is an ancient Hindu festival that is now celebrated around the world by many people both in and outside of the Hindu culture.
The Ohio University Indian Student Association is hosting their own Holi celebration as a two-portion event beginning Sunday evening in the Baker Ballroom.
A gala featuring traditional Bollywood music, dance and Indian cuisine is what guests will experience Sunday evening. Members of the ISA will be performing the dances, skits and music at the dinner, but will be accompanied by friend and allies outside of the ISA.
This celebration has been sold out in past years, said Hashim Pashtun, the president of the International Student Union and a graduate student studying civil engineering, said. Up to 300 students, faculty and Athens residents have packed the Baker Ballroom for this joyful occasion in the past.
Also commonly referred to as The Festival of Colors, the second part of the Holi event will be the iconic throwing of colors at the Scripps Amphitheater. The date for this portion of the celebration is still being decided as sunny, spring weather is key to a successful Holi celebration, Pashtun said.
Not only does the throwing of colors symbolize the arrival of spring, it is also a time for Hindus to relax socially, according to National Geographic. Pashtun said he has seen many people join in on the festivities who have little context as to what Holi is about.
“The first year you may pass by, the second year you may ask a question, ‘what’s happening?,' the third year you may be part of the audience … I think exposure is what matters,” Pashtun said.
Curiosity is what draws many outsiders into the colorful festival. Inviting people who are not Indian to see what the celebration is all about is one of ISA’s objectives.
“That is my favorite part of this celebration,” said Surya Goud, a graduate student studying engineering and the cultural coordinator of ISA, “a good portion of the people at the event were not even Indian.”
The ISU assures that the dye used is environmentally friendly and “washes off with one or two showers,” Pashtun said, unlike in India, where the Festival of Colors can leave many people stained with rainbow-colored skin for weeks.
“It’s open to everyone — and when I say everyone, I mean everyone,” Pashtun said.