Puffs of green, yellow, purple, red and pink rose from the crowd as excited individuals snuck a few more bouts of colour play before the countdown began. Feeling the excited energy, I could barely contain myself as I sifted my fingers through the fine flour-like powder in my small zip-lock bag. It was a vibrant yellow. And I had it and the other colours strewn all over myself from people sneaking up on me and smudging my skin and clothes. 10-9-8. The countdown had begun. The DJ shouted over the crowd trying to contain it so we’d all release our colours in one brilliant explosion. 7-6-5. Digging my hand into the bag I clutched a handful of yellow and forced back a toothy grin. To smile like that now would mean a mouthful of coloured dust. 4-3-2. I forced myself to shift my eyes to a squint though I wished to open them wide to witness all the colours about to emerge. 1. It was everything I had imagined.
With a zealous shout from the crowd everyone leapt into the air and flung their powder into the blue sky. For that instant, before the breeze stole the powder away, a haze of vibrancy surrounded me. I was lost in the colour. Immersed in colour. Covered in colour.
Then it was carried away into nothing and I was back to gawking at coloured faces gawking back at me. Rapidly people reloaded their hands and chased each other down to bring luck and greeting to friends and strangers. The festival is about laying down differences and just being silly. It’s about waking up to spring!
I was attending the TRUSU India Club’s Rang De Basanti with around 250 people. Using Indian food, bhangra dancing, a DJ and an event called colour play, where people use coloured powder and water to cover others in vibrant colours, the TRU event celebrated three Indian festivals: Holi, Vaisakh and Rama Navami.
Vaisakhi, depending on the region, celebrates many different things, including welcoming the new year and abundant harvest. The festival is highlighted by performing bhangra and eating food.
Rama Navami celebrates the birth of Lord Rama, the seventh incarnation of the ten major incarnations of Vishnu.
Holi is the festival of colours and a welcoming of spring. The colourful powder or “colour play” that I mentioned earlier is the staple of this festival. It draws tourists from all over the world to India because it’s so cool to see and photograph. The colour can be thrown in a number of different forms including powder, paste and water. Red means purity. Green vitality. Blue calm and sedateness (good thing this event didn’t have that colour because it was anything but calm). And yellow means pious feeling.
For this version of the event students were asked to wear white shirts so that the colours would show up well. Also, it was suggested that participants choose a shirt that they don’t mind discarding after because the dyes can stain it. The pair of jeans my friend wore were still a pink hue two days after the event.
“What we accomplished today was magnificent,” said Amit Goel, organizer of the event and International Student Advisor at TRU when I interviewed him for the Omega, a student newspaper. He had ordered 56 kilograms of coloured powder for the event this year (and I had tons of fun throwing it at people).
“Next year I might have to order a couple hundred kilograms,” said Goel.
With the event outdoors for the first time, Goel was unsure how it would go, but after the clouds moved on and sunshine appeared, students gave him positive feedback about the change.
“What I’ve been hearing from students is that they like it,” said Goel.
As a campus reporter, I had been working on an article about the lack of space for large ethnic events on campus before Rang De Basanti so I knew that they were hesitant about hosting the event outside. It’s great that the sun eventually came out since people started cracking eggs over each other’s heads and dousing others with water. People from a number of different countries were really enjoying sharing the time with others.
TRU student Fariaa Zaidi certainly liked the event.
“It was my first experience, but it was really nice,” said Zaidi grinning through a bright layer of powder. She said she would attend it again.
Goel said holding Rang De Basanti outdoors meant people could chase each other around and freely throw the coloured powder. The cleanup was easier too.
“It’s a different kind of cleaning,” said Goel. “We can use a pressure washer to clean the tables and chairs and the powder disappears in the grass.”
Even after the ground had been pressure washed I could still see specks of colour three days later. The place where the tarp had lain is a sharp contrast to the coloured grass!
Here are a few colourful faces to show you how everyone’s appearance shifted and evolved as the event went on. (The first photo on the left is courtesy of the awesome Brendan Kergin.)
As an utter fan of colours and chaos this event captures my attention every year and I hope to one day witness it in India where the festival is celebrated on a much larger scale.
But for now I’m happy that I got to attend it again here on campus (I attended it last year ) and was able to celebrate spring with my friends and fellow students.