Students and members of the community came together last Saturday for the annual Holi festival to celebrate spring, love and diversity. The Indian Student Association at the University of Nebraska at Omaha has used the Holi Festival of Colors Celebration to usher in the spring season since 2011.
Organizers said the event has garnered increased interest from students and community members over the last couple of years.
According to Sagar Ashok Mehta, COO of the Indian Student Association, last year’s celebration saw upwards of 200 attendees. Crowds were twice as large for this year’s celebration.
Mehta said Holi is a Hindu spring festival traditionally celebrated in India and other nations in south Asia as a means of saying goodbye to winter and celebrating love.
According to Holifestival.org, the celebration has turned into a global phenomenon with festivals popping up from South Africa, to Surinam, to the United Kingdom.
UNO’s version of the festival celebrates the coming of spring as well, but is also aimed at promoting inclusion and finding unity among the diverse student body on campus.
UNO student Fran Finehout-Vigil attended the festival. She loved the welcoming atmosphere.
“I showed up to a crowd of strangers and left feeling like we had all experienced something great together,” she said. “Everyone was smiling and enjoying the celebration as a whole.”
According to a November 2015 press release regarding enrolment at UNO, more than one quarter of the campus population is ethnically diverse and over 120 countries are represented in the student body.
As the university continues to take on a more diverse face, events like the Holi Festival of Colors Celebration can help create a more unified campus environment for students from varying cultural backgrounds.
Finehout-Vigil said the celebration promotes inclusion and gives students a chance to build connections.
“It’s definitely a great opportunity for everyone to get involved in a different culture that celebrates in such a beautiful way,” Finehout-Vigil said.
Mehta said Holi helps bring society together and strengthen the secular fabric of our country.
“The festival is celebrated by non-Hindus also, as everybody likes to be part of such a joyous and colorful celebration,” said Mehta.
While past celebrations have been funded solely by contributions from the Indian Student Association, this year’s festival marks the first time the ISA will be partnering with other campus organizations to put on the event. Maverick Productions, and the Office of Student Activities have signed on to help make this the biggest Holi festival to date.
The celebration, which is free and open to the public, takes place ev-ery year in the Pep Bowl on UNO’s Dodge Campus and is part color explosion and part dance party.
“Various colors and water are thrown on each other, amidst loud music, drums etc. to celebrate Holi. We also have dance performances and some special food items prepared especially for this event,” Mehta said.