When you see people covered with pink, blue, orange, red and green powder at The University of Toledo, you know it’s time to celebrate Holi Toledo.
Holi Toledo is a campus-wide event for the Hindu religious festival Holi — a celebration known for the color thrown into the air to celebrate the coming of spring. On Wednesday, April 8, from 3 to 5 p.m., students will have the chance to throw color at each other. The rain date will be Wednesday, April 15.
The festival is based off the story of Prahlad, the son of a demon king, who worshipped the Hindu god Vishnu against his father’s wishes. The demon Holika tried to burn Prahlad alive to prevent him from worshiping the good god, said Ajay Lingireddy, a third-year biology pre-med major and an intern at UT’s Center for Religious Understanding. However, Vishnu saved his devotee, and Holika was burned alive. This battle represents the triumph of good over evil. People throw color to celebrate this triumph and to welcome spring.
“For us, the colors represent diversity — and in particular the diversity of religious and cultural perspectives at the heart of our Holi event,” said Dr. Jeanine Diller, director of the UT Center for Religious Understanding.
The event will take place on the Memorial Field House lawn with booths surrounding the color zone. Each booth will be hosted by a different student organization that will offer visitors a different colored powder. There will be powder blasts throughout the event where everyone will throw their color into the air at the same time, similar to the actual holiday in India.
It is recommended that attendees wear clothes that can be stained; while the color is water soluble, it is not guaranteed to wash out.
“Holi was the only Indian festival I grew up hearing about, but never participating in, unlike other Indian festivals, which I celebrated in my childhood here in America,” Lingireddy said. “When I moved to India, Holi was even better than I could have imagined it would be. Holi is all about letting go of the past and starting afresh, and I thought it was the perfect way to bond with my new community in India.”
Individuals working the booths will wear T-shirts that say “Ask me about a meaningful… tradition, story, people.” Visitors to the booths then can pick one of those choices and learn more about that culture or religion from someone who practices it.
In addition to the color and booths, Indian music and dancers will be featured.
Diller said that last year’s Holi Toledo was reportedly one of the most popular diversity events at the University to date.
“We understood from the diversity staff that this was one of the best diversity events UT has ever had, given the number of attendees and degree of mixing at the event,” she said. “We also heard that international students felt very at home and welcomed at UT as a result of this event — a result I hadn’t predicted. And there were some meaningful exchanges going on at the tables; one person told me they talked for over a half hour with someone who had a different perspective on religion. This was all topped off by the tenor of joy at the event, which is one of the biggest effects — just to have a wonderful time enjoying the music and pelting your friends with color.”
With more than 400 people in attendance last year, Diller said she expects this year’s event to be even bigger.
Lingireddy added, “I am looking forward to the fact that we have more organizations taking part than last year, so that means more perspectives, more participants, more colors and more fun.”
This event is sponsored by the UT Center for International Studies and Programs, UT Indian Students Cultural Association, UT Center for Religious Understanding, UT Office of Student Involvement, UT Office of Equity and Diversity, Toledo Community Foundation and the President’s Lecture Series on Diversity.