Colors filled the air as students flung powder at each other, creating vivid stains that saturated their bright white T-shirts. Set against a soundtrack of Bollywood music, students from all walks of life came together to enjoy traditional Indian foods and participate in the festivities.
On April 13, the South Asian Student Association (SASA) at Montclair State University hosted its annual Holi Festival in Lot 45, located near Alice Paul Hall. It was held from 12 p.m. – 3 p.m. and consisted of dance performances, Indian food and a traditional powder throwing celebration.
Junior biology major Rucha Shah is the vice president of SASA and explained the significance of Holi.
“Holi represents the festival of colors and is celebrated throughout India,” Shah said. “We are also having it at Montclair [State] to celebrate South Asian culture.”
Other colleges were invited to perform cultural dances during Asian Pacific Island Heritage Month. The dances were performed by various teams from nearby colleges. SASA hosted Saathiya from The College of New Jersey, Falak from Fordham University and Bhangra from Stony Brook University.
Shah believes that by including other organizations in the event, it helps everyone to feel more connected to Asian culture.
“We incorporate all the Asian organizations on campus,” Shah said. “The Holi celebration has more meaning toward Asian culture.”
After the dance performances were over, everybody in the group started to play with the colored powder. About an hour before the festival ended, white T-shirts were offered to everybody who participated in the powder throwing portion of the event. There was also Bollywood music that was played during the festival and some students started to dance while throwing powder into the air.
Rupa Mitra is a senior communication and media arts major and the president of SASA. She emphasized the importance of bringing the community together to celebrate Holi.
“The main purpose of the festival is to welcome spring and spread love to one another,” Mitra said. “We invite all organizations.”
Students from any culture or nationality were welcome to attend the festival. They were also able to bring their friends and family members.
This year the entry has changed to be free for everybody and any donation amount was welcome to the charity Cry America. According to Mitra, the organization is important to SASA because of its mission to assist children in India.
“Cry America is a non-profit organization that raises awareness and helps advocate for the welfare and safety of underprivileged children, as well as child rights in India,” Mitra said.
There were various cultural Indian foods served during the festival. The foods were both vegetarian and non-vegetarian and were catered by Chand Palace in Parsippany, New Jersey.
There was chicken and potato samosas, chicken biryani and vegetable pakoras. In addition, there were many sodas and other snacks, such as chips and pretzels, available.
At the end of the festival, students were able to win a prize based on a raffle. There were several themes of gift baskets that included relaxation, a his and hers spa gift basket and tea gift baskets. There were five Montclair State undergraduate students who won.
Mitra did not only spread news about the Holi festival through email, but through word of mouth and on social media.
“There [have] been significant [changes] little by little every semester,” Mitra said. “We are trying to make small innovative changes to our social media to get more of an outreach by creating new events and engaging with our followers in polls.”
Mitra emphasized the importance of SASA staying close to alumni and faculty so the organization can create relationships beyond just the students.
“Alumni and faculty are a part of the [Montclair State] community, so they should be included as well,” Mitra said. “Our events also cater to those groups.”