Festival of Colors celebrates spring, South Asian culture


The South Asian Student Association (SASA) hosted the annual Holi Festival of Colors on Saturday, April 21.

The event began in the O’Neill Arena with an authentic South Asian lunch catered by Cinnamon Indian Cuisine in Midland.

“This event is amazing,” said Firdavs Shapirov, a pharmacy major from Tajikistan. “I am participating for the first time and I really like it. I am exploring the Indian culture with friends, and this experience is just wonderful. I love all of the Indian food, especially the rice and chicken – it’s kind of spicy.”

There was a dance competition which featured a range of music, including Bollywood, semi-classical, a classical Indian dance called Bharatnatyam and hip-hop. One of the teams that competed was a group of Chinese students who performed the popular Chinese pop song “My New Clothes.”

“Chinese dances are very slow, so we wanted to pick a faster one and change up the style,” said Wenjie Li, a student performer.

The dancers wore red dresses that were a modern spin on traditional Chinese clothing.

“My favorite part about Holi is the dress,” said Weiling He, another student performer. “All the clothing is so beautiful.”

After the dance competition, several more students and groups from the community performed. There was a performance by the First Ward Group Theater, a children’s performance of Bollywood music, and several other vocal acts and dances. The ceremony ended with awards and a special thank you to the faculty advisor for SASA, economics professor Kaustav Misra.

“This festival shows our South Asian culture,” said Dania Ali, a moderator of the cultural program. “You get to see the beautiful colors, our food and our dances from Nepal, Bangladesh, India and Pakistan. You get to see their different routines and costumes. This is how we bring awareness of our culture to campus.”

The festival ended with its most iconic tradition, the color throw. Participants grabbed bags of colored powder from a huge bin and threw them at each other. Members of SASA threw water balloons out into the crowd. Although traditionally, people would celebrate Holi by gently smearing the color on each other’s faces, SVSU students opted to throw the color directly at each other instead.

“The color throw really made me feel the coming of spring,” said Diana Sadykova, an international student from Russia. “Everybody wore white t-shirts and was laughing. I could feel that summer was close. It was a great experience to understand another culture better.”

As the SASA board had predicted, more than 800 people attended Holi this year, which grew considerably from the 600 who attended the festival in 2017.

“We at SASA are overwhelmed by how much our audience enjoys and looks forward to Holi every year,” said Jayanti Singh, the cultural secretary of SASA. “We are grateful to our SVSU community for their engagement and enthusiasm to participate in our event.”