A national campaign, titled “Holi for Unity”, was launched by over 50 Hindu student and community organizations to bring communities across the USA together during this year’s Holi celebrations on and off campus. The list of participants includes organizations and groups from Yale, Cornell, Princeton, Rutgers, University of South Florida, UT Austin, Rice, University of Michigan, Northwestern, Iowa State, University of Maryland, San Jose State University and many more, along with several community organizations.
Holi is an important and ancient Hindu festival celebrated during the arrival of Spring. While there are many stories and regional traditions that Hindus celebrate during Holi, the shared message for is one of unity and togetherness. However, in recent times, the Hindu festival has been subject to cultural misappropriation and commercialization.
The Hindu celebration of Holi has a long tradition of bringing people together. “Today, on campuses, Holi is unparalleled in bringing together students of all faith and racial backgrounds to celebrate the spirit of joyful communal celebration and the belief that faith and devotion can overcome the darkest of challenges,” noted Parth Parihar, Director of Advocacy for Hindu Students Council. “As Hindus, we believe strongly for advocating these values by celebrating them on the day of Holi, and eschewing misguided attempts to misappropriate and commercialize this important celebration of our spiritual tradition.”
According to a 2014 Pew Research report, only 22% of Americans personally know a Hindu. “Holi for Unity” gives Hindus a chance to share core Hindu values of unity and harmony with fellow Americans, creating opportunities for mutual understanding between Hindus and non-Hindus.
“It’s important that non-Hindus get a chance to meet their Hindu American peers and learn about their traditions,” observed Arnav Kejriwal, president of Hindu Students Council. “As one of the major Hindu festivals, Holi provides a great opportunity for the entire community to come together and sow unity by embracing diversity and pluralism.”
Hindus celebrate Holi by coming out onto streets and fields, playing with powders of different colors, along with offerings to the Divine. People playfully “tag” others – friends, family, and even strangers – with dozens of colors. It’s easy to see how Holi is a strong symbol of embracing diversity in order to unite the entire community.
Intentional misuse of Holi and its traditions sow further confusion about Hindu heritage and culture, while also aiding distrust towards Hindus and fueling Hinduphobia.
“Holi for Unity is an opportunity for Hindus to demonstrate that unity is an intrinsic value in Hindu Dharma – and we want to share this celebration with everyone,” said Amruta Houde, president of Hindu YUVA. “We invite everyone to learn about, embrace and respect our sacred traditions and festivals.”