In early March, a team from the International Education Centre brought out crates of gulal – coloured powder used in Hindu rituals – for Algonquin College’s 2020 Holi celebration.
Over 90 students gathered at 6 p.m. on Wednesday, March 11 at residence to herald the end of winter and the start of spring.
Holi is a longstanding ancient Indian festival that has spread globally. It is known as “the festival of spring” in some areas, “the festival of love” in others, and as “the festival of colour” here at Algonquin College. One common theme among all the subvarieties is the celebration of good triumphing over evil.
Tanishq Bansal, a student in computer engineering technology, called it a “personal, religious celebration.” He had one arm in a cast from a recent snowboarding incident, but his injury didn’t stop him from attending the festival.
“Long ago in India, an evil demon named Holika was burned in a fire,” explained Bansal. “That’s why we celebrate the day before Holi around a bonfire. And on the day of Holi, we throw coloured powder at those we love and care about.”
The coloured powder was a community symbol of Indian justice, happiness and togetherness.
Manjeet Singh, a student in office administration, chimed in. “The gulal isn’t only for those we love and care about. It is, but it isn’t. Back in India, we could throw the coloured powder at strangers, and they wouldn’t be mad. They would hug you and thank you.”
Algonquin College’s Holi festival played out exactly as Singh described. Students who didn’t know one another smeared gulal of all colours on each other’s faces and clothes. They said, “happy Holi!” and embraced one another in hugs. They said “I love you” to each other and laughed and danced, leaving a trail of powdery colours in the air.
“Our mission here is to throw a party worthy of Holi,” said Gagan Rekhi, a peer mentor leader for the International Education Centre. “It’s a full moon tonight, so we’re doing it tonight.”
Rekhi gave multiple speeches throughout the evening, to hype up the party and to provide cultural information. “Coachella was cancelled today. E3 was cancelled today,” he said about the COVID-19 pandemic. “But we’re celebrating Holi no matter what.”
For two hours, the whole of the courtyard at Residence was a cloud of colours, and inside the cloud were students who thought the world of one another, who loved one another.