It was barely noon-a thin veil of haze hung over Brighton Campus as a mix of students filed onto the old Seminary Field. It had been a frigid, rainy Saturday morning, but by the time the crowd arrived, the weather had improved considerably. Still, the majority of the crowd was underdressed for the brisk 50-degree weather, most wearing white t-shirts and sweatpants, with a few of the heartier festival-goers wearing shorts. The occasion for their meeting was Holi, a Hindu festival of spring recently popularized in the West. The actual holiday took place a little over a week earlier on March 17, the date chosen in accordance with the vernal equinox.
Holi is a festival of colors, a religious holiday broadly observed in India. There, entire cities will take to the streets, throwing colored powder at strangers, family, and friends. The holiday has spread beyond its Hindu origins, transcending lines of religions to become a universal occasion in certain cities in South Asia.
The South Asian Students Association (SASA), in conjunction with Electronic State of Mind (ESM), the University’s electronic music collaborative, planned the Boston College event. Around 12:20 p.m., students began to gather around five-gallon buckets, and they scooped up powder with small plastic cups from these central locations.
Then, it was a free-for-all.
The crowd became a canvas. At first, students seemed hesitant to stage attacks outside of their immediate friend circles, but in a matter of minutes, the powder drops became far more spontaneous and liberal-it was a skirmish, and as the few odd festival-goers with DSLR cameras soon discovered, no one was safe.
On the outskirts of the field, ESM DJs traded off spots at a mixing rig setup under a canopy. Music is traditionally part of the festival, and having skilled mix artists on hand became especially important as the first wave of powder ran out-anything to distract the crowd from the weather. ESM kept away from the traditional Indian dance music that would have been played at similar gatherings in South Asia earlier this month, playing more to the tastes of the crowd.
The collaboration of SASA and ESM extended the appeal of the event, and overall, Saturday’s Holi celebration was a compelling case of cultural convergence. Traditional Indian foods were served at the event, with an abundance of coconut water to finish the spread-perhaps the warm coconut water was a little less than ideal, but for the hundreds of students running around Seminary Field, it was a welcome offering.
Following the second wave of powder distribution, water guns were brought out, and alternately, buckets of water were made available to be dumped on the crowd. At this point, a little over an hour into the festival, it was picture time for most, and Smartphones became an unfortunate casualty of the ongoing battle.
About 90 minutes in, the crowd began to thin. The event, advertised to run until 4 p.m., left latecomers little to work with as powder became scarce. Overwhelmingly, however, those who made it out to Brighton within the first hour had a long shower ahead of them. On Lower Campus, the gradual return march of the colorful festival-goers crowd was an awesome sight for the observer, and an awful sight for BC Dining-signs on the door of Corcoran Commons begged that participants of the “color run” wash up before being served.
While development on Brighton Campus isn’t in the University’s immediate plans, there is room for an expansion of undergraduate offerings on the space. For those who made it out early enough on Saturday, the Holi festival felt right at home on Seminary Field.