Emerson College’s only independent, student-run newspaper since 1947

The Berkeley Beacon

Emerson College’s only independent, student-run newspaper since 1947

The Berkeley Beacon

Emerson College’s only independent, student-run newspaper since 1947

The Berkeley Beacon

‘Holi’s about bringing color into people’s lives’: Sathi holds colorful event for Holi

Yufei Meng
Students have dinner and conversation in celebration of Holi at the Cultural Center located at 172 Tremont St. on Sunday, March 24, 2024. (Yufei Meng/Beacon Staff)

Editor’s Note: This story has been updated to include a comment from Director of Student Engagement and Leadership (SEAL) Jennifer Nival regarding Sathi’s request to use colored powder during the event.

With colorful pigments, streamers, Bollywood music, and traditional foods, Emerson students celebrated Holi, the Hindu festival commemorating spring’s beginning, in 172 Tremont on March 24. 

Sathi, a newly formed student organization for South Asian heritage, held the event the night before Holi. Holi falls on the last full moon day of the Hindu lunisolar calendar month of Falgun. Traditionally, people celebrate Holi by throwing colored powders and water balloons at each other. In India, people take to the streets in celebration, and the sky and air are filled with bright colors. 

“It’s a huge festival back home,” said graduate creative writing student Arohi Purnaye. “Everybody’s there and everybody’s drenched in color and water, and it’s really sweet to see it’s being carried over as well.”

Sathi transformed 172 Tremont with colorful decorations and cultural music. They served Indian foods like chicken Chettinad, chana masala, vegetable samosas, gulab jamun, and mango lassi. After sundown, Sathi members performed traditional dances to Bollywood-style music before opening the floor to everyone in attendance. Henna artists were also present, decorating students’ hands and arms as a symbol of health and prosperity. 

“I think most, if not all, Indian celebrations have just mostly dancing and music,” said Sathi Operations Chair and freshman visual media arts major Vani Gupta, who used to live in Bengaluru, India. 

Boston-based henna artist Mona Bhatt applies a henna design to the back of a participant’s hand at the event on Sunday, March 24, 2024. (Yufei Meng/Beacon Staff)

While Holi has Hindu origins, it is widely celebrated as a cultural rather than religious holiday. In mythology, the Hindu god Vishnu defeated the demon king Hiranyakashipu in a triumph of good versus evil. There is also the love story of Krishna and Radha, which inspired some of Holi’s colorful components. Krishna was a Hindu deity with blue skin who fell in love with Radha, who had fair skin. He playfully colored her face during a game so they would be equal. In the same way, Sathi members colored each other’s faces with bright pigments. 

“Holi’s about hope and bringing color into people’s lives,” Sathi Co-Treasuer and freshman VMA major Diya Garg said. “In India right now it’s exam season, and even then, students come out and play for like eight hours a day.”

According to Sathi executive board members, Sathi was not able to celebrate to the extent they wanted to. The group originally planned to follow tradition and throw colored powders on the Boston Common. This request was denied by the Emerson administration. 

“It kind of hurt us because, for Christmas and Thanksgiving, they go all out and go crazy,” said Sathi Co-Communications Chair and freshman business of creative enterprises major Arshia Nair. “But the second it’s for a cultural organization, they don’t really care.”

Nair said they were given a “hard no” when it came to celebrating Holi with traditional colors but were told at the very last minute that they could have a smaller celebration. Sathi members also expressed issues with funding for their organization, which started this year and celebrated Holi as its first big event. 

“I get that because we’re a new organization and we don’t have anything to put on our books to show that we’re spending money,” Garg said. “That’s fine. But the biggest thing is, Emerson says they’re a supportive school, they’re an accommodating school, but they refuse to make accommodations for us.”

In response to the Beacon’s request for comment, Director of Student Engagement and Leadership (SEAL) Jennifer Nival said the “request to use the colored powder within campus spaces is not permitted, due to the concerns for clean-up and damages incurred previously with the dispersing powder in enclosed spaces.”

“Since Emerson has no college-owned outdoor space — Rotch Field and the BP Alleyway are property of the City of Boston, and the city does not allow powders to be dispersed on their property, including the Boston Common — this year we encouraged the group to consider alternative ways to celebrate the ‘color’ aspect of Holi,” Nival said.

“We are committed and open to continuing to work with Sathi and other student groups to help them celebrate in ways that align with city ordinances and do not result in damage to college property,” she added.

Attendees enjoy Indian dishes at Sathi’s Holi celebration on Sunday, March 24, at the Cultural Center located at 172 Tremont St. (Yufei Meng/Beacon Staff)

Following the Holi celebration, Sathi plans on hosting smaller events and collaborating with other student organizations. They are planning a Bollywood dance workshop with Emerson Dance Company, doing a movie night, and hosting a carrom and chai night, which entails an Indian game and beverage. 

“This is our first year, our first event ever,” Nair said. “We’re still building things up.”

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About the Contributor
Emma Siebold, Staff Writer
Emma Siebold (she/her) is a first-year journalism major/political communications minor from Spring Branch, Texas. She is also an associate producer for WEBN-TV and editorial assistant at Emerson Today. Outside of the newsroom, Emma enjoys training with the Dashing Whippets running team, listening to folk music, and obsessing over Marvel movies.

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