Holi celebration unites campus community

About 150 community members celebrated the Hindu Festival of Colors on April 5.

On a beautiful sunny afternoon on Friday, April 5, about 150 students, faculty and staff members gathered at Speaker’s Corner to celebrate Holi, the Hindu Festival of Colors.

The event began with an educational presentation, words and stories from students, a performance from Surtal, Elon’s Bollywood dance team. After a countdown, attendees flung handfuls of brightly colored power up into the blue sky.

Elon University Holi Celebration at Speaker’s Corner on April 5, 2024.

“When I think of the celebration of Holi, I think of joy,” shared Vibha Maheswaran ’24. “Obviously, throwing color is a huge part of it. But, at its core, Holi is a celebration of life and unity. Some of my fondest memories of Holi are celebrating with my family at home, and dancing at our local temple’s gathering space to celebrate. And of course, the food was always amazing.”

This was the 12th year the Truitt Center for Religious and Spiritual Life has marked Holi on campus. The center’s mission is to support and engage the Elon community with the wisdom of the world’s religious, spiritual and ethical traditions. Part of this work is to curate authentic celebrations of holidays like Holi.

Elon University Holi Celebration at Speaker’s Corner on April 5, 2024.

The Holi celebration brought together students of all backgrounds and identities who were united by the brightly colored power they tossed on one another as they danced to Bollywood music.

Sisters Maddy and Morgan Williams ’25 and Hasan Khan ’26 helped develop the program for the event and spent time ahead of the celebration learning about the history of Holi, the meaning of the holiday and the significance of the different colors.

Morgan Williams explained the importance of the work the interns did. “We wanted to create a space where students felt seen and represented, and we were able to do that through the food we ordered, the music we played, and by explaining the significance of the color powders we were throwing,” Williams said.

This year the dancing began even before the throwing of the color as guests gathered early to listen to traditional Bollywood music while enjoying delicious Indian appetizers, tasting traditional Indian candies and coloring mandalas, bookmarks and other craft projects.

Elon University Holi Celebration at Speaker’s Corner on April 5, 2024.

“My favorite part about Holi is that so many people who are strangers to each other were able to come together in the celebration of something good- and weren’t afraid to get dirty,” shared Multifaith Intern Maddy Williams ’25, who was part of the team who organized the event. “I think we can apply that to making real-world change. We as people can’t be afraid to interact with people from other cultures. We can’t be afraid to step out of our comfort zones and get a little dirty.”

Participants in the Holi celebration left Speaker’s Corner covered with color, enriched by the educational content and ready to enjoy the weekend.

For Maheswaran, it was the perfect celebration for her final semester at Elon. “I know that these celebrations have not only brought me so much joy, but they have also provided such a light to the entire community at Elon,” Maheswaran said. “It’s has been such a wonderful experience getting to watch the Elon community come together and celebrate these wonderful festivals. Celebrating the diversity and richness of different cultures is so important to creating safe and unified spaces on this campus. I am so glad we have celebrations such as this one to bring the community together.”