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P.E.I. students celebrate Holi, spreading joy, unity through colour

UPEI's Indian Cultural Society hosted its first celebration of Holi, the ancient festival of colours that's a national holiday in India. (Stacey Janzer/CBC - image credit)
UPEI's Indian Cultural Society hosted its first celebration of Holi, the ancient festival of colours that's a national holiday in India. (Stacey Janzer/CBC - image credit)

A group of UPEI students came together Saturday to spread culture, unity and joy through colour.

While the weather didn't feel like spring, the Indian festival Holi is also a way to celebrate the end of winter.

Students danced to music and ran around throwing coloured powder all over each other.

It's the first time the university's Indian Cultural Society has hosted a celebration of the holiday.

Annanaya Bindal, the society's vice-president, said Holi is her personal favourite holiday. She said she was happy to be able to celebrate the occasion during her second year at UPEI.

Diya Dansinghani, left, president of UPEI's Indian Cultural Society, and vice-president Annanaya Bindal.
Diya Dansinghani, left, president of UPEI's Indian Cultural Society, and vice-president Annanaya Bindal.

Diya Dansinghani, left, president of UPEI's Indian Cultural Society, and vice-president Annanaya Bindal say the only way to celebrate Holi is to make sure everyone gets covered in colours. (Stacey Janzer/CBC)

"Last year when I was here, nobody celebrated Holi and it felt really lonely," she said. "The more people I met throughout the year the more I [knew] that we need something for the students.

"I'm really excited that we were able to reach more people and we're able to spread … culture and diversity."

Holi is an ancient Hindu holiday that dates back thousands of years. It falls on a different date in February or March each year.

In India, people of all ages gather in the streets, chase each other and throw handfuls of coloured powders.

Some also carry water pistols called pichkaris and use them to soak everyone in sight with coloured water. Others use buckets of water to drench those who are celebrating.

Hindu priests use colour smoke guns to celebrate Holi, the festival of colours, at a temple premises in Salangpur, in the western state of Gujarat, India, March 7, 2023.
Hindu priests use colour smoke guns to celebrate Holi, the festival of colours, at a temple premises in Salangpur, in the western state of Gujarat, India, March 7, 2023.

Hindu priests use colour smoke guns to celebrate Holi, the festival of colours, at a temple premises in Salangpur, in the western state of Gujarat, India, March 7, 2023. (Amit Dave/Reuters)

Before long, everyone is covered from head to toe in brightly coloured powder.

The many colourful powders are said to represent Hindu gods and the colours of nature.

'Messy, but really nice'

Indian Cultural Society president Diya Dansinghani said the point of the festival is to gather with the whole community and welcome the arrival of spring with fun and energy.

"That's the beauty of what Holi is, is that [it's] the festival of unity," she said. "No matter where you're from, no matter where you're living in India, everybody comes together in the roads, in offices, in buildings and they don't even care about the colour spreading everywhere, they just throw it here and there and it's just really nice.

"Messy, but it's really nice."

'They throw colours on each other, they’re loving each other, caring about each other,' Dansinghani says about the participants on Saturday. (Stacey Janzer/CBC)

After a day of colour-filled fun, people clean up and prepare for the evening, often visiting with their friends and relatives and sharing sweets and foods.

The Indian Cultural Society hopes to make the Holi celebration and an annual tradition at the university.