Namaste India throws Holi Celebration

Elika Roohi / Sun Star Reporter
April 12, 2011

Sudha Naidu performs a prayer song at the Holi Festival of Colors. Saturday, April 9, 2011. Heather Bryant/Sun Star

The Namaste India Student Group at UAF came together in the last two weeks to put on a celebration for Holi, the festival of colors.

Holi is celebrated at the end of winter to mark the coming of spring.

“Usually this is the harvest season,” said Sharish Patil, the faculty advisor of the Namaste India student group and a petroleum engineering professor.

Typically Holi is celebrated with people throwing colored water or powder at each other.  Bonfires also burn on many street corners to commemorate the escape of Prahlad.  According to the popular legend, Holika, the demon king’s sister, carried Prahlad into a bonfire.  Prahlad emerged from the fire unscathed, while Holika burned.

In Fairbanks, because it’s still a little chilly outside, there were no bonfires or smearing others with colors. The celebration instead took place in the Wood Center Ballroom, with plenty of singing, dancing, and eating.

The night started out with the lighting of the lamp, followed by a prayer sung by Sudha Naidu.

“We put this together in two weeks,” said Prachi Vohra, a member of the Namaste India group and student at UAF.  “We are all masters students, so we are really busy with our theses and other things.”

This is the first year Namaste India has put on a celebration for Holi.  They’ve put on a celebration for Diwali, the festival of lights, in November for the last few year. It seems like the Holi celebration was a success.

According to Vohra, more than 200 people showed up at the event.

“We were out of tickets,” Vohra said.

The group only had 175 to sell, and they tried to limit the guests to that number, “but people just kept coming and going,” Vohra said. “It was hard to keep track.”

The celebration was pulled together by Namaste India.  The group has about 60 students in it, and they worked to put together a schedule of events including a few dance offs and a fashion show.  The students cooked all the food at the event.

Patil, who is the advisor of the group, was also the creator of Namaste India.

“I came here as a student myself,” Patil said.

As a student, he recognized the need for a group that would organize the Indian student community, so when he came back to UAF as a professor, he started Namaste India.

The group was started in 2002, and since then, has grown with the support of the community at the university and in Fairbanks, so they can put on events like the Holi celebration.

The guests at the event were a diverse group, from women and men in traditional Indian dress to students just curious about what the celebration would be like.  Even the celebration blended elements of Indian and American culture, with everything from performances of traditional songs and prayers to a stanza of “Que Sera Sera” by Doris Day and “Across the Universe” by The Beatles.

Shailesh Katri, the president of Namste India, summed it up when addressing the crowd at the beginning of the night when he said, “On Holi day, everyone is equal.”

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Video – 2nd Dance at festival


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