cover image

Photo by Emily Broad

The Holi Festival and the Spirit of Giving on Campus

At NYUAD, students from all nationalities have the opportunity to enjoy the festival and those from the India get to bring a piece of home to the university.

Welcoming the pleasant weather of springtime, clouds of colorful powder appear all over the world as people gather to celebrate Holi. Hindu diasporas celebrate the arrival of spring, symbolically representing the triumph of good over evil wherever they may find themselves. As people fill the streets to enjoy the fun, there is an underlying sentiment that is often forgotten.
Image 1
Although the festival has religious roots, it attracts people from a wide range of backgrounds. Tourists visit India to revel in the brightly colored streets and the dancing, singing and general fun. Holi marks the beginning of spring, urging people to forget their resentments and let go of bad feelings. When the first handful of powder is thrown, separations of class, caste, gender and age dissolve, smothered by the vivid colors. While the festival of colors lasts, these barriers are suspended, adding a bittersweet taste to the fun.
Image 2
Holi is not only celebrated in the streets of India. The various diasporas around the world bring a little taste of home to the streets of Australia, Suriname, the United Kingdom and right here in the UAE. It provides an opportunity for Indians to get together and celebrate their culture by feeling a direct connection to their roots. The festival also allows Indians to connect to the nation they reside in and to share their culture in their new home.
“In China, we have an Indian community where I was always part of the Holi celebration,” said Gurkriti Singh, NYU Shanghai Class of 2020 student. Singh grew up in China and experienced the unifying element of the festival.
Image 3
At NYUAD, Student Interest Group TASHAN sets up a recreation of the festival on campus. For an afternoon, areas of campus are covered with splatters of color and students run around chasing each other with water guns. Students of all nationalities have the opportunity to enjoy the festival and those from India get to bring a piece of home to NYUAD.
Image 4
“It’s all about sharing and getting to know new people and create new [friendships]. It’s my first Holi away from home and it’s going to be completely different because back in India everyone goes into the event — your parents, your grandparents. It’s kind of a way of me giving a piece of my way of living and my culture to [NYUAD],” said Kevin Joseph, Class of 2022.
Image 5
Apart from sharing the festival and its deeper meanings with the NYUAD community, the Holi celebration on campus is a moment when Indian students can reminisce about home. Raghav Kedia from Mumbai, Class of 2019, happily munched on food while covered in colored powdered and water.
“It’s the perfect combination of sunlight, wind, colors, water and, if you’re lucky, some good food.”
!Image 6
The event also holds value as an educational activity, not only for student from other nationalities but also for students from India. Praggya Jeyakumar, Class of 2021, a member of TASHAN, explained how the festival is different from her experience growing up in India.
“Having been brought up with South Indian culture at home, I only grew up with South Indian festivals. To have more fun festivals like this from north india is making me more aware of my own country.”
Image 7
With its accessibility and youthful atmosphere, Holi is a festival for everyone. Gurkiti Singh shared her final thoughts on Holi saying, “It evokes this kind of spirit and fearlessness, you’re very open to people and celebrating. It’s letting go of your fear, letting go of evil. It’s all about the good that people do. That’s kind of what encompasses the spirit of Holi in general, there’s going to be a free spiritedness that wins over restriction.”
Image 8
Emily Broad is Photography Editor and Mari Velasquez-Soler is Deputy Features Editor. Email them at
gazelle logo