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Colours of life for Holi!!


Groningen covered itself with colours to get closer to India in the celebration of Holi Festival. The Groningen Indian student association planned to offer a wonderful evening and that is what happened last Saturday in a joyful war of colours!

Blue, red, purple, a mixture of green and yellow and a little pinch of sepia and orange. Like a Van Gogh painting, with a little bit of the intensity of Gauguin and the chaos of Kandinsky. They  looked like beautiful pieces of art in a museum, but they were real people having fun at  Hoornsemeer lake last Saturday. Throwing each other colours of joy, they celebrated Holi Festival, a sacred day originating from the heart of India.

The country of Gandhi is a huge place full of cultures, and not only related to the Hindu  religion. Like an amazing kaleidoscope, it is hard to follow all the celebrations and to understand its diversity. However, Holi Festival is a very popular festivity known inside and outside India. Once a year, the entire country is covered with thousands of colours and people  laugh and rejoice in the streets, throwing dust with many coloured pigments to each other.

To introduce the festival to Groningen, the Groningen Indian student association (GISA) decided to organize a Holi gathering in the south of the city last weekend. “We played for more than two hours and after that, we went to the city centre, all coloured like crazy, to drink some beers in the open sun at Grote Markt. It was so much fun”, says one of the participants, Gaurav Kanojia, an Indian Master student in Medical and pharmaceutical Drug Innovation (MPDI) program at the University Medical Centre Groningen (UMCG).

In India the Holi Festival takes place at the beginning of Spring, when the tranquility of Winter is broken. A Hindu myth tells that there was an arrogant, wicked and tyrannical  king. His own son, Prahlada, a follower of the god Vishnu, decided to face up to the king. The king therefore  tried to burn Prahlada on a pyre while sitting on his aunt Holika’s lap. However, instead of dying on the pyre, Prahlada survived, protected by Vishna, whereas Holika died. Hence the name Holi. On the other hand, the ritual of the colours is based on the idea of the end of the Winter: the Spring, a season full of life and happiness, takes over and people welcome it with this festivity.

Although the origin is religious, nowadays everybody can celebrate this festival. “All religions are welcome: Muslim, Hindu, Christian, Sikh can celebrate it with equal enthusiasm”, states Gaurav. Actually the association GISA encouraged anybody to participate in this Festival of Colours since it is an event to unite people and cultures. “Last Saturday most participants were obviously Indians, but there were also many internationals. According to an Indian saying on the day of Holi, everyone forgets their about quarrels and conflicts. On Holi all people are friends. Under the influence of colour, everyone looks alike and that’s what I saw here in Groningen.  People were really happy and enjoying themselves. You might even say that they were ‘high’ without any alcohol or drugs!”, says the Indian Master student with a big smile.

Sometimes being far away from home can be tough. However, celebrating festivals from other countries may help to get a feeling of coziness. For Gaurav it is clear. The Festival of Colours joins people all together in a colourful orgy of kindness and jubilation. No matter how far from home you are because it is worth it to celebrate it. “It was one of my best days in Groningen. It was awesome!”