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The first chalk handfuls are thrown at the ICE Holi Celebration on March 20, 2017. (Photo/Jenn Finch, www.jennfinch.wordpress.com)

As the annual Holi celebration approaches, University of Georgia students reflect on the significance of the ancient Hindu festival.

The annual celebration called Holi is best known as the “Festival of colors.” It has gained global popularity due to the vivid powders, water balloons and large celebrations that mark the coming of spring.

Holi’s striking visuals and celebration of good over evil have made it popular across the world– and in the local community.

At UGA, students have been able to celebrate Holi on campus and at home. In 2019 the UGA Indian Student Association hosted an intimate Holi celebration where students could paint each other with powders.

Recent gatherings are at a standstill in the face of COVID-19, but UGA students continue to celebrate and honor the day by sharing food and community

Recent UGA graduate Kedar Godbole has celebrated Holi since he was a child. Growing up, he lived in India for a few years, and he said that Holi was the event he and his friends looked forward to most.

As a child, Godbole spent much of his time throwing colors with his young friends. While Godbole has fond memories of those times, his Holi celebrations look different now. Instead of a massive vibant celebration, Godbole focuses more on family and friends with a yearly potluck.

“I think one big thing is with Holi and then all Hindu holidays, in general, is everyone kind of gathers together and shares what they have.” Godbole said.

Neighbors and friends would arrive unannounced with sweets and curries to share as they celebrated together. Godbole’s favorite was mango barfi, a sweet combination of butter, mango and flour.

While Godbole hasn’t been able to celebrate as much in recent years, he says he hopes to do a potluck with family and friends over Zoom. He said Holi over Zoom gives him the chance to see family across the country and catch up.

UGA junior Prashant Kolachala said food is also important for a religious time. His family would often eat Prasādam, a variety of dishes used as religious offerings in Hinduism.

Kolachala said his favorite dish was a sweet treat called ladoo, which he describes as a ball of butter, sugar and flour. Despite his memories of his favorite sweets, Kolachala said the food was purely a way to foster gatherings.

“Honestly, we could have been making anything,” Kolachala said. “It was everyone coming together to help make the food that made it really important.”

Kolachala and Godbole both said they hope to participate in the colored powder throwing once again. They may have celebrated as kids, but they said the holiday brings out the inner child in everyone.

“You see 85-year-old grandpas running around with water balloons,” Godbole said. “So I think it’s something for everybody who enjoys it.”