In normal years, vibrant colors cover students on Hooker Fields after a full day of celebrations for Holi. But this year, the colors were confined to backyards and patios after a week of activities and a live celebration over Zoom.
UNC Holi Moli is a student-run organization that hosts a campus-wide celebration of the Hindu festival of Holi, which takes place at the start of every spring. Over 2,000 students gather every year and throw colorful powder to celebrate the beginning of spring and the triumph of good over evil. The event serves as a chance for the community to come together and learn more about the significance of the holiday.
This year, Holi took place on March 28 and 29, and leading up to the holiday, the executive board of Holi Moli hosted a week of virtual events starting on March 22. The events included an improv comedy show with the Chapel Hill Players, a live yoga class, a live Indian cooking class, a session telling the history of Holi and finally the live Zoom celebration on March 26.
Holi Moli also sold color packets and T-shirts for students to use during the live Zoom celebration.
UNC junior and co-director of Holi Moli Shivam Bhargava said even though people could not gather as a group, the virtual events made it seem like a big celebration for everyone to get involved.
“A lot of South Asian students were able to celebrate, especially those who may not be at home to celebrate with their family,” Bhargava said. “I think a lot of students still felt that sense of community with our week of virtual events, and even the students who weren't South Asians still felt like they were able to celebrate Holi Moli in a different kind of way.”
For first-year biology and neuroscience student Mansi Gupta, this is her first year working with Holi Moli, and she said COVID-19's influence on the holiday made it a weird first experience. While she hopes for a normal experience in future years, she said she appreciates how the group still found a way to celebrate.
“It was definitely a very different transition from going from all these friends and family that I have where I live back home to here,” Gupta said. “I think it's just gonna get better as it goes throughout the four years that I'm here, but there's just a different transition.”
Sophomore biology major Jasmine Jahad is not only new to Holi Moli, but this year was her first-ever Holi celebration. She said she was invited over to a friend’s apartment and they celebrated by throwing the colored powder and listening to Desi music.