Pink, blue, orange and purple powders filled the sky as students and community members celebrated at the annual UNC Holi Moli event on Saturday.
Holi Moli is the largest student-run event on UNC's campus, and celebrates the South Asian festival of colors. Associated with many different religious stories, Holi is a Hindu tradition that celebrates community and the arrival of spring.
Holi has been celebrated at UNC since 2008.
Held at Hooker Fields, this year's Holi Moli was the first celebration held in person in three years.
"COVID took a lot from the student body, and I feel like this is a really great way to kind of celebrate how far we’ve come the past two years," UNC senior Shivam Bhargava, a co-director of the event, said. "I really wanted to help run an event that brought people together, and I think it's such a really joyous occasion for people to come to."
Bhargava and co-director Krupa Patel lead an executive team of four committees — cultural, finance, publicity and design, and logistics.
Bhargava said it is exciting to see the hard work of the team come together.
“Everyone who’s part of the organizing team has put in countless hours since probably September to make this happen,” he said. “It’s been really great to kind of just see the fruition of our work come together.”
Before the main event, on-campus South Asian organizations set up tables to celebrate the significance of Holi.
Monsoon, a South Asian interest magazine, allowed students to write down something that they wanted to leave behind and “burn it” in a candle.
Shruthi Subramanian, co-president of Monsoon, said the activity's purpose was to inspire individuals to be grateful moving forward.
"Holi is signifying leaving behind things in the past and kind of celebrating the future," she said.
Students also had the opportunity to see performances from four on-campus performance groups — Tar Heel Raas, UNC Ek Taal, Bhangra Elite and Samaa.
Patel said the team sold 1,300 tickets and she couldn’t believe that so many people were going to be in attendance. She added that she has always wanted to be involved with this celebration.
“I had celebrated Holi with my family before, back home, and I’ve always had a lot of fun," Patel said. "So I thought it’d be a great way for me to continue celebrating while I’m a little bit further away."
The proceeds from Holi Moli will be given to North Carolina Asian Americans Together, a nonprofit organization that focuses on equity and justice, and empowering Asian Americans and allies across the state.
Holi Moli attendees heard speeches from Ricky Leung, co-founder and program director at NCAAT in Action, and Krupal Amin, the associate director of UNC's Asian American Center.
“We’re really trying to emphasize that this event is philanthropic and really based on partnering with local nonprofits and kind of celebrating diversity,” Bhargava said.
The event is special because it unites the whole campus, Bhargava added.
“I think it creates a really strong sense of community because it is one of the largest student-run events on campus, so we get a lot of the student body population coming," he said. "So it’s great for people of all backgrounds, all years, all from different places to come together for one event."
After performances and speeches, Holi Moli attendees counted down from 10 and finally got to throw their colors in the air.
Michelle Dixit, a sophomore who attended the event, described the moment as magical.
“It was almost as if I was suddenly transported into this magical world because everyone’s all wearing white and suddenly there’s just a cloud of color around everyone,” she said.
Dixit said that it was a special experience being able to share her culture with others at the University.
“Seeing this part of my culture being celebrated by all the students around UNC, it made me very happy and just so glad to see everyone learning about the festival and enjoying it as I always have,” she said.
Although some of the colors may take a few days to wash out of students’ hair and clothes, Dixit said she doesn’t mind.
“Honestly, I’m happy to have a little bit of that stain to remind me of what a great day I had today,” she said.
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