South Asian Students Alliance, OM at Northwestern host Holi celebrations on Deering Meadow


Laya Neelakandan/The Daily Northwestern

Students gather on Deering Meadow to throw colorful powder on each other for Holi festivities. The holiday celebrates the start of spring, spread of joy and triumph of good over evil.

Jessica Ma, Reporter

Dusty clouds of fuschia, lime green and coral burst in the sky like fireworks, staining clothes and faces Saturday afternoon. 

As part of the South Asian Students Alliance and OM at Northwestern’s Holi celebration, students spent the afternoon chasing each other with fists full of bright powder and dancing to Bollywood music on Deering Meadow. 

At the start of the event, students from OM described the religious significance of Holi in a brief presentation.

Communication freshman and OM’s Media Relations Chair Aditi Ram recounted the story of Holika and Prahlad. In Hindu legend, Prahlad is the son of a demon king and devotee of Lord Vishnu. The demon king, with the help of his sister Holika, tries to kill his son in a fire, but Prahlad eventually escapes the fire unscathed, Ram said. 

“From (Prahlad), we learn to always put our faith in higher power and to believe that good forces will help you if your heart and mind are pure,” Ram said. 

Weinberg junior and OM member Anika Nerella said Holi is a time for communities to come together in celebration. 

Nerella presented on how the stories apply to peoples’ lives today. Holi is a time when people come together even in a divided world, she said. 

“The message we hope for (everyone) to take away is to remember that beneath our identities, beneath our names and beneath what we look like, we’re all people. We’re all human,” Nerella said in her speech. 

Organizers also filled a table with South Asian snacks, from Magic Masala-flavored Lay’s chips to bottles of glistening mango juice. 

Throughout the event, students refilled small plastic bags with vibrantly colored powder. On the meadow, students threw powder on each other as laughter rang in the air. They rubbed the colors on the faces of friends and strangers. 

“You got to Deering Meadow, and the sun came out,” Ram said. “(Holi) was just so much fun. It was a great way to also meet new people.” 

McCormick sophomore and SASA’s co-President Aashna Patel said Holi celebrates the triumph of good over evil, the arrival of spring and the spread of happiness. 

Though SASA and OM collaborate on Holi every year, Patel said the event looked different last year because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The organizers could only provide a limited number of spots for participants last spring due to pandemic restrictions, Patel said. The event also coincided with the Dillo Day weekend, which she said decreased turnout.

This year, however, there was no sign-up sheet for the event, and people could stop by whenever they wanted. 

Patel said it was unique to celebrate Holi at college because growing up, she spent Holi with her family at the temple.

“I’m just really excited for everyone to come out,” Patel said before the event. “It’ll be super special because it’ll be the first time I’m celebrating Holi with my friends.” 

Nerella said as a kid, she went to a religious Sunday school, and adults and children celebrated together.

As Nerella learned Holi’s religious ties, the holiday became spiritually important to her, she said. 

“(For me, Holi) takes on a more religious context… in terms of being faithful and being an ardent devotee to a higher power, which is something I hold close to my heart,” Nerella said. “But it’s also a time to come together.” 

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @jessicama2025

Related Stories:

SASA hosts its annual production featuring South Asian performance groups

WE ARE SAATH Northwestern focuses on mental health in the South Asian community

Captured: OM at Northwestern exhibits traditional Hindu performing arts at its 2022 Classical Arts Showcase