Bay Area Students Turn Hindu Festival Of Colors "Green"

March 15, 2009

Author: Matt O'Brien

Source: Contra Costa Times

The Hindu festival of Holi is always a vibrant celebration of colors, but the college students who celebrated it in Berkeley last year never intended to paint Strawberry Creek a fruit-punch hue.

Tim Pine was leading a nature restoration group last March along the banks of the much-loved waterway that courses through the UC Berkeley campus when a volunteer noticed something odd.

"One of the students looked over and said, 'Hey, the creek is turning orange," said Pine, whose job is to enforce environmental rules on campus.

That was last year. On Sunday, hundreds of students once again crowded Lower Sproul Plaza in a raucous, joyful Holi celebration that left their clothes, hair and skin drenched in vivid colors.

And this year, none of that blue, yellow, red and orange powder ended up seeping into the watershed. Students, in partnership with Pine, brought back the ancient tradition to its more natural roots.

"We have a certificate that says it's free of any toxins," said Rajiv Khanna, president of the university's Indian Students Association, which imported nearly 20 pounds of natural powder from India before Sunday's party.

Within moments after the festival began at noon, students were launching powder and colored water into the air and at one another and dancing to blaring Bollywood tunes.