The University of Louisiana at Lafayette and Acadiana communities welcomed spring with a myriad of colors, a couple local artists and one unified scream of “Holi hai!”
The sixth annual Lafayette Holi Festival took place March 26 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. in Girard Park. Over 2,000 festival-goers stocked up on Indian food, festival merchandise and, most importantly, corn starch-based colored powders.
What is Holi?
“It’s about a tapestry of color,” said a priest who spoke at the beginning of the celebration. “To us — specifically down here in South Louisiana with our broad context of culture — Holi is a good thing to celebrate because in the way we bathe the culture, it brings together the rainbow of humanity that we have down here.”
Festival-goers took to the Girard Park stage clad in white for the first “blast” of color. As the crowd counted down to zero, premature bursts of pastel blue and neon green filled the air, and children and older citizens alike chased each other around with color packets and water guns.
It was anyone’s game after that.
Any notion of a personal bubble was shattered as stranger approached stranger to christen them with neon and pastel colors.
Hosted by the Acadiana Indian Association and proclaimed a parish holiday in 2014 by City-Parish President Joey Durel, Jr., the event is rooted in the celebrations in India and Nepal of the same name. Celebrated on March 24 in India, Lafayette Holi takes place on the last Sunday of every year.
What started as 200 attendees during its inaugural year in 2011 has grown to over 2,000 over the course of half a decade. According to Nikky Akkaraju, past president of AIA, the event’s success is thanks to word of mouth.
“A lot of people who came last year brought their friends this year,” he said.
With its roots as a religious festival celebrating the triumph of good over evil and welcoming spring, Holi has become a more social affair for Indian participants as well as Lafayette’s crowd.
“I did Holi once in India — all the rest of the Holis were in Lafayette, and I don’t know, I think Lafayette’s version is better,” said Akkaraju.
While Holi in India happens throughout the entire city, Lafayette Holi is confined to orange fencing around the Girard Park stage. Although the festival is open to all ages, Nikky Akkaraju, former president of AIA, said Lafayette Holi is celebrated predominantly by young people because of the location.
“It’s a fun way to celebrate spring, it’s great weather, and it’s a lot of fun,” said Chelsea Roberie, a festival-goer caked in green, yellow and blue paint.