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Celebrating the Hindu festival of Holi

Durham Students holi festival

As a Hindu student, I was keen to go along to the traditional Holi celebrations that took place at the University’s Oriental Museum. Holi is a Hindu festival, known as the Festival of Colours, it falls on the last full moon day of the Hindu month of Phalgun: around late February or March.

Holi away from home

It was my first Holi away from home, and that in a different country; however the celebrations didn’t let me miss any of that back home. It was a pleasure seeing  the staff decked up in Indian attire and not just students, people of all nationalities and ethnic origins from around Durham joined in to be a part of the festive frenzy. There was a dynamic ambience throughout the afternoon, as a magnificent exhibition of vibrant colours dispersed in the air and people, all coloured from top to bottom, danced their heart out to foot-tapping Bollywood numbers.

Fun for all ages

holi festival Everyone, from students to toddlers and the elderly savoured the festivities to the fullest and relished Indian delicacies from the Asian Project. The highlight of the day was a rendition of Bhangra, an Indian dance form from the region of Punjab, by a British guy which was simply amazing. He pulled in everyone to tap their feet along! Some Indian families showcased a lively dance performance too! I concluded the day with fond memories of my first Holi abroad.

Origins of Holi

Holi festivalHoli has several legends behind its origin. The most common is an interesting mythological tale which says that the demon king Hiranyakashyipu earned a boon that made him virtually indestructible and consequently he became arrogant, assuming himself to be God, and demanded that everyone worship only him. However his son Prahlad was a noble soul, who disagreed with him and remained devoted to Lord Vishnu, the protector of the world in Hindu belief. This infuriated Hiranyakashyipu, who meted out cruel punishments to Prahlad. He attempted to kill him on several occasions, however his efforts were futile as the boy’s resolve to remain righteous and stay devoted to the Almighty only grew stronger. Ultimately Prahlad’s evil aunt Holika, who had been bestowed with a fire-proof cloak, sat on a pyre, draped in the cloak, with Prahlad in her lap, with the intention of killing him. But the unthinkable happened: the cloak flew from her and covered Prahlad instead. This lead to Holika’s death, while the boy emerged unscathed. In a fit of rage, the king tried to kill him, but Lord Vishnu himself appeared and killed Hiranyakashyipu, thus, symbolising the victory of good over evil and the dawn of a new era.

Inter-cultural events

And it’s not just Holi, the university regularly hosts inter-cultural events like these which bring together people from the same country or similar cultural backgrounds, but people from all parts of the world. People are welcome to come just out of curiosity to explore difference cultures.  This welcoming atmosphere is instrumental in creating an exquisite confluence of cultures from around the globe at Durham. It has made me respect diversity and explore these beautiful cultures which I had only read about or just heard of, in depth . These events are pivotal in fostering a spirit of camaraderie amidst this enormous student body in the pretty little town of Durham and make studying at Durham a truly “international” experience.

To find out more about how and where you can worship at Durham Univesrity, whatever your faith or religious beliefs, visit the website

You can also see the groups and faith societies you could join on the Student Union website

Soumya Singh

Recent graduate and blogger for the University, I studied Computer Science at St Hild & St Bede, originally from India. Always seeking new experiences, yet passionate about technology, languages and badminton - I am now a Software Engineer in London and currently teaching the world new languages as a Duolingo course creator.
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