Last Sunday, hundreds of Oxford students retreated from the libraries (or from their beds, let’s be honest, it’s Sunday) in order to participate in Holi, an Hindu festival celebrating the beginning of spring. Though we haven’t had much spring to celebrate yet (yes, it’s now been three weeks of consistent rain, the wettest spring in England in a century) we managed to get a pocket of comparatively dry and sunny weather for our Holi festival, held out on the Mansfield/Merton sports grounds!
As you can see, the traditions of Holi require all-white clothes, which are then ‘decorated’ with the multicolored powder and water that everyone throws at each other! There was even water guns for those who wanted to celebrate a little more aggressively. Holi traditionally lasts about two days, but our celebration only lasted four hours, giving all the students time to walk home and shower away the layers of paint (I think some the white-clad cricket players were eying us a little nervously as well). Holi is also supposed to temporarily lift the social barriers of age, class, gender and other factors that would normally inhibit strangers from conversing (or throwing paint at each other), and it was funny to see students engaging in paint warfare with eight-year olds. While Oxford perhaps doesn’t have the same rigid social barriers that India once maintained (though some might argue differently) it was still an excuse for students from different colleges and disciplines to interact.