Plattsburgh State’s The Tiranga United, formerly known as the Indian Culture and Entertainment Club, is celebrating its rebirth, renewal and rejuvenation with its annual Holi festival tomorrow afternoon.
Holi, or “the festival of colors,” is a popular Hindu festival in India, signifying the end of winter and the beginning of spring. People celebrate by singing, dancing and playing with color in many forms, drenching and throwing water-color or powder at each other throughout the day. The festival and its cultural significance has spread to many parts of the world as a celebration of love, happiness, friendship and most of all, color.
On the Hindu calendar, Holi is typically celebrated in late February or early March in India. But because throwing bright pinks, yellows, reds and oranges at an outdoor event is dependent on Plattsburgh weather, Tiranga United always plans to host its own Holi in April when the temperature warms up.
The Tiranga United’s Holi is free and will start at about 1 p.m. behind Memorial Hall. The club will provide packets of powdered color for anyone who attends to play with, release or throw at their friends.
President of The Tiranga United and PSUC junior geology major Shafik Vadsariya said the club plans to have about 130 to 150 pounds of powdered color on hand for tomorrow’s event. Vadsariya said Holi is a beautiful festival and a great way to understand and welcome a culture other than your own.
“On that day, nobody is a stranger,” Vadsariya said. “Everybody is a friend, everybody’s a person you just want to embrace with love, put some color on them and share your culture with them.”
Co-public relations manager for The Tiranga United and junior psychology major Ivanna Menezes attended last year’s Holi before she was a member of the club and met many of the friends she has now at that event. While she’s originally from Dubai, Menezes said she used to celebrate back home, but here in Plattsburgh, Holi is a fun way to interact with people in a way you normally wouldn’t in college.
“[Celebrating Holi] kind of takes me back to my middle school days,” Menezes said. “I’m not Hindu, but I’m still Indian, and I still want to be connected to those roots. On that day, something about throwing colors at other people just brings you together.”
Pooja Gnanavel, a senior triple majoring in accounting, global supply chain management and business administration, has been with the club for three semesters and is now vice president. Before coming to PSUC, Gnanavel said she never celebrated a Holi on a large scale.
“It was very new for me when I came here,” Gnanavel said. “I really don’t know how it works back home. It’s celebrated in southern parts, but just not where I am. The only part I like about it is even if you don’t know that person, you just throw color on them and wish them [well.]”
Vadsariya said last year, the event had about 15 to 20 attendees at any given time. Because it’s a free outdoor event, many people come and go as the hours go by. This year, Tiranga United is hoping for at least 30 to 40 people with an overall total of 120 festival-goers by the end of the day.
“People see [it] while they’re walking by,” Vadsariya said. “They go to their rooms, change and just come right down there to play.”
As the spring semester began, the club changed its name from Indian Culture and Entertainment Club, or I.C.E., to The Tiranga United. Vadsariya said the name was too long, always shortened and the entertainment part of the acronym didn’t fit the club’s aesthetic anymore.
Freshman psychology major and co-public relations manager Ambreen Kashif also said the club’s acronym, I.C.E., had a bad connotation with the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
“We wanted to revamp our club,” Kashif said. “We just wanted to make it something new.”
In India, “tiranga” most commonly refers to the Tricolor Flag or the national flag of India. Vadsariya said the club wanted to change its name to not only reflect itself but also its unification of different and diverse backgrounds.
“We just wanted to unify those colors because India is a country of diversity,” Vadsariya said. “That’s what we stand for. That’s what our name stands for.”
Menezes said the club went through some changes with the new name, as well as new board members, events and ideas for the club. Menezes explained the club plans to incorporate one central theme each semester in the form of “chapters” from now on.
“We’re aiming to base our weekly meetings and events around that idea, and then next semester would be a different chapter,” Menezes said.
Tiranga United’s chapter this semester was centered around the theme of homeland or “motherland” with a subchapter theme of colors. The club’s annual cricket tournament last month had color elements of blue and black. To replace its annual Bollywood fashion show event, the club hosted Jashn-e-Rang, or “a celebration of colors,” where guests who bought tickets could experience traditional Indian food, hear music and dance. Tomorrow’s Holi will be the club’s last big event of the semester.
The Tiranga United chooses to use more of its social media pages to inform people about its events as opposed to a traditional student digest post.
“We want to use every platform to our advantage,” Vadsariya said. “Some people do read it, some people just skim through it and some people don’t even open it.”
Menezes said the club’s events have better turnouts using more social media with its Facebook and Instagram.
“We see social media as more out-there,” Menezes said. “People read Instagram and go through Instagram like they’re reading the newspaper in the morning.”
With a new name and e-board, The Tirange United is looking forward to not only tomorrow’s Holi but also its new brand as a culture club at PSUC.
“We needed a little bit of rejuvenation of the club,” Vadsariya said. “With new ideas, we thought a name change would really help the cause.”