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Campus community reflects on ISA Holi celebration

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Participants of Holi throw colored water and powder in celebration of the Hindu holiday that invites people to come together in a communal experience.


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Senior Staff

MARCH 21, 2023

Update 3/22/2023: This article has been updated to include more information from Berkeley ISA as well as eventgoers.

On Saturday the Indian Students Association, or ISA, held its annual celebration of Holi, a popular spring festival celebrated by South Asians around the world.

ISA Co-Presidents Ayushi Srivastava and Haroun Khaleel and Vice President Manas Khatore remarked on ISA’s commitment to hosting large-scale events in celebration of major Indian holidays such as Holi. ISA’s weekend celebration sought to create an inclusive space for those who may or may not be a part of Hinduism, they added.

“Holi is a traditional holiday, and even though it has religious roots, we celebrate the part where it’s a time for people to come together,” Khaleel said. “It’s also a place where we can have people who haven’t been able to experience Holi and other Indian festivals join in.”

Holi attendee Srikanth Nampoothiri said that growing up, he did not have a strong religious connection to the holiday. To Nampoothiri, the idea of gathering together in celebration was something beautiful.

ISA general member Pranav Kalra grew up going to local community Holi events with his family, though he stopped once he went to college. He said Saturday’s event allowed him to bond with friends with similar upbringings while showing his culture to his non-Indian friends.

However, some student attendees shared complaints online over Holi ticket sales and lack of communication over ticket refunds.

According to a student attendee, who wished to stay anonymous out of fear of retaliation, they had registered for the event and were sent emails with codes confirming their spot. However, according to the source, confusion between admission tickets and color packet tickets being sold resulted in their ticket being an invalid color packet ticket, not a guarantee to entry.

Participants of Holi often throw colored water and powder in celebration of the Hindu holiday that invites people to come together in a communal experience. ISA sold packets of colored powder along with tickets to the event.

“I would have paid 15 dollars for a 3h event with colors and music, a bit expensive to me, but worth it, according to my housemates,” the anonymous source said in an email.

Students online expressed their disappointment with the price of tickets and color packets. ISA did not allow outside color packets to be used at its Holi celebration.

According to Khatore, ISA uses environmentally and skin-friendly colors to abide by campus’s zero-waste policy. Srivastava added that the price of sourcing these colors and the overall costs of the event contributed to the ticket prices.

The anonymous source stated that they tried to pay in person on Sproul for the tickets, which turned out to be invalid, and were told that they should send an email to ISA. Until Monday morning, they had not received communication about the refund.

“I understand that the tickets we have may not be valid, but they shouldn’t have sent multiple emails confirming my reservation,” the source said in the email. “They should have given the money back instantly when they realized the tickets were not valid.”

According to Srivastava, ISA gave students the option to buy admission tickets and color packets separately so students who did not want to buy color packets could do so. Srivastava added that ISA changed to a new ticket sale system through EventBrite, which may have contributed to the confusion.

A portion of students who bought and paid for tickets did not reserve their spots for the event, according to Srivastava, resulting in oversold tickets and the need for tickets to be refunded.

Srivastava noted that members of ISA were unable to attend to complaint emails sent Sunday because they were handling the afterparty and cleaning up from Saturday’s celebration. Emails regarding ticket refunds were sent Monday morning and Srivastava said all refunds were processed.

Khatore noted that the scale of the event and demand for tickets hosted by a committee of 30 students, there were bound to be errors, especially due to the costs of hosting an event with over 1,000 attendees.

“We apologize if there was any confusion about ticket sales and color packets,” Khatore said. “If anyone still has any issues with tickets or refunds, reach out to ISA and we would be happy to help.”

The anonymous student stated that this would have been their only opportunity to participate in Holi on campus, expressing their disappointment with the ticket sales.

The student alleged that if ISA had better managed the ticketing process, they would not be getting blamed for the mishaps.

“I am not in any position to comment on the club itself, but my experience of ISA is unsatisfying so far, mostly because of the bad management of the event,” the student said in the email.

However, attendee Aparna Kumar noted that she did not have an uncomfortable or negative experience at the event. Though there was a large amount of people, the size of the venue helped.

Attendee Sanjana Melkote said she had heard about ISA’s Holi celebration through friends and social media, but was unable to attend until now.

“This is the first time I was able to attend,” Melkote said. “I was really excited to go, my overall experience was super fun.”

Anonymous confessors on the Calfessions Instagram page expressed their discontent with ISA’s ticketing system and hosting of major festivals rooted in Hinduism, with other religious holidays in India not being represented or celebrated.

Srivastava stated that ISA has been hosting Holi, Diwali and garba events for decades.

To uphold their tradition of these events while acknowledging other Indian religious celebrations and perspectives, Srivastava and Khatore added, ISA has sought to connect with smaller cultural clubs on campus to represent the diversity of India as much as possible. ISA had planned on hosting a celebration for the South Indian holiday Onam, however Srivastava alleged that it wasn’t possible this year due to timing issues.

Khaleel and Khatore stated their intent not to engage with the anonymous confessions due to the digital and physical harassment that some ISA members have experienced. They encouraged individuals with concerns and feedback to reach out to ISA via email or Instagram.

“It is a joy to put on these events, (giving) people the feeling of home and belonging,” Khatore said. “While we do have these big events, we are a 30-person team and never claimed to be a perfect organization. We are listening to concerns about diverse events and trying our best to honor these concerns.”

Contact Maya Banuelos at  or on Twitter


MARCH 24, 2023