Hindus have welcomed Pennsylvania State University (Penn State, PSU), a major public research-intensive university, for supporting the Hindu “festival of color” Holi, reportedly celebrated with gusto in University Park campus on March 25, with an elephant present.
Hindu statesman Rajan Zed, in a statement in Nevada today, describing PSU celebrating Holi as a step in the positive direction, urged all US public-private universities/colleges to sponsor Holi festivals on campuses.
Zed, who is President of Universal Society of Hinduism, pointed out that it would be a positive thing to do in view of presence of a substantial number of Hindu students at university/college campuses around the country, as it was important to meet the religious and spiritual needs of these pupils.
Rajan Zed also welcomed the presence of elephant at the celebrations as elephants had played an important role in Hindu religious ceremonies. Elephant-headed Lord Ganesha was worshipped in Hinduism as god of wisdom and remover of obstacles and was invoked before the beginning of any major undertaking. Elephant Airavata emerged from Churning of the Ocean (samudra-manthana). There were ancient manuals written on the elephant, like Hastyayurveda and Matanga-lila. Moreover, Hindus traditionally loved, respected, cared for and looked after the welfare of the elephants and other animals.
Zed commended efforts of Penn State South Asian Student Association (SASA) and the campus Hindu community for keeping the religion-culture alive in Penn State by organizing such celebrations; and thanked PSU President Dr. Eric J. Barron and PSU Trustees Chairman Ira M. Lubert for university support to Holi festival.
Rajan Zed further says that Hinduism is rich in festivals and religious festivals are very dear and sacred to Hindus. Many US higher education institutions—Georgia Southern University, Missouri State University, Penn State Harrisburg, University of Texas at Austin, Colorado State University Pueblo, University of New Orleans, International American University, etc.—already had Holi celebrations; while many—University of Arkansas, Wagner College, Oakland University, etc.—are planning to host the celebrations in the near future.
Awareness about other religions thus created by organizing festivals like Diwali and Holi on the university-college campuses would help make nation’s students well-nurtured, well-balanced, and enlightened citizens of tomorrow; Zed indicated.
Joie de vivre festival of Holi welcomes the beginning of spring and starts about ten days before the full moon of Phalguna. Besides color play, ceremonies also include the lighting of the bonfires, during which all evils are symbolically burnt. Holi also commemorates the frolics of youthful Lord Krishna; and celebrates the death of demoness Putana, burning of demoness Holika, and destruction of Kama by Lord Shiva. Holi fell on March 13 this year.
Hinduism is oldest and third largest religion of the world with about one billion adherents and moksh (liberation) is its ultimate goal. There are about three million Hindus in USA.
SASA’s “Holi 2017” announcement, scheduled from 11 am to four pm in HUB lawn of the Penn State campus and where the colors were provided, included live DJ and performances by dance teams—Penn State Sher Bhangra, Penn State Ghaamudyaz, Penn State JaDhoom, R.A.M. Squad; and cultural booths. This was reportedly the first time for an elephant to be present at the Holi celebrations, which were dubbed as “a great celebration full of friends, colors, music, and of course an ELEPHANT!!!” SASA was reportedly created in 1960 “to promote South Asian culture”.
PSU, founded in 1855, claimed to be ranked as one of the world’s top universities, has 24 campuses with around 100,000 students. It offers about 410 doctorate, graduate, baccalaureate, associate and professional degrees.