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What the Festival of Holi Taught Me About The Importance of Diversity

Anshu Budhiraja
Director, Product Support Delivery

My favorite holiday, the Hindu festival of Holi, takes place on March 25th. But in addition to the fun and food, Holi has a special lesson about why diversity is important.

On the Hindu holiday of Holi, you have to stay on your toes.

One Holi, when we were living in a New Delhi apartment building, I heard my friend’s mom calling from outside that she needed help. I opened the front door, and from the balcony above, she said that there were some coins on the ground that had fallen down to our level. 

“Can you pick it up for me?” she said.

I walked outside, and knew my mistake right away. 

“Holi Hai!” they called out, and I was immediately drenched with colored water that they’d dropped from above. 

My favorite event of the year had begun. It was time to play Holi! On Holi, everyone is out-and-about at block parties or in parks. We “play Holi” by dousing, and getting doused head-to-toe with a colorful powder called gulal, or drenched with colored water from water guns that we call pichkaris. In India, school children adhere to a strict uniform with polished shoes, braided hair, and trimmed, unpolished nails. But one day of the year, everyone has color on their nails, faces, and hair, and the teachers can’t do anything about it!

The lead-up to Holi is some of the most fun. I remember rummaging through my closet for old clothes, since whatever you wear surely gets soiled. The night before is “Holika Dahan,” which consists of everyone getting together around a big bonfire. It’s based on the Hindu tale of Holika and Prahlad, which has a message to not abandon your beliefs when faced with adversity, and to stay true to your principles. 

Holi’s origins begin with Krishna playing with his consort, Radha, and his other friends, or Gopi. They began throwing so much gulal at each other that, by the end of it, everyone was so covered in colors it was impossible to tell who was who. This is still the case today — once, even my aunt didn’t know it was me standing right next to her because I was so done up in colors. And when you can’t tell each other apart, everyone — no matter your class or social distinctions — is treated as equals. In this way, the holiday is focused on love and compassion. 

Holi also symbolizes new beginnings. It typically falls in March or April in the Indian month of Phalgun, and marks the arrival of spring, the season of renewal when leaves begin to sprout as harbingers of fresh starts and a brighter future. Out with the old, in with the new! 

Now that I live in Houston, Texas, Holi has taken on a different feel. Every year on a weekend close to Holi, we invite neighbors over to take part in this celebration with plates full of gulal and pichkaris ready to use. On the actual day of Holi, the fragmented Indian community around the Houston area organizes celebrations at local parks. We drive out with our families, get completely doused with colors, reminisce about the old days over desserts, and make sure to cover our car seats for the ride home!

When I’m not covered in paint, I’m a member of Choreograph’s Diversity Collective, one of the company’s Employee Resource Groups. We meet regularly to discuss how best to bring inclusivity to the workforce, because without a diversity of perspectives and opinions, ideas tend to look the same. Our hope is that by sharing cultural experiences we all benefit by being able to find solutions from a broader set of ideas. So far, this work has included panel discussions, online events, and blogs like this one. 

As another Holi approaches, I’d like to invite my coworkers to take a few lessons from the holiday. It’s important to treat everyone as equals, as if we’ve all been doused with vibrant colors. We should try our best to face adversity by staying true to our principles. And, maybe the most important lesson of all—to watch out when someone yells “Holi Hai!”


Anshu Budhiraja is the Director of Solutions Implementation for Choreograph. In her free time, she’s dedicated to advancing literacy for adults and children at local ministries, and can otherwise be found creating oil paintings or preparing for upcoming 10K runs.

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