Join the Holi celebrations under a rainbow of color, laughter and ecstatic dancing.
Do you remember the last time you jumped into a puddle of colored water or sprayed your neighbour with water pistol ? Ask anyone in India and chances are, they will tell you a story or two about their most recent Holi celebration. This is one of worlds most colorful and joyous festivals celebrated every year at the end of winter and beginning of spring in India. It is a festival that sees no difference in race, social status and religious beliefs. Everyone is welcome to take part, dance, sing and throw handfulls of colored powder towards anyone crossing their path.
There are various stories surrounding the origin of Holi. One of the more popular ones is the legend of Krishna and his friendship with Rada. You will often come across crowds of people chanting the words “hare Krishna” and “Rade Rade” on the streets during celebrations.
I was told the story of young Krishna and how he went back home one evening, sad and frustrated that his skin is not as light in color as that of his beloved Rada. Upon seeing her son so sad, his mother jokingly told him to paint Rada’s face in color and so that’s what he did. And that’s how the Holi festival began.
I celebrated Holi in Vrindavan, the birth place of Krishna and central to the Holi festival. The town is two hours away from Delhi by train and is a popular destination to hindu piligrims throughout the year. There are over 5000 temples in the city as well as many ashrams and yoga schools open to local and foreign visitors.
Holi celebrations are a great occasion here and attract participants from everywhere.
As a solo traveler I was warned many times to be extra careful while I was in the midst of Holi. Getting crushed by the crowds, abundance of pickpockets, my clothes and hair will get ruined by the color powder, I may end up surrounded by a group of not so friendly festival goers…these were all legitimate warnings given to me by locals. But if you use common sense I do believe Holi can be enjoyed by everyone.
Here are some helpful tips to make the most of Holi .
1) Wear old clothes as they will get ruined by all the colored powder and dyed water . There is no way around it. If you want to be part of Holi just accept that you will become a target especially to young schoolkids with waterpistols . Aiming their Holi colors at tourists is double the fun , so you should expect a lot of attention. Enjoy !
2) Wear a cap to protect your hair, especially if you are blond.
3) Another useful tip I was given is to cover your face with plenty of Vaselin ( this can be used on hair too) as it will help to wash away the powder from the skin at the end of the day.
4) If you want to take pictures, make sure your camera is well protected. I used an underwater camera bag and that worked well. Same applies to taking pictures with your phone. Find a waterproof bag or case and protect your valuables.
For photography, the best place to capture the festival is at the holiest of temples in Vrindavan, Banke Bihari. It feels like the epicentre of all the celebrations. Crowds of people gather inside as well as outside around it to dance, throw powder in the air and paint each others faces in pink, green, yellow, red and blue.
Getting inside the temple is not for the faint hearted. Once in the midst of the chanting crowd there is not much you can do but follow them as they circle the inside the building, throw powder and sing Happy Holi!