May you have a colourful year!!!
Holi is an ancient Hindi religious festival also known as the festival of colours or the festival of sharing love. Holi signifies the end of winter & the beginning of spring, the victory of good over evil, time to forgive, forget & mend broken relationships & a time of merriment. It is celebrated in India & Nepal & in the past few years has also become a popular theme for various events in western countries. Holi is a fun, mischievious, festival where participants cover each other with an array of coloured powder & have water fights. Everyone is fair game to douse good naturely with vibrant coloured powder & music & dancing is plenty! Some intoxicating drinks are consumed, including the popular bhang lassi which is a cannabis based lassi. The festival has little focus on religion & is all about enjoyment & having fun!
My friends & I went down to the more populated Dharamshala to celebrate Holi as Mcleod Ganj has a predominantly Buddhist culture who don’t particularly recognise this Hindi festival. Dharamshala still isn’t exactly the Holi hotspot but was the preference my friend & I had when it came to deciding where to celebrate Holi. The festival is considerably intimate compared to the shy India way. People throw & rub coloured powder on each other to symbolise Lord Krishna putting coloured powder on his beloved Radha to make her more like him. I didn’t want to go to a busy area to celebrate with crowds of people pushing & groping. As a solo female traveller I endeavour to respect my safety boundaries.
We made our way to get a taxi down the mountain & before we even got in the taxi we were covered in colour thanks to a group of Indian men in great party spirit. It was hilarious as they only got the girls in the group & the guys were void of colour. I wonder if they will remain colour free all day….
As we walked the streets in Dharamshala people in the street, on scooters & in cars called out ‘Happy Holi’ & decorated us in colour! What a fun festival! A car stopped to ask for a picture with us because they hadn’t seen foreigners ‘play’ Holi before. This was one of many requests for pictures. People would run up to you shouting ‘selfie’ & continue to take pictures until you said it was enough. I dread to think how many Facebook profiles my coloured face is currently gracing!
By the time we got to the action in a nearby village we were already completely covered in colour – before we even bought any ourselves! There were quaint stalls of friendly, multi coloured, people selling a wide range of coloured powder in various sized bags. We all purchased a selection & got to work colouring India & wishing everyone a happy holi. We had a great time dancing with the locals & covering each others faces. A young drummer appeared who played to the amusement of the men & boys who danced wildly & vigorously to the beat. It was a great party atmosphere & the locals shared their (extremely strong) drinks with us. As newbies to this festival we failed miserably imbibing as the powder fell from our faces into the drinks then settling on our teeth when we drank. Schoolboy error! I was inappropriately groped once, but according to my friends that was lower than their encounters of harassment – unacceptable Indian men!
When we had enough & were starving we took a taxi back to the quieter McLeod Ganj & went to an Italian restaurant. We were the only people covered in powder. We were absolutely saturated in the stuff. My friend tried to rub hers off in the bathroom & came out with a dirty brown face. I opted to sit in the layers of powder & wait to get washed after.
As much fun as it throwing powder around, I was so elated to have a shower! My face alone had layers of colour & my clothes were covered in it. My bra seemed to be carrying most of it. Apparently that was where people must have been aiming for. I felt so good after showering although I still have patches of pink & purple in my hair. Our bathroom is a wonderful rainbow of colours & there is a powder trail into our room.
The locals seemed really impressed we got involved in Holi & especially to our degree of involvement. Layers people! We had layers of colours in our hair, on our face, all over our bodies & on our bags. We’re not quite sure if it’s going to come off our belongings.
Two weeks later I will still have this colour in my hair & people will point fondly at it asking ‘Holi?’.