Holi – Festival of Colours

Everyone has heard of the famous colour throwing festival and I’ve always wanted to go. What could be more fun than covering everything and everyone in lots and lots of colours? We were super happy to find out that this year it would happen while we were still in Delhi.

On Thursday evening fires would be lit and holy rituals performed. Throughout the day we watched as the little heap of wood in the middle of the  street just outside our lane grew into a big fire decorated with gifts of gold-threaded cloth, pink and red powders, rose petals, garlands, marigolds, flags and figurines of various deities. Even circles of cow dung were added, though I have no idea of their meaning.  I just remembered how we had watched women make them and dry them in the sun all over the countryside.

Distorted music was blasting out of big rattely speakers all day long and occasionally some man or other would be compelled to burst into a squiggly dance for a while. We had dinner at a rooftop restaurant with a great view over the street and the fire and watched as a crowd drew around a couple of musicians and a belly dancer, oblivious to the honking traffic jam they caused.

It grew late and we grew tired. The fire had still not been lit. So we finally gave up and retreated to our room with the music resounding through the alleyways. As sleep began to claim us around midnight an intense smell of sandal wood smoke accompanied by cheering and shouting announced that the fire had been lit. I asked Aidan if we should go back out and have a look but only got a grumbley snore. Just as well I thought and fell asleep.

The next day I wrapped my camera in a plastic bag and stuck sellotape over the lens. When we headed into the street the place was deserted but for a few soaked stragglers doused in green, red and blue. Had we missed the party? A little boy sold us little bags made from newspaper full of yellow and pink powdered colour and off we went down Main Bazaar road to find Ali, who we’d promised to meet.

Soon the crowds appeared. Everyone was hugging everyone, smearing colour all over each others cheeks and hair. People threw water bombs from windows and rooftops. Kids were running around with supersourkers shooting everyone with water dyed blue or pink. I had to run and duck under awnings to try and rescue my camera from the worst.

We finally found Ali and his mate Prince hanging out with two girls in hot pants (in India!!!). Trust him to find the hottest chicks in town. They were all doused in colour too.

We had loads of fun, tourists and Indians alike, young and old. “Happy Holi!” hugs and colour flying everywhere. Of course Munki and Hatti joined in too 🙂

Somehow we got separated from Ali and co and kept trying to call them, but no reply. Later we found out one of their friends had got into trouble with the police so they’d gone to sort things out. Apparently Indian people get quite rowdy, drinking bang lassis. We’d wanted some too, but couldn’t find any. Bummer!

At first I had wondered why there were so many armed police patrolling the street. I had even watched one police car deliberately run over a guy’s flip-flopped foot after he’d tried to throw colour into the car! It soon became evident that I was getting twice as many happy holi hugs as Aidan, his face still showing some skin while mine was decked in hundreds of layers of paint. Even Hatti was still mostly blue.

The hugs turned into prolonged squeezes that I was starting to have to fight my way out of. It seems the Indian youths were making the most of their chance to grope western girls. Other tourist girls confirmed my suspicion. Suddenly I understood the heavy police presence. They wanted to avoid any situations that might involve embassies or harm the lucrative tourism business. It wasn’t that bad though and we reveled in the fun, our faces changing colour every minute.

When we had breathed in and swallowed so much colour, we started coughing pink and green clouds it was time to retreat and wash it all off. For weeks after our hair and clothes would remain stained, a fun reminder of the rainbow chaos 🙂

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