Growing up in Australia, there was little I knew about India, however what I saw I absolutely loved. This included beautiful architecture, bright colours and heavy decoration when it came to clothing and some crazy incredibly appealing colour throwing festival. When I moved to India, I found out that colour throwing festival was Holi. Anyone who knows me well knows that I am all about loud noises and bright colours, which means that Holi festival seems as though it was made for me to celebrate.
Holi is an ancient Hindu festival which is now celebrated amongst many other cultures for various reasons. It is the festival of colour, love and enthusiasm which is occurs in early March celebrating the arrival of spring. I was lucky enough to spend Holi in my new hometown of Rishikesh with friends that I had made here, others I had met throughout my travels in India as well as a friend who had travelled all the way from Australia to celebrate Holi with me.
Being the start of Spring and end of winter, the weather had been pretty miserable in the lead up to Holi, but the two days that celebrate Holi were perfect and sunny! The first day of Holi was celebrated on the 9th of March, which was essentially just a big bonfire in the evening. This is signifying the burning of Holika who legend has it, tried to burn a child by tricking them into the fire whilst wearing a fireproof coat herself. The coat flew off her and onto the child, saving them and burning her alive.
This ritual was conducted in the main square of Tapovan in Rishikesh with many people getting involved, adding colour and pieces of wood to the fire and dancing around it in a circle once it had been lit. Although the throwing of colour was not supposed to start that evening, naturally it did because everyone was so excited.
The morning of Holi had a magic air to it. The weather was fantastic with the sun shining and everyone exited for the arrival of spring and to throw colours at their friends and strangers. The hostel I was staying at had a great mix of locals and foreigners who all celebrated the festival together. Not only did the colours look brilliant, but they also smelled amazing! We found out that some of the colours were actually made from the flowers that had been blooming for spring.
We had breakfast early and by 10am we were out on the rooftop of our hostel which has the most magical view of Rishikesh and its gorgeous mountains. Everyone had dressed in their white clothes ready to get covered in bright beautiful colours. The hostel arranged for a range of snacks as well as a cannabis lassi which is a traditional drink for Holi. Although I didn’t try any myself, I heard it was quite nice.
After a bunch of us foreigners had been throwing colours at our friends and tipping it on their heads, we learnt the correct way to do it was to have colour on your hand and to stroke each cheek of the other person whilst saying Happy Holi. We did this occasionally when approached by strangers, but most of the time we just kept throwing the colours at people and putting it in their beards and hair because it was fun.
At around 11am we went back to the same square where the bonfire had been the previous night as that was the central celebration point for the festival. The square was pure, magical, brilliant madness. There was a DJ blasting music, everyone was dancing, colours were being thrown, smoke bombs blowing different colours in the air and a bunch of people dancing on top of water tanks.
The square was completely full of people just enjoying themselves and meeting new people in the most fun way possible, dousing them in colours! This is the only acceptable time it would be to throw something at another person, and people took full advantage of that. It was so nice to see a crowd of people dancing in a completely alcohol-free environment, and still being able to dance with confidence as if they had already had a few drinks.
It became apparent quite quickly that females and tourists were a favourite target for many people, with most of the females copping tubs of water over them and numerous colours being thrown at them at once. I was not complaining about the colours, I loved it! But the water was pretty intense.
There was twice where I got colour straight to the eye and had people help me over to the water tanks to help me clean it out. There I got absolutely soaked by bucket after bucket of water until someone grabbed my hand to lead me away so I could breathe again. It was hilarious and lot of fun, other than knowing I had mobiles and passports in my bag that were getting drenched.
The DJ was playing a bunch of Indian music that I didn’t understand and then randomly Sandstorm came on. Everyone danced for hours on end before we needed a break and a few of us escaped the chaos. We eventually made our way back to the hostel where everyone was exhausted after a brilliant day of energy and colour in the sun.
It was the perfect experience for my first time playing Holi in India, and I am looking forward to enjoying many more here.