Thursday, 15 March 2012


This title is misleading. The festival of colours, or Holi as everybody knows it, is anything but paintball. There are no armies and opposing teams, everyone is out on his own. There is no protective clothing and weapons, except the battalions of tourists with long lens big cameras. There are no strategies, rules and hide outs, and most definitely you're not out once hit!
But then again there are snipers on the roofs, kids and teenagers armed with soft-drink bottles filled with ominously dark liquids. There are the diehard, kamikaze-like, infamous "Indian males" paratroopers that set up ambushes and not only paint but grope their (female) victims. And the elder, sober, life-saving corps that buy you a refreshment when things get out of hand.

But what really is Holi I cannot tell you. It's all the above and so much more. It's the fun on the streets and the red-yellow flagged boats in the water. It's the rhythmic, sensual, electrifying, cannabis infused dance in the temple. Bodies rubbing and swaying in a pink cloud, colour sprayed and sweaty in front of Lord Shiva's doors, exploding in ecstasy when the god opens his gates. It's the cleansing ceremonies, bathing of bodies, flowers and sins in the Yamuna river. It's the release of a year's longing, the apotheosis of superstition. And the rubbing of colour on the forehead and two cheeks, the three crossed hugs and the glazed. smiling eyes of "Happy Holi".

But looking back, the open arms, hearts and people's doors is what Holi is about for me.

*Update: Here's a link to some of the photos my friend Diti took at Holi while we were in Mathura. You'll get a pretty good idea of the mayhem and electric atmosphere of the event. Go ahead!