our Holi

We began like this:


It didn’t last long.

I don’t know much about Holi. Few of the Indians I spoke to seemed to have any idea where it comes from or what it means. Wikipedia thinks it has something to do with the immune system; our friend Hemanshu says it’s related to the farming cycle. Whatever the case may be, the big thing about Holi is that you “play colors”.

This is Jenny and our friend Manual about ten minutes after we arrived the party. I don’t know the guy who threw it, but he decided to let 100+ Indians and expats completely destroy the lawn in front of his huge mansion. To facilitate our technicolor destruction, he provided a DJ, live musicians, food, beer, and bhang, which I’ve already described. That’s what’s in the terra cotta cup Jenny is holding. A servant presented us with a tray of it almost the moment we arrived.

Our gracious host generously filled and refilled the color table with certified non-toxic powders. (Apparently India suffers a minor epidemic of rashes and burns due to dodgy Holi colors.) One plays Holi thusly: you grab a fistful of powder and throw it at someone. Or rub it in their hair. Or solemnly smear if on their face, as did the five Indian teenagers who came upon me as we were looking for the party. (Each one ceremoniously hugged me afterwards.) Or grab a bucket of liquid dye and drench somebody. Or pick someone up toss them in the plastic pool.

Jenny began with a yellow base and transitioned steadily to red:

Whereas I simply added sloppy accents to a consistent motif:

We ended like this:

Jenny hides it well, but you can tell from that picture that the bhang is taking its toll on me. After staring at the dancers for another hour, we took a surreal autorickshaw ride home (“Whoa… the market is… like… deserted!”), giggled our way up the staircase (they’d never seemed so tall or taken so long to climb), and took the first of many futile showers. Twenty-four hours later, Jenny’s hair is still green.


13 responses to “our Holi

  1. I was dozing off in the autorickshaw on the way home, and opened my eyes to see a truck overtaking us with men sitting in the back pointing guns at us. I nudged Dave alert so he too could see such a strange sight. It wasn’t scary, for some reason (the drugs?), but as more trucks passed us with more men with guns, it became clear we had gotten caught up with a motorcade for someone important.

  2. hello there. so i went to a holi celebration in richmond hill this year. and while i didnt get nearly as colorful as you, i was told that the reasoning behind it has something to do with the arrival of spring. to rid your self of the grayness of winter you cover everyone with lots of bright colors. sounded good to me. just an addition to your possible explanations.

    hope all is well.

  3. I desperately want to play holi, but I think it will be a long time before I can go to India in the spring (because of the kids being in school). Now, I actually did have bhang when I went in December. They made it special for me! Eeeeeee!! I must say, Hiren’s mom makes some mighty tasty bhang. Perhaps you’d like the recipe? 😉

  4. By the way, did the colors get in your eyes and bother them? I’ve always wondered about that.

  5. Yeah, it bothered my eyes, but I was really surprised how quickly they cleared up. At this party they apparently had only organic colors, so that probably made a big difference. It was quite disgusting, however, to discover the inside of my nose was caked with color. And, I still have a red color deep inside my left ear!

    Thanks for the recipe offer, but I think we’ll stick to bhang only for Holi. =)

  6. This is one great post!!
    simply enjoyed the pics

  7. Holi is meant to be celebrated to rejoice the onset of Spring, when all the dry frazzled numbness of winter gives way to color and sheer beauty that that springtime in India was once believed to be synonymous to.
    Of course, living in Delhi that you are, Spring seems to mark the beginning of summer and it doesn’t seem very exciting.
    However, things were probably different when the festival started, which is thousands of years ago – dating back to the time of Krishna and the Bhagavad Gita.
    So when you are playing around with those scary looking colors, you are essentially doing something that one of the most revered deity of Hinduism fancied doing as a flirtatious teenager.

  8. In bombay, we did all this and also spent half the night before filling up water ballons by the bucketful, parents helping, so that we could then lob them at friends and unsuspecting passersby out the window. And from downstairs, but then of course our stash quickly got looted and generally used against us. Fun post, brought back fun memories.

  9. Holi is the Indian equivalent of Easter. Welcoming spring… glad you had a blast. and yes, you do look pretty trashed by the end of it !!

  10. Dear Dave and Jenny, you guys are looking very cute all colored and hammered at the same time. I believe that is the best way to end the Holi celebration.

    After reading this post, i am really missing Delhi. Seattle is my home now but some times my heart just craves for the chaos of Delhi.

    And hey, i am happy you are liking South Delhi. I live in N-Block, GK I (just two lanes behind Fab-India).

    Keep posting!!! 🙂

  11. According to Hindu Mythology, Holi also has got to do with the burning of Demoness Holika by Prahalad with the blessings of Lord Vishnu.

    I am surprised people you know in Delhi did not know that. 🙂


  12. Pingback: this sunday: walk the dying flower markets of Delhi « Our Delhi Struggle

  13. Thanks God u enjoyed atleast something in Delhi… 🙂

    Well, if you know about holly i can tell you… its not just about colors… 😉

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