A colossal cloud of color.
Picture yourself surrounded by hundreds of people in a mid-day rave covered in vivid powders. You can see flashes of yellow, red, blue, pink, orange and green clouds of colored dust being thrown in the air floating down and covering everyone that is in the main square .
You cannot walk anywhere in this ancient town on this Holy day without getting hit with a colossal mix of colors. Both backpackers and locals are all being showered with powder while dancing to the latest Bollywood beats from India’s hip hop scene. Little kids are all hiding on the sides of the crowded streets waiting for the tourist to walk past so they can dress them with more colors.
Yes, this is one of India’s busiest and most vivid festivals of the year. This is Holi! You can run, and you can try to hide all you want. But if you choose to leave your hotel anytime before 2PM on this day you will definitely be wearing some kind of color on your clothes.
And to think, if I stuck to my original travel itinerary, I would have missed this amazing experience!
Sometimes you need to let go of your original travel plans, and let the adventure find you! I learned over the years that it is best to be flexible with your itinerary.
If I stuck to plan “A “I would have missed #1 highlight of my 5 month trip to India.
Relax and step off your planned route if you feel intrigued
I didn’t really know much about Holi until the 4th month of my time in India. I was in Rajasthan and the Holi festival seemed to be what all the travelers were talking about. All I heard on the buses, restaurants and at the hostels was about how much fun Holi was going to be.
When I told people on the bus that I was just passing through Pushkar, they all said the same thing “you are not going to Holi??” I figured maybe for once in my life I should just relax and step off of my planned route.
Holi was so hyped up, I actually decided to stay a week in Pushkar and see what this festival was all about. And apparently, Pushkar was one of the best places in India to attend this festival.
The big event
The morning of Holi had arrived! I left the hotel in a group with some fellow backpackers that were going to the town square. We were all a little nervous and nobody knew what to expect. It was an intriguing feeling but yet fun.
A few of us were dressed up in white. We started off sneaking around the crevices of the narrow streets avoiding the kids armed with colored powder. Eventually, we were ambushed by a bunch of 10-year-olds. It was so much fun! We were instantly coated in bright colors.
We bought a few bags of powder so we could spread the joy, and continued walking toward the town square. There were hundreds of people in the square dancing together and throwing colored powder everywhere. There were several DJ’s and the center had a mosh pit full of young and old alike.
This event was a mix of traditional activities with a major modern twist that consisted mainly of tourists and some fun locals. It was so cool to go up to the surrounding restaurants to look down on to this massive party.
Once the afternoon hit the party was over, the entire square emptied out and was left reddish pink from all the colors mixing. All the local shops started to open and everybody still around grabbed a broom and started the big clean up. It was a big mess, but it was so much fun.
This popular festival is typically held for two days a year in March during the Purnima (Full Moon), and the exact days are determined by the Bikram Sambat Hindu Calendar of that particular year. Holi pronounced Holy is primarily celebrated in India, and Nepal, but it is also celebrated in other countries.
The second morning of the festival is when all the colorful fun begins. The streets fill with everybody, rich, poor, locals, visitors, men, women, children, and elders all singing, dancing while enjoying traditional food and dodging colored powder being thrown from all directions.
Participating in the Holi festival truly does make you feel like your a kid again. You are doing all the stuff that your mother told you not to do; get dirty and make the biggest mess you possibly can while doing it.
What is the meaning of this festival?
Holi celebrates the victory of good over evil, the end of winter, and the arrival of spring.
It is unknown how far back the festival dates, however, there is written evidence of the festival dating back to the 7th century, and a painting was discovered on the theme showing a royal couple sitting on a swing, while maidens were preparing colors with pichkaris.
When and where is the Holi festival?
This year Holi is on March 16, 2017 in India. You can find Holi events all across India. Evey area celebrates Holi differently. Some places are more traditional and don’t throw around color and others are more energetic. It all really depends on what kind of experience you want.
I chose to go to Holi in Pushkar, Rajastan. It is known to be one of the better places for this holiday.
Regardless of what place you decide to celebrate, it is always best to attend the event with a group of friends. Especially single female travelers. There have been events of inappropriate treatment toward women. As in any place, it is best to be mindful of your surroundings.
If you are traveling alone and still want to attend the Holi events, I would recommend going to the city or town that you plan to attend a few days ahead to get familiar with the area. This will give you lot’s of time to meet fellow travelers in your hotel that may accompany you to this event. This way you are safer and your Holi experience will be a lot more enjoyable with some new friends to share it with.
If you are a breakfast person, there are some great places along Pushkar’s Ghats to get fresh muesli and fresh coffee.
Sipping on a dark roast flavored latte, with fresh home-made bread toasted with Nutella for $2, while watching the morning sun gaze off the Ghat’s water is a great way to start any morning. If those Ghats are good enough for Mahatma Gandhi to request that his ashes be spread across as his final resting place, then it’s good enough for me to spend the start of my day.
Pushkar is one of the oldest cities in India. It is a small city located in Rajasthan and is approximately 400km southwest of New Delhi and can take as little as 5 hours to as long as 10 hours to get to by bus.
Transport in India is always an adventure so plan a little extra time between destinations. Pushkar also has a lot of great western restaurants, cafes, and plenty of affordable accommodations. It is recommended to reserve during the week of Holi.
Life can be full of surprises, so maybe if something or someone is guiding you off you travel path to give it a try. It may become the highlight of your adventure.