India's Holi Festival – a colourful water fight gone wild

2 December 2016

India's Holi Festival a colourful water fight gone wild

Experiencing India's Holi Festival is like being in a tumble dryer with a rainbow. It's jostling madness, crazy colours and one of India's biggest parties – and in a country with 1.3 billion people, that's really saying something.

Joining the Holi Festival is not something you take on lightly. It's a commitment to really join in, to run, laugh, throw colours, spray water and get absolutely, utterly filthy.

I've heard of Holi, but what is it, again?

Holi is a Hindu spring time festival celebrated in India. It's generally known as the festival of colours or the festival of sharing love. As you can tell from the name, the vibe is up-beat, happy, warm and fun. It goes for two days in late February or early March, depending on the moon.

Michael Robertson is a Product Manager for My Adventure Travel and one of the perks of his job is travel – in 2016 he joined our 8-day Holi Festival tour of India. We spoke to Michael about his experience:

“The most exciting thing about it is the array of colours that you experience. The whole process is that you go out and buy powder in all the different colours so that you can have a colour fight with the locals and the people in your group,” says Michael.

It's this colour fight that makes Holi such a fun celebration to join. It's physical fun, rough and tumble with the locals, throwing colours, spraying water and generally getting filthy and exhausted. It's like reverting to a childhood water fight but on a massive scale. Everyone is out celebrating.

So, how does the colour fight work?

On My Adventure Travel's Holi Festival tour, Michael joined in the colour fight with the local tour leader and his family and friends. Michael explains:

“Your guide takes you out to the street markets and local stores to buy the colour. Then you come back and put your traditional white outfit on and get prepared to have the colour festival. I thought it was a great little outfit and that I'd take it home with me, but after having the colour fight it was not even worth saving. Completely trashed. You literally have colour from head to toe and in every place that you couldn't even imagine. It is an absolutely amazing experience.”

“You have water pistols and buckets of water to throw – that's how all the colour kind of reacts and makes you filthy dirty. After all of that you have a traditional vegetarian feast that is prepared by the leader's family. You're completely knackered and you sit down together and talk about all the experiences that you shared through the day.

“You definitely take a piece of colour back with you to Australia. I think it was three days after the colour festival when I came home and I still had a bit of colour on me. But I will remember that experience til the day I die.”

What's the background to Holi? Why the crazy colours?

Holi celebrates a legend from the Hindu tradition about the victory of good over evil. The story is of the struggle between a king who thought that he should be worshipped as a god and his son who remained loyal to Lord Vishnu. It culminates in the king's evil sister, Holika, burning on a fire and Vishnu killing the evil king. The next day, people use the ash from the fire to mark their foreheads to celebrate the victory of good over evil.

Beyond the legend, the festival has multiple meanings. There is another story of Radha's love of Krishna (the blue-skinned god), where Radha's face was painted with colours to show her love for Krishna. The festival is also a celebration of this love. It also marks the end of winter, the start of the new spring and new agriculture, it's a time of forgiving and forgetting, renewing old relationships and moving on from past errors. For the locals, it's a celebration rich with layers of meaning.

Is Holi just the colour fight?

The whole country is caught up in the build-up to Holi.

“There is colour for sale on every corner store, it is everywhere, you can't escape it. The hype – people are really hyped up and looking forward to it. There is that amazing atmosphere when you travel through villages and towns, you can feel the locals are getting amped up for this once a year event,” says Michael.

Holi is actually a two-day celebration. Holika Dahan, the first day, involves gathering around a fire with family and friends and singing, dancing and sharing stories. Michael explains what happens on the tour:

“After dinner you sit with the family around the fire and they tell you the stories of good and evil that are the background of Holi. And you talk about the Holi experience that you're going to have the next day.”

The next day is a celebration of all the things Holi represents. By marking yourself and others with colourful powders you celebrate the time of spring, of good, of love and family. There's throwing powders, spraying with water guns, heaving a bucket of water on an unsuspecting friend and watching the colour powders soak, blend and drip. After the colour celebrations, it is time to clean up, wash, change clothes and join with family and friends to share food and stories.

How do I join the Holi Festival?

My Adventure Travel is operating an exclusive Holi tour in March 2017. The tour explores the highlights of

India – you'll visit Delhi, the Taj Mahal, the Amber Fort, Fatepur Sikri, stay in a palace in Karauli and explore the beautiful Palace of the Winds. The highlight will be staying in the pink city of Jaipur and joining in the two days of Holi celebrations with your local leader and his family and friends.

Travel in India is a fascinating experience. Even the train rides can be brilliant:

“The local train from Delhi to Jaipur was also a great highlight. It's like a local right of passage. You experience the train with the locals, you never know who you're going to meet on the train. It was an amazing journey. We played cards with the locals, ate food, we had a sleeper cabin which is nothing flash but gives you insight into how the Indian people get around,” says Michael.

We asked Michael to sum up the Holi experience for us

“It was just magnificent. The brightness, the colour, there's loud music playing, there's water, it's such a fun and unique experience, it's just phenomenal, I can't explain it any more than that.”

Click here for more details or call 1300 020 996 for more information!