One of the reasons I wanted to visit India was the colours and its rich architecture vocabulary and off course it’s literature about Mahabaratha and Ramayana. To make the visit more colourful, I decided to go there during the Holi festival, the origin of the festival of colour which is now happening around the world. As I did some research I found out that only “On The Go Tours” covered the Holi Festival, which was a surprise to me. Anyway the good thing was that they also added other places to visit in India and part of that was seeing the Taj Mahal… can’t be bad.
As a photographer wannabee, and also a Seasoned Traveler, the photograph above was taken by Arindam Mukherjee which is the type of picture that I wanted to take in India for the Holi festival. To experience the festival and to feel the atmosphere and the vibrancy of the locals who celebrated it.
Holi Festival is a Hindu festival celebrating the coming of spring, especially in the Northern part of India and Nepal, but today, it also celebrated in the South of India within the Hindu community. It’s only in recent years that the festival also became popular around the world. The story behind the festival goes back over a few centuries before Christ, the idea was myth said that Hiranyakashipu, the king of demons, and had received the boon of immortality from Lord Brahma. As his power and arrogance grew, he began objecting to people’s belief in the divine power and demanded that they worship him instead; however, his son, Prahlad was a devotee of Lord Vishnu. Hiranyakashipu demanded on punishing Prahlad but he was immune to it. Holika – Prahlada’s evil aunt – tricked him into sitting on a pyre with her. Holika was wearing a cloak that made her immune to injury from the fire, while Prahlada was not. As the fire roared, the cloak flew from Holika and encased Prahlada. Holika burned, Prahlada survived. That is why today, Holi festival started with a bonfire, a reminder of the symbolic victory of good over evil, and the next day, a family breakfast starts off the Holi activity… with the Holi festival officially started the people go crazy like the photo above.
I believed that India was a civilized country, which means to go there, even for a first timer one should be safe enough without going with a tour like On The Go Tour, especially when that person is like me, able to speak a bit of English and has been traveling for sometime. However, I decided to join a tour because it gave me access to the festival easier and also could give some security in case I got carried away with the masses. I guess with this tour we managed to see and “witness” the Holi as a foreigner instead of being really part of the ritual. Maybe I was lucky enough that the neighborhood of our hotel in Jaipur were celebrating the start of the Holi with a bonfire, and the dishing out some sweets to symbolically start of Holi.
What I was disappointed with was that we didn’t join the locals to celebrate the festival right there and then as we had to be on the road to Barathpur, another town around 5 hours drive out of Jaipur. According to our guide, we would join a celebration in a resort hotel in Barathpur….???? and along the way we would stop several time to have a “smoke break” and maybe see the locals celebrating Holi. Well it turned out that yes, we saw a small Holi celebration of villagers from the highway…. which was really nothing.
Yes, we stopped several time to get some fresh air as we started to celebrate Holi on the bus between ourselves, throwing the coloured powder inside the bus, not to mention that we started our “morning drinks” with rum and Kingfisher beer as early as 8 o clock in the morning…. just to get us in the mood.
Once we arrived at the “Resort Hotel” in Barathpur, we were greeted by the hotel staff and they politely put the coloured powder on parts of our already soiled faces from the madness in the bus. As we were already in the zone… did we need this polite gesture?? obviously not, as we just got madder and wilder, as more and more other Holi tourists joined in as well as the Indian band beating the music hard….
Really to me this was more like a hippie party for the young compared to a cultural/traditional festival…. I think we could have this kind of party anywhere in the world, not necessarily in India/Rajashtan/Barathpur.
Did I enjoy the party? I think so… Was I disappointed? Did I miss the original, and mystical atmosphere? Did I get the pictures that I wanted? the answer to that is: Yes, yes, and yes….. To me this look a like hippie party, which my husband and I are not, and maybe we were pasted this kind of party, as the rest of the tour members were in their thirties, half my age. It’s an overrated tour that misguided us from the real ritual of the festival.
Well, I think I should not criticize this tour too much as by the end of the day, it was my decision to join the tour. I should have done more research and looked around of what other kinds of tours were available covering this kind of festival the original and grass-roots type, instead of only being among the tourists….