Our very first day in Nepal was filled with colours, smiles and blessings. Holi - Festival of Colours is an event not to be missed!
Before going to Nepal, one of the images that were constantly in our heads was the coloured faces in Holi Festival. We definitely have to be there!
What we knew beforehand was that Holi Festival or Fagu Purnima is a celebration of the win of good over evil and that it also celebrates the coming of spring. People throw colours at each other, be prepared for water, loud partying and to see quite some ecstatic people on bhang (cannabis).
So, we made sure that we booked our flights to coincide exactly with the day before Holi…and this is where our whole Nepali plan already started to show its true nature. True that Holi was going to be the day after, but this was in the Terai Region and not in Kathmandu. So, better still, Holi festival started about half an hour from our arrival at the Hotel situated at the heart of Thamel (the tourist centre). Our hotel representative, with a gleam in his eye asked “So, are you going to play Holi?!” “Of course!” was the answer, though shaky on the inside, still jetlagged and arriving in a totally new country for us. So we changed to the clothes we brought with us on purpose (we’ll get to this later) and left our big camera behind. Leaving our camera behind was a hairy decision, we knew there were loads of amazing images to capture, but we chose experience over images. We wanted to experience every second of Holi without worrying about expensive gear. So, we hit the streets, and what an experience it was.
As soon as we set foot outside the hotel, we could hear the music and happy voices in the air and it was not a big feat to turn round the corner and find the first of many makeshift parties that clog the streets of Kathmandu in Holi. Everyone had small plastic packets filled with different colours in their hands and we needed to get our hands dirty too; we needed colours, otherwise what’s the point? So, we entered our first bargaining discussion. The lady asked for two packets of colour @ NPR 100, and we bargained for four packets @ NPR100. We felt triumphant until we read from the look on her face as we closed the deal, that she had made very good profit! Well, it’s a start and we'd like to think that they were very high quality colours, to ease a bit our beginner's bargaining skills!
At first, we stood a bit afar, holding colour in our hands like idiots but not really sure what we’re going to do with them. Then as a few minutes went by, people started coming to us and gently smearing our faces and chanting "Happy Holi", so we started doing the same and the awkward initial moments vanished as we walked the streets blessing people with “Happy Holi” till we were sore in the throat, far away from the hotel without any idea where we were, and literally drenched in colours. The feeling of being welcomed and blessed far outweighed the few rogue high misfits and the ones who slap your face and run away. The streets were clogged with people there were makeshift parties in corners and people dancing to traditional Nepali music.
As the evening wore on, the streets of Kathmandu started getting less crowded, parties died out and a few people who had a drink too much lay at the side of the road till they get enough strength to pull themselves up and head home. It was time for us to head back to the hotel so eventually, and I dare say miraculously, we found our way back, with coloured faces (and shirts, trousers, socks and underwear), still dazed and really happy to be here.
And now to the shirts…yeah, we had bought t-shirts which would take all the colour they could, and we would keep them as a souvenir of the day we played Holi. Yep, our shirts changed colour all right! So we kept them in a bag for a whole month until we were back home. After a month I assumed that colours won’t run, so I washed them with cold water as delicates. Lo and behold the shirts were back to white. So that is the story of the only time I was disappointed that my clothes became clean again