The Indian festival of Holi by Grace Thomas, year 1 BA Photography

During our trip to India, we were fortunate enough to be able to enjoy the festivities of Holi festival. Holi festival is an annual Hindu festival celebrated on the day after the full moon in the Hindu month of Phalguna (early March). It celebrates spring, commemorates various events in Hindu mythology and is time of disregarding social norms and indulging in general merrymaking. During Holi, Hindus attend a public bonfire, spray friends and family with coloured powders and water, and generally go a bit wild in the streets. The central ritual of Holi is the throwing and applying of coloured water and powders on friends and family, which gives the holiday its common name “Festival of Colors.”

On the morning of Holi, we were in Jaipur, the capital of India’s Rajasthan state. We were told that Holi celebrations in Jaipur were not as big as other places, and that it can be rather dangerous for tourists, so we didn’t leave the hotel that morning with the intent on doing anything special for Holi. Upon leaving the lobby however, we were met with some auto rickshaw (‘tuk tuk’) drivers that we had encountered a few nights previously. They insisted on us joining them for a Holi party and it seemed that they had also gathered another small group of travellers to join the event. We were sceptical at first but we thought why not take a chance, it seemed a shame to waste an opportunity to celebrate Holi in a little more controlled environment. One driver took us to his home which was not more than walking distance from the hotel we were at, where we were met by a large group of women and children who he introduced as his family. Each person took it in turns to smudge colourful powders on our faces whilst wishing us a “Happy Holi!” It wasn’t long before we got hold of some powder ourselves and joined in the fun.

After a short while at this particular house, we joined the other travellers at another house, where the festivities soon got a little wilder, paint, water and ink being cascaded through the air. There was no way anyone was leaving the party anything less than completely and utterly stained with colour. There was music and dancing and good food, it was a very joyful and crazy experience. One of the only downfalls was that we all emerged after our showers, still completely stained with ink! I would advise anyone taking part in this festival for the first time to cover themselves in oil before taking part, you’ll thank me later.

The photo opportunities during this mad festival were obviously abundant. The show of colours and ecstatic expressions provided some excellent portraiture shots. I got some lovely photographs of a little girl having a colourful water fight with her brother, and some good shots of the food we were offered. Its hard to talk about all the photographs we took because, being photography students, there were so many! I’m sure however that we each captured the experience in our own unique style and from our own point of view.

Holi festival was like nothing I had ever experienced before, and I’m sure everyone else would feel the same. It made the trip that extra bit special and gave us all a great story to tell. It was a crazy and un expected experience that I’m sure none of us will forget, and hopefully we’ll be able to experience again one day.

photos by Grace Thomas

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