Happy Holi

It’s the Holi Festival — day 2, the day when people throw paint at one another. Before getting into the action I stood on the balcony to see what I was in for. It seemed pretty mellow and that people only aim for the face. I bought a t-shirt and bandanna, especially for the occasion. I have heard that kids are patrolling the streets with water guns full of paint.

The first walk through the village was uneventful; Inga and I let the guys run ahead and chase kids through the street. But when they reached the end they turned back and we had paint poured over out heads and thrown at our clothes. By the time we made it to the restaurant, we were a mess from head to toe (and all the others at the restaurant looked so clean!).

People were dancing in the streets; a van would pull up, people would jump out, throw tikka in the air, yell Holi Holi, and then dance for a while. Then they would hop back into the van and drive off. It was like everyone had lost their sanity. The Holi colour ritual goes like this: a friend comes over and puts tikka on your face, you put some on their face, hug, and say Happy Holi.

After a while, I noticed there were no women partaking in the festivities. So, I asked one of the locals why this was. The women celebrate separately at home by putting powder on their faces and baking sweets to give to everyone. I heard a different story from a different local who said in some places it can get so violent that the women fear for their lives, especially in the big cities. It’s advised that westerners stay inside on this day in the big cities because they can be targeted by large groups of boys.

Speaking of targeting, Sorne from Denmark was suspiciously absent from the festivities. So, we headed up to the palace/dorm where he was staying and dragged him out. He was hiding because he didn’t want to get covered in paint. Lame. We tikka’d him right away and helped him get over his fear of paint. On the way back to the restaurant he was hit by paint by several locals — probably because he looked too clean.

By noon we were all covered from head to toe with paint and were quite hyper. At this precise moment two very clean, very white tour buses passed; full meal deal tour buses with air conditioning, tinted windows, and a full load of spic and span tourists. They were on their way to the Sheesh Mahal Palace for lunch.

It was at this very moment that we all decided to go to the palace for lunch too. Up the hill, we trod like a bunch of painted, dirty, odd-looking westerners. We looked a heck of a lot like a freaky band of punk rockers heading to a festival.

As we walked into the palace it became deathly quiet and out came the video cameras. I’m sure none of the spic and span tourists could believe we were allowed in! The palace staff were excited that we came by for lunch and all rushed over with Tikka and started yelling, “Happy Holi!” We continued to have fun and laugh hysterically whenever someone tried to leave the palace but were tikka’d at the door. One woman even started to scream.

Later in the afternoon, after lunch, we headed back to our rooms to get away from the festivities and wait for the chaos to end. One group of “van boys” got particularly rough after we told them we wanted to rest instead of dance. Most of us were tired after all the dancing and paint throwing and just wanted to sit and have tea. But the group surrounded us while we were sitting and started throwing paint into our chai and into our faces. Then they grabbed people who were sitting and tried to pull them away. At this point, the police came over and asked the boys to leave Orchha. They got in their van and drove off.

Once all was said and done, we all sat atop our hotel and enjoyed the peace. Basel from Australia took this opportunity to pull out his didgeridoo and play for us while the sunset. This created a magical end to a very interesting and energetic day.

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