I must recommend that anyone contemplating a trip to India consider doing it during the festival of Holi. I happened to get lucky in that I found myself in the foothills of the Himalayas during this special celebration. To be away from the big cities and tucked away in the hill station of Simla, made the experience that much more real, intimate and meaningful. An ancient tradition celebrated nationwide!
In my home country of South Africa, we have recently ‘adopted’ this festival and commercialized it into a dance party, where crowds of caged in youngsters gather to release all stresses, break out the box and loose their inhibitions. To momentarily leapfrog out of the box that western society has created. Yet, the appeal for me about India is that the people have not allowed this box to be created around them…they are already dancing outside the stereotype.
What I experienced in the Indian version of Holi (the real version) was quite superb. I saw an expression of unadulterated happiness and joy, all cumulated from the simple age-old celebration of colour. I felt privileged to watch children run through the streets, playing with water guns and powder; to see brilliant hues and tones splashed about on local clothing. To see three generations sitting together on a wooden bench, faces smeared in vibrant residue.
For me it was incredibly special to see a tradition, which even in this day and age, is practiced and respected by all, regardless of religion, age, race or gender. A more fitting welcome cannot be found, to the arrival of spring, than a gesture of thanks and appreciation for the onslaught of colour. Seeing the camaraderie of passers by, strangers wishing each other ‘happy holi’… all of this is just so enriching for the soul.
It adds yet another layer to the staggering organism that is India. If you are still thinking about whether to go or not, my suggestion is to stop thinking and go…take the plunge, you will love the ride!
I hope you enjoyed this short blog series. I urge you to follow this blog as it grows and develops. You are sure to find fascinating bits and pieces on Indian wildlife, culture and cuisine. Next, I am off to Brazil in search of more Jaguars and other fascinating wildlife. Stay tuned for more wonders on planet earth…
Written and photographed by Adam Bannister