Monday, March 17, 2014

Celebrating Holi in New Delhi


A few years ago we got the chance to celebrate the festival of Holi in New Delhi. We were in Delhi for business, so unfortunately we only got a chance to celebrate it on the hotel grounds of The Imperial
The Imperial is a very upscale historic hotel with beautiful rooms and gardens.


We had jet-lag we totally forgot it was Holi, but we realized it when the hotel staff had set up a Holi party in the gardens. It was quite prim and proper for a Holi party - they had white sheets on the ground (so as not to stain the grass), neat little tables set up with perfectly picked flower petals, and organic Holi powder (that didn't stain the skin). They also had some water guns and basic white kurtas that we were to wear so we wouldn't stain our clothes.

The hotel staff put on some music and were awkwardly standing there, waiting for the guests to come and celebrate Holi. The guests were sitting eating their breakfasts and speculating as to what the strange display was.

I had never celebrated Holi before but I knew what it was from watching Bollywood films. Also one of my favorite scenes from the pardesi film Outsourced celebrated Holi. So, knowing what Holi was and the dhoom dhakka in which it was celebrated, I was determined to get the party started....

My mother and I put on our white kurtas and started throwing powders at each other, and chasing each other with the water guns. Soon after, one by one, all the foreigners joined in and made it a big party. It was so much fun to see everyone letting loose!
(We got the party started!)

After it was all over, the hotel staff came up to us and thanked us for celebrating it with "such a jolly spirit". They said they loved seeing us celebrate Holi, Indian-style!

(Throwing petals with another mum-daughter guests)

(Chasing each other)

If it would have been outside the hotel, it would have been celebrated much more wilder, and with brighter colors. It is celebrated greatly up North, more than it is down South. Holi marks the first day of Spring, and it is also a religious festival that celebrates the love of the mischievous God Krishna and his gopi's. The festival is very fun, and light-hearted - and you are meant to throw colors on anyone and everyone. Celebrating Holi is also a great way to rejoice the end of Winter - hallelujah!


(Mum and me)

Holi scene from 'Outsourced'



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Dear readers, How did you celebrate Holi?

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29 comments

  1. Happy Holi Alex!

    Wow, you and your Mom really got the party started at hotel! Such a posh event, love the flower petals. Looks like a lot of fun, what a great way of celebrating the Spring. I did not know the color stains clothes. The organic powder is a good idea. How much fun.

    Melissa

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    Replies
    1. OMG my mum is a party animal....you should have seen her at my wedding ;)

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  2. Your photos are great! Everyone goes crazy in Delhi, looks like you got too join in it too. Happy Holi

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    Replies
    1. Thanks, yes it was so much fun! Glad to be at the epicentre of the Holi PARTAY!

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  3. Happy Holi,

    My first Holi in India was to much fun. Playing with waterguns and the colours. Making sure that all driving by get at least a bit of water and colour to share. We did not have flour petals. Kids in the neighbourhood had eggs and tomatoes in stead.
    In short, it was amazing, cannot wait for next year. Will be using then the organic powder for sure.
    Sarah

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    Replies
    1. Happy Holi! One never forgets their first Holi....I feel like it should be celebrated worldwide

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  4. @Alexandra

    In Barsana, the neighbouring village of Braj, where Krisna grew up, Holi is celebrated in a strange way. The men of Braj visit Barsana and the women of Barsana greet them with sticks. They literally beat the men with sticks. The men protect themselves with bamboo shields and turbans. This way the the women release their pent up frustations of the whole year. Women power in all its glory I suppose. It is called laat maar holi (Holi by hitting with sticks).

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lath_mar_Holi

    The real holi is celebrated in the krishan temple at matura with flowers, songs, dance and colours. It is more of devotion and about spirituality. Holi has a culture which we have forgoton in the cities. Now, it is all about hooliganism.

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    Replies
    1. That is so funny! It is a wonder to me in India how one festival can be celebrated tons of different ways...
      I wonder do the men get hurt? Or is it just for fun?

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    2. @Alexandra

      The men get hurt but they are happy about it. It is actually amusing to see the women with their faces covered out of modesty merrily raining blows on the men and the mighty men trying to protect them. Men take the blows it as a prasad of religious offerings. They have to endure these beatings because krishna played a prank.

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  5. The organic colors are thankfully becoming more and more common, and I much prefer them because they are still bright and fun to use but do not leave ugly blotches on your skin. This year almost everybody in our building had these non staining cosmetic grade powder, until one auntie brought a huge bag of purple one that ended up leaving stains on everybody. Thankfully it wasn't too hard to remove and the purple blotches were kept to a minimum, but yup this morning you can see a lot of people in the street still sporting some colour on their skin :) we do the water guns and powder in our building, no more rain dances the area because of water preservation awareness which I salute.

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    Replies
    1. LOVE the organic colors....they didn't sting, washed off fast....it was such a great idea!

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  6. Replies
    1. Thanks Sheryl! Hubby took these ones :)

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  7. The organic colors are so beautiful! My first Holi was in New Delhi too. I had just moved there not two weeks prior, and a college friend had me over to his house to celebrate since everyone else was telling me "DONT GO OUT" - he said that was ridiculous and I should enjoy Holi like everyone else does.

    We bought gulal from someone selling in his colony, and water balloons too, then came back to his house and played Holi with his parents and a few neighbors. From time to time people would come over and we'd put more colors on them, and they on us. Once the flow of guests stopped some, my friend and I took our game to the balcony, where we filled up balloons with colored water and threw them on the kids below. They were having fun but we got in trouble for it from their parents since they had board exams the next day ... but what to do in that situation? "Buro na mano, Holi hai!" :) The festivities were over by noon, and we got cleaned up and spent the rest of the day making mix CDs and eating too many gujiyas.

    I didn't make any gujiyas or celebrate at all this year :( Too many other things going on, plus the weather wasn't conducive. Maybe next year...

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    1. OMG How amazing.....I loved your description! I'm so glad you celebrated to the greatest degree! I loved the festival, it was just so merry....especially in Delhi!
      Weather was awful this year here in Pacific NorthWest...bleh..

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    2. @Alexandra

      Holi comes in March which is the time when all schools have exams. The students are torn between the desire to play holi and the risk of getting sick due to drenching in water. Our parents always told us play holi carefully. The flowers are in full bloom as it is spring time and the air is filled with fragnance. The students hardly have the time to enjoy the whether because they are busy studying. It is only when we were done with our academics, we started enjoying holi.

      Holi is about lossing inhibitions and bringing out the child in oneself. It is a festival of happiness. However, certain unsavoury elements harass women due to which women are scared of this festival.

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    3. @anonymous - I had heard of the news story where the hostel had locked up the girls on Holi in Punjab, so crazy...

      http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/chandigarh/Punjabi-University-locks-girls-in-hostels-to-prevent-nuisance-on-Holi/articleshow/32257722.cms

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    4. @Alexandra

      It is true. Days before holi, women are harrassed. Holi is not a pleasant festival for women. It is due to the seggeration of sexes in India. Men and women have little opportunity of interacting with each other early in life. This leads to lot of confusion, fear and perversion. This is the at the base of sexual harrassement in India. When water flows it remains fresh but stagnant water is full of dirt and germs. We in our infinite wisdom have created a giant cess pool of sexual frustation in India. The day men and women start interacting freely, more than half of our problems would be solved.

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    5. @Alexandra

      Holi is not one day festival but a two day festival. The everning before holi a bonfire is lit. This is called Holika Dahan (buring of Holika)

      http://www.holifestival.org/legend-holika-prahlad.html

      The second day is "Dhulendi" the day on which colourful holi takes place.

      holi at banki bihari temple, vrindavan

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mr55nNnX0mQ


      Laat mar holi

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EBhSDrk-Hco


      Holi played with flowers

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VMp5EpZIb90

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    6. @anonymous - that is a really interesting comment. I was thinking the exact same thing when I was reading that article - why should they separate the sexes? If there is an issue of harassment then why not speak to the kids about how to behave appropriately with one another? Letting boys and girls socialize does not turn into one big orgy! I had a lot of thoughts about the article, I was almost going to write a post on it - but I was taking care of my father so I did not have time.
      I really think men and women need to interact more in India, there is so much fear and sexuality being concerned when members of the opposite sex even speak together! I cannot even say hello or look a man in the eyes in India or in an Indian community abroad without "appearing forward" and I hate that. Like, it's not all about sexuality! When I was in high school, all my good friends were boys and there was no romantic relationships at all, just nice friendships.

      Thank you for the links. Loved the Laat mar holi video, so lovely!

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  8. Happy Holi... Your post reminded me about my school days when I used to wait for that day... holi kab ayega (when is holi going to come). Life is mix of all colors and to me Holi is the mix of all feelings, which enlightens the colors of our life! Enjoy and let others enjoy.

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  9. Boo DGCA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/travel/article-2585089/SpiceJet-pilots-suspended-video-crews-mid-air-Holi-dance-routine-goes-viral.html

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  10. I have to ask, is you hair naturally black?
    Murthy and I celebrated Holi last year, but didn't get the chance this year. We couldn't find any holi powder that wasn't super expensive on amazon, so I got the great idea of getting those huge sidewalk chalks and crushing them up myself. It took a few hours, but we got all the chalk crushed up into an irritating powder. It was pretty fun, throwing it all over each other, but the chalk liked to get into our eyes. That wasn't very pleasant. I can't wait to someday celebrate it in India.

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    Replies
    1. My natural hair is medium to dark brown depending on the season....usually brighter in the Summer. At that time in the pictures I was dying it extremely dark brown. My grandmother had pitch black hair, as well as my dad and my aunt, so it feels familiar to me!
      That is a great idea to get the sidewalk chalk! I would have never thought of that....too bad though it stung the eyes :(
      Delhi is the perfect place to celebrate Holi.....my hubby says he never celebrated it in Hyderabad. More of a Northern thing I guess.

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    2. My hair is the same, neutral brown color. I used to die it really dark brown when I met Murthy, but got sick of dying it and am now in that awkward in between stage where I still have to die my hair my natural color because they had to bleach the dye out. Murthy doesn't like it.. He wants it to go back to black. He said he'd die if I went blond because, quote, "you're already too white" ;P Do you call your husband by his first name (to him)? I know you're not supposed to call by first names, but I think it would be hard to switch to calling Murthy anything but Murthy because I'm used to it.

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    3. @plaid - Yes, I have the same problem, if I want to die it back to a medium brown then I will have to bleach it and I don't want to....too much fuss...so I just leave it.
      Hubby's name is Madhavan but I only call him "Maddy"....I only call him husband-ji on the blog, in jest, because it sounds so proper ;)

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    4. Those comments were both me. ;) I was on Murthy ' s computer before (his first name Is Surya) and forgot to log into my account. Sorry for the confusion.

      Delete

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