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Holi Rainbows

March is certainly when flowers start to bloom in many areas of the world, springtime is clearly present, but no bigger celebration of color takes place than in India where Hindu devotees throw colorful powder at each other to celebrate the spring and “Festival of Colors” – the Lathmar Holi Festival.

Holi is a two day festival that also celebrates the victory of good over evil, as well as the abundance of the spring harvest season. People exuberantly throw the colored powders and water all over each other, have parties, and dance under water sprinklers. Bhang (a paste made from cannabis plants) is also traditionally consumed during the celebrations. Holi is a very carefree festival that’s great fun to participate in if you don’t mind getting wet and dirty.

Thousands flock to a small village called Nandgaon, in the Northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, to celebrate. Brightly coloured dyes and millions of flower petals are showed onto and on everyone. Men serenade women with songs to gain attention, women respond by teasing them back ‘tapping’ them with bamboo sticks called ‘lathis’. Festival of Colors demonstrates love, fun and equality, its participants believe, that even the gods descend to witness.

Hindu’s believe that the Lord Krishna visited his principle consort and friend, Radha, in this village on this day and playfully teased her and her friends. Men dress in traditional style and take on the role of gops (friends of Krishna), while women play gopis (friends of Radha). The women begin preparing months in advance, eating rich food so that they show off their prowess on the Holi battle zone.

Hindu deity Krishna, who was dark in skin color, was jealous of the fair-skinned Radha and after bothering his mother so much she finally told him he could change Radha’s skin by sprinkling her with colors. Krishna and friends visited Radha and her cowherd girls on this day and teased her by throwing colours at her. She and the girls responded by chasing them away with the sticks, called lathis, and so the tradition began.

Travelers who have experienced this festival claim it is something to add to your bucket list, worth the experience if you are game for the messy nature of the scene. Aside from your flights, staying in the area is relativity inexpensive and easy to find great boutique hotels or families to host, but it is strongly suggested to hire a guide to take you to the lesser known places.

The day after the full moon in March each year is when the festival kicks off. This year Holi was celebrated on Wednesday, March 27. It will happen a day earlier in parts of eastern India, such as West Bengal.

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Posted on: March 26, 2013