Holi is a spring festival traditionally celebrated in India and Nepal. Holi stands for many things – the victory of good over evil, the arrival of spring, thanksgiving for a good harvest. It is also known as the festival of colours for the coloured powders that are smeared on the celebrants faces and person to signify celebration. You can read more about Holi here.
It is also well documented in Hindi cinema – because Holi gives film makers, good and bad, a great way to integrate colour, fun, festivities and of course the consumption of bhaang into their scripts. There was a time when just about every Bollywood movie had at least one song depicted around Holi. The most famous of them all being this one.
Predominantly a Hindu festival, Holi is now celebrated all over South Asia with religion no longer playing any role whatsoever in the festivities. Celebrated over a two day period, it is virtually impossible to join in without emerging from the experience looking like a psychedelic ghoul. In the cities and towns and villages all over India, young people and old will lie in wait, ready to pounce on passerby. Building societies have Holi parties; event organisers hold special events; as with Christmas, Holi is now a festival that belongs to everyone. And to step out of your home is to announce to the world that you’re fair game.
Personally, I think Holi is but an excuse for friends and family to come together and let their hair down. I for one have never liked this festival, not for its message obviously, but because of how this message is celebrated. Being drenched in water and smeared with colour isn’t my cup of tea. At least now, more and more people are veering towards using eco-friendly colours or just water (not that wasting water is anything to be happy about), but even a couple of years ago stepping out of the house on Holi meant scrubbing your skin raw for days, so you didn’t look like you were recovering from a very bad beating.
That said, Holi is still the most visual of all Indian festivals. A veritable feast of colour and human expression combined with a lowering of inhibition and decorum. A photographer’s dreamscape.
So for the last two years, I have made it a point to step out, camera in hand, a prayer on my lips, to capture these human emotions made larger than life by the riot of colour. I won’t say I escaped being slathered with colour, but it wasn’t as bad with my camera as my cape.
This year Holi will be celebrated on Monday, the 13th of March and until then, here are a few candids from the last two seasons.