I woke up early Wednesday morning to screams outside the guesthouse in Kathmandu. I got up and went to the window and saw children chasing each other up and down the street with water balloons and coloured powder. Holi was upon us and it was time to venture into the streets with the locals and begin a full day of celebrating Holi in Kathmandu.
What is Holi?
Holi is an annual Hindu festival which falls on the day of the full moon in March. Traditionally the festival marked the beginning of Spring, the water and the bright colours are meant to symbolise the coming of the monsoon rains and the new life that Spring brings. However, on Holi the streets of Kathmandu become a war zone, with an attitude of every man, woman and child for themselves!
We had bought cheap clothes the day before the celebrations in anticipation of the Holi battle royale. Dressed for war, we made our way carefully down the street, paranoid of every noise and movement. Suddenly, three water balloons exploded around me and I looked up to see a family on the rooftop smiling down at me screaming “Happy Holi!”.
We made it to breakfast looking like four chimney sweeps, having had black powder rubbed on our faces by a father and son duo on the street, as well as a few red and blue blotches too. The excitement was building at breakfast and we were all keen to get out and get stuck into celebrating Holi properly.
Full, we made a beeline for central Thamel. Loud Bollywood style music blared out just around the corner; Holi was in full swing. In the centre of the square two men hosed down a group of insanely energetic purple and pink coloured dancing lunatics. Another crowd formed behind them, with men of all ages dancing to the tunes coming from the windows above. There were clouds of coloured paint exploding all around us, both children and adults alike were running up to us to smear powder on our faces and in our hair and water bombs were being fired from every rooftop and balcony in sight, it was amazing!
Nothing could ruin the atmosphere in that square. We went in dancing with the crowd and got covered in every colour imaginable. One of the slightly more deranged in the crowd got quite aggressive in his slapping on of the powder but neither that, nor his gyrating on my leg could break our spirits, everyone was on cloud nine and having a blast!
Hang out with locals
Some time passed and it was time to go back to our guest-house rooftop where we had been promised there was going to be a rooftop Holi party. Ducking and dodging water-bombs and full buckets of water being thrown from buildings in every direction, we made it back. Now, it was our turn to get some payback. The party was the guest-house owner and five or six friends on top of the roof with buckets of water, coloured powder and more tiny plastic bags than we knew what to do with. We excitedly started filling the bags with coloured water and engaged with the surrounding rooftops. There was no one safe and with water bombs coming from every direction you needed to have your wits about you! Some non-expecting new arrivals to quirky Kathmandu were doing everything they could to try to price guest-houses in the area, running from one to another with all their bags trying not to get caught in the crossfire, but few did.
Coloured, cold and tired the celebrations came to an end in the late afternoon. We had been attacked, hugged, danced with, danced on, soaked and painted from every direction possible but we had loved every minute of it. Celebrating Holi in Kathmandu was a success, Happy Holi!!