holi moley!

Almost three weeks ago was the celebration of Holi in Nepal.  Holi is a religious festival in the spring, where on the main day people throw colored powder and water on each other as a sort of game.  Along with this, there are also people on rooftops and decks pouring buckets of water on passersby and children hiding behind gates launching (homemade) water balloons at you.  The whole day is about everyone having fun and there is very little traffic (many things are closed as it is a national holiday), so there are people “playing” Holi everywhere.  I believe this festival is usually on or around the full moon.  In Nepal this year, it was on the day of the full moon (extra craziness!).

Here’s a description of Holi in Nepal from wikipedia:

“In Nepal, Holi is regarded as one of the greatest festivals, as important as Dashain (also known as Dussehra in India) and Tihar or Dipawali (also known asDiwali in India). Since more than 80% of people in Nepal are Hindus, Holi, along with many other Hindu festivals, is celebrated in Nepal as a national festival and almost everyone celebrates it regardless of their religion, e.g., even Muslims celebrate it. Christians may also join in, although since Holi falls during Lent, many would not join in the festivities. The day of Holi is also a national holiday in Nepal.

People walk down their neighbourhoods to celebrate Holi by exchanging colours and spraying coloured water on one another. A popular activity is the throwing of water balloons at one another, sometimes called lola (meaning water balloon). Also a lot of people mix bhang in their drinks and food, as also done during Shivaratri. It is believed that the combination of different colours played at this festival take all the sorrow away and make life itself more colourful.:

Chris and I headed out from my apartment in Lazimpat with no particular plan in mind (other than that we were going to end up at the movie theater to watch the new Nepalese film, Sick City).  As soon as we walk into the courtyard of my building, the didis of my building got us: a giant bucket of red water was poured on us from the roof as we exited the compound.  As we walked down the alley that is my street we were bombarded with little kids throwing their homemade water balloons at us.  It usually went something like this: giggling coming from somewhere in the vicinity, child runs up within close range, pelts a water balloon at one of us, and immediately runs off to hide.  Even some adults were doing this.  My street was pretty tame with the color, until we got to the end when a group of teenage boys came up and put some colored powder on our faces and even a hand print on my back.

the first bit of color
the hand print!

We decided to walk through Thamel and down through Durbar Square on our way to the movie theater.  In Thamel there was extra craziness.  It was all local teenage boys (got some complaints about their actions, but that’s for another time) and tourists throwing color and approaching people and putting handprints of colored powder on each others’ faces.  This was where the color really started to come out.

Chris getting his first big covering of color

We stopped for breakfast at the Yak Restaurant, and right outside there were people on the rooftops dumping buckets and bowls and anything they could find filled with water on the passersby (mind you, most of these people were local women, who didn’t want to be a part of the “on ground” action).  It was quite entertaining watching everyone go by and get dumped on; lost a bit of its  novelty when we had to exit.

women on the roof dumping water

From Thamel we proceeded to Durbar Square and by the time we got there we were both completely covered in color.  We thought that Durbar Square was going to be even crazier.  In some ways it was, and in some ways it was a welcome calm.  There were tons of people everywhere with singers performing.  However, because of the presence of guards and police, there wasn’t any random crazy color fighting going on.  You could actually stand around in peace.  Which, by this time, I was glad to have a little bit of.

the end of the crazy color fighting
the crowd in Durbar Square

After Durbar Square we headed on to the movie theater.  This was the weirdest part of the day.  It seems the movie theater is where people went to AVOID Holi.  We were the only people that had any color on us and we got plenty of stares.  Even though we didn’t get to see the movie we wanted to see (turns out we trekked all the way across town to the WRONG theater), it was still a nice way to end the color and water filled walk and day.

We thought the day was over when we headed back to my apartment at dusk and everything seemed to quiet down.  However, when it got dark and the full moon came out, we could hear the sounds of craziness from the streets.  I guess the full moon keeps the party going!

All in all, Holi was a lot of fun.  It was great to participate and see what it was all about and it was really great to see it for inspiration (the colors, the playfulness).

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