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Holi in Vrindavan – The Tenacious Travelers

Location: Holi, India, Asia

March 3, 2018

Leaving Delhi, we caught a train to Vrindavan, which is Lord Krishna’s birthplace and therefore the most auspicious place to celebrate Holi – and the most fun. Throughout India Holi is celebrated to mark the beginning of spring, when everyone takes the day off to “play Holi” – aka throw coloured chalk and water at one-another. The festival honours Krishna, good of love, commemorating when he once played with his consort, Radha, at the coming of spring in Vrindavan. Here, the celebrations last over a week, with the famous Banke Bihari temple being the epicentre of celebration.

It is believed by playing Holi at Banke Biharii you are playing with the spirit of Krishna himself. We arrived the day before Holi, and celebrations at the temple were in full swing. Prepared in white clothes we knew we would have to discard later, we got a tuk-tuk to the festival and we’re instantly initiated with colour the moment we left it. Everyone around us was in full celebration mode, and we could walk 5 feet without “happy Holi” being yelled and colour being rubbed (or thrown) on our faces.

We walked up the old narrow stone streets towards the temple alongside other festival goers. When we arrived, we pushed our way into the temple courtyard (from the outside the temple was much less grand than I imagined, if not for the crowd of people we would have missed it entirely) and tried to enter the temple. The atmosphere was elated and contagious but highly confusing – we pushed with the crowd towards the door and then denied entry. We eventually figured out we had to deposit our shoes at a hole in the wall to the right of the entrance. We (reluctantly, the ground was covered in paint, water and who knows what else) deposited our shoes and re-joined the pushing and shoving crowd that was slowly surging inside the temple.

As we entered the temple, the crowd got thicker, the noise louder, the energy more intense. Coloured dust floated through the air, and chants from the worshippers drowned out all other sounds. In an ocean of people, we were moved forward into the main temple area. The temple looked pinkish red, and coloured clouds constantly burst from every direction. Wonderfully high ceilings were above us, and in front was a small stage where the priests threw holy water, colour and blessings. The surge to get to the front was immense (and as a smaller female, risky), so we moved to the side to watch for a short time before going the current of people that moved us out the opposite door of the temple. We went through one more time before leaving to explore the streets of Vrindavan and other temples, joining alongside groups of chanting pilgrims and devious youths who made it their mission to make us as colourful as possible.

The next day was Holi, and though the temple was just as lively, today the whole down shut down, and anyone who didn’t want to be coloured could not leave their home. We once again took off to Buaki Bihari, though today we carried an added complication: my camera. Originally, I wasn’t planning on risking my camera by taking photos, but the scene from the previous day was too spectacular to not capture. Cam helped me devise a protective casing comprising of several plastic bags and duct tape, which I carried inside the rain cover from my camera bag. Entering the temple, it took a bride of 5000 rupees ($10) to gain access to the balcony I had seen the day before, where I could look down on the celebrations below and keep my camera in relative safety. Though the dust in the air still made using the camera risky, the pictures I was able to get were well worth capturing this once in a lifetime experience.

By the end of the day, things had settled down, though the celebration would continue for another 3-4 days before fully petering out. Our Holi was over though. Fully exhausted, we began the almost impossible task of getting out off our no longer white clothes and (largely unsuccessfully) scrubbing the paint off our bodies. Now and then I still see a trace of pink inside Cam’s ears…

*A few days later I noticed some dust in the viewfinder of my camera. Not knowing whether it had made its way into the lens or censor, we took it in to the Canon Service Centre in Mumbai, who gave it a good cleaning and (thankfully) confirmed its good health!


Categories: Asia, India

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