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Depending on who you talk to, Holi is either a spectacular celebration of subcontinental heritage or a day to get baked out of your head and grope any woman that comes within reach. It’s actually both.

HOLI, THE FESTIVAL of colors, is celebrated at the end of winter throughout India, Sri Lanka and Nepal. Though the most well-known festivities are held by Hindus, Holi is sometimes observed in Sikh and Buddhist communities as well. Holi is generally celebrated on the full moon of the twelfth lunar month, but it lasts up to two weeks in some areas of India (such as Bihar).

The night before Holi (Holika Dahan), giant bonfires are lit to commemorate Prahlada and symbolize the letting go of last year’s troubles. The next day people roam the streets dumping colored powder and water on each other, often chugging diluted vodka from water bottles and eating balls of hash.

Women generally stay far away from the colorful packs of disinhibited, sexually repressed young men, except in Barsana where tradition dictates that they beat them with sticks.

Darjeeling isn’t a popular destination for Holi, but it happens here just the same. Colored water is frowned upon because of the late-winter Himalayan chill, but enormous amounts of powder make up for it. (Just don’t eat it – the red stuff probably has mercury in it).

Photo EssayHinduism


About The Author

Ross Tabak

Ross Tabak is a freelance writer and photographer based in Southeast Asia. He runs the adventure blog We're Lost and Everything is Dirty.

  • Alaina

    Awesome photos! I especially love the pictures of the animals, and the captions are so appropriate. Excellent photo essay.

  • JoAnna

    These are beautiful photos! I especially like #9.

  • Dona

    Ditto on photo #9. I played Holi in Mumbai a few years back, and it is still one of my best memories of India. Thanks for bringing a taste of the celebration to us!

  • travellingrants

    Though i am agree that Holi has got some other meaning like you have mentioned in the very first words of your post but must say this festival of colors is a festival which has a message of love

  • Muktashukla


  • Travelwithkate

    I loved learning this detail about Holi in its places of origin.  Here is a video I took, celebrating Holi with immigrants from India in New York City. It was great fun – and there was no groping. I definitely felt the love.

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