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Festivals of India: Celebrating Holi in Delhi


Dressed in my Holi best! Old shirt, loose ‘jammies and waterproof slippers

The length and breadth of India is known for being colourful. Hence, Holi or the festival of colours is a fitting way for Indians to welcome the warm weather of the spring, as well as celebrate a good harvest. Despite being a Hindu festival, it’s celebrated across religions and beliefs, standing out as a true cultural event.


Gulaal or organic colour

Holi prayers begin the night before where people pray to a large bonfire, to vanquish their negative thoughts and conquer the evil within. The story, as with most other Indian festivals, stems from a legend where Holika, the sister of demon Hiranyakshipu, was killed in a fire, signifying victory over one’s demons.


Water balloon fight!

In comparison to other metropolitan Indian cities, Delhi loves Holi. A large section of Delhiites celebrate at raucous farm parties or local neighbourhood clubs with colour, water and some other dangerous materials. There’s tons of food, loads of alcohol and hemp served in milk (bhang), consumption of which is socially sanctioned on this holiday.


Bhang ke pakore. Picture courtesy:

Other people prefer a more simple celebration at home. This includes putting organic colours on each other with water; and eating traditional Indian food and mithai (sweets – specifically gujia). Playing at home is a safer option for families with children. I personally prefer enjoying the revelry from the sidelines; rather than running amok with colours, eggs, wet mud, ink, and other dreadful items!


Yummy Gujia sweets made from suji or flour, stuffed with khoya, dessicated coconut and other condiments of choice

As a child, I remember the excitement began days in advance. My brother, Anhad and I would fill water balloons and throw them on passersby and cars from our balcony (yes, we were those brats!). With time, as I realized how tedious it was to remove the colours from one’s body and hair, I shied away from playing.


Post-Holi war-like site!

The only time I’ve consumed bhang was on the first Holi celebrations after my marriage. My husband, Jassa, my parents and I visited an uncle’s farm in Uttar Pradesh. Hemp grows wild in the region, so we cooked them in pakoras or fried batter. Uncontrollable fits of laughter and a deep sleep followed for all us novices!


I’d say Holi is a good look for me 😉

This year, we celebrated at my sister-in-law’s. What was meant to be a low-key celebration with family and close friends, turned into a full-blown colour and water fest with young children spraying the adults, and the adults getting them right back. My 2 year old son had a blast, as he understood the spirit of the festival for the first time. He refused to part with the bucket containing water balloons! We were careful to buy only organic all-natural colours from MESH; but some ‘organic’ colours that were gifted to my nephew turned out to be of the fixed or pakka variety, that stain the skin for days on end. I’d recommend purchasing only from a known source like the one here.


Avoid these “natural, organic” colours as they turned out to be pakka rang that stains the skin

This is a great festival when played in the right spirit. If you’re one to cower from the mess but find yourself caught in it anyway, please remember, “Bura na mano, Holi hai!” (Don’t feel bad, it’s Holi!).

Festival rating: 4/5 (purely as a personal preference, for others it would be 5/5!)


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