Posted by: Tommy | April 8, 2011

Holi – Nepal style

For reasons that will become obvious as you find out what Holi is, I don’t have any pictures of Holi in-progress.  Only photos of the aftermath in Kathmandu.  Holi is a festival that they have in both India and Nepal.  I have no idea what is being celebrated – only that it is very distinctive.

Most people wear white and have a special Holi outfit.  Mine was a free t-shirt I received in Mozambique.  Jay (guy from Chicago that we did the houseboat trip with) is in Nepal and he had a special all-white pants/shirt combo that he bought especially for Holi.  The reason you wear white is that Holi is a festival of color.  People use powders of every color – pink, red, purple, green, yellow, black and gold were popular – with red being the dominant choice.  The colored powders are then mixed with water and thrown at people (hence the no camera).  Variations of this include throwing plain water and throwing dry powder.  Dry powder was usually used by teenage boys and they’d either throw it in your mouth or wipe it on your face as they walked by.

After putting on our Holi (read: white and ruinable) clothes, Jay and I left the hotel.  Right outside the hotel, a water fight is going on between the tourists at the guest house and the Nepalese children that live down the road.  About 15 people on each side are filling small plastic bags with colored water and fast-pitching them at each other.  Occasionally, a full bucket of water is thrown on someone.  After 30 minutes, everyone is soaking wet and brightly colored.

After tiring of that, a group of tourists (Jay and I included) left to walk around the central area of the city.  We hadn’t gone more than 100 yards when…pow.  I felt like I’d been punched, but on the top of my shoulder.  Like most cities, central Kathmandu is mostly tall buildings – 5 or 6 stories.  Apparently the best place to be for Holi is on the roof of one of these buildings with a large supply of colored water and plastic bags.  For the rest of the day, any time you’d walk anywhere, there was a chance you’d be hit with either a plastic bag of water or, if you were lucky, an entire bucket of colored water.

This continued for about 6 hours.  It was really fun – at first.  But after you take a few fast-pitch water bags in the eye, ear or (thankfully this didn’t happen to me) groin, you realize that Holi would be better experienced from the roof.  I’m glad I was there – it was definitely a unique experience and one that could never happen in the U.S. (bag to the eye = lawsuit) but next time I’ll wear a helmet.

Tommy and Jay, post-Holi


  1. Holi-cow…that’s the way you looked (ALMOST) after painting in my studio! XOXO

  2. Oh my goodness — that is crazy and definitely could not happen in the US where you cannot even serve coffee at the correct temp without someone suing you. Sounds interesting, even fun and somewhat dangerous. But an experience you definitely would not have here. Glad Anna got to miss it.

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