For thousands of years cultures around the world have seen reason to celebrate the coming of spring. From ancient Greece, to pagan Scandinavia and modern day Iran the world is ready to party in anticipation of the vernal equinox each year. The Nepalese (and Hindus all over the world really) definitely one-up the rest of us with the Holi Festival, otherwise known as the Festival of Colors.
The Holi festival, celebrated at the full moon before the spring equinox, is an ancient Hindu religious festival originally signifying the victory of good over evil. It has later become popular with non-Hindus around the world in its celebration of love, frolic and colors.
Celebrating Holi Festival in Nepal is a national holiday that is celebrated on different days depending on where you happen to live. This year Holi falls on Tuesday March 22nd in Kathmandu Valley and the hill regions, but is celebrated the day after in the Terai.
In either location the festival lasts 24 hours: from sunset the day before the festival, where bonfires are lit around the country, until sunset the next day.
What happens in between is full on color warfare where festival goers participate by throwing colored powder and colored water on each other all day. Anyone who ventures out on the streets are fair game; be they young or old, rich or poor, friend or stranger, local or visitor.
Expert Tip 1: If you for some reason need to get across town and don’t necessarily want to arrive to your destination looking like an accident on a painting canvas, avoid ambush-friendly streets and be on the lookout for children hiding on balconies overhead. They are all armed with an arsenal of water balloons (and freakishly good aim).
When the supplies of color powder run out people return home for a shower and a change of clothes and head out to share a good meal with friends and family.
HOW YOU CAN JOIN IN ON THE HOLI FUN
Foreign Tourists have come to love the Holi Festival as much as the Nepalese and many visitors to Nepal will try to pin on Holi celebrations to their travel itinerary.
To join in on the fun all you have to do is step out on the street at any given time between 10 AM and 3 PM on the day of the festival. If you happen to be in Kathmandu during Holi your best places for color warfare are in narrow streets of Thamel or on the Kathmandu Durbar Square. If you are in Pokhara head over to Lakeside Road and join any of the street parties.
Expert Tip 2: Your favorite white t-shirt will never be the same again so wear clothes you don’t mind people painting on.
Expert Tip 3: As with any festival or big crowds, leave your valuables at home, and if you insist on having your camera with you, make sure it has a waterproof cover. Not even the most professional-looking photographer will be safe from the balloon-pelting children.
Ok, you’re ready. Now get out there, have a Fun & Happy Holi in Nepal!