Holi (aka “The Festival of Colors”) is a celebration of spring with origins in Hindu mythology. It’s an exciting — and, for many, an overwhelming — time to visit Delhi. On the morning of the festival, which falls on March 27 this year, Delhi transforms into something of a carnival — children and adults alike take to the streets, soaking each other in powdered colors and colored water, singing, feasting on Holi delicacies and chanting, “Holi hai (It is Holi)!”
Here’s an insider’s guide on where to enjoy all the festivities in Delhi:
Celebrate with the locals in a residential neighborhood
Head into one of South Delhi’s residential neighborhoods — Lajpat Nagar, Malviya Nagar, Saket and Greater Kailash being the better options — and join the residents in a celebration you are not likely to forget (think powder colors, water balloons, water guns and everything else that might tickle the fancy of a child who loves bright hues). The locals are welcoming, and you might find yourself invited by a family to sample homemade sweets like gujiya, a pastry stuffed with dry fruits, and to see their rangoli, an art form made with colored powders.
Modern Holi at the Holy Cow Festival
A carnival with music and colors, the Holy Cow Festival has acquired almost a legendary status for modern-day Holi celebrations. Held just outside Delhi, the Holi-complementing festival is complete with thandai (a yogurt drink with spices), street food, non-toxic colors to play Holi, and concerts ranging from typical folk music to Indian rock.
Traditional Holi at Mathura and Vrindavan
A three-hour drive from Delhi, Mathura and Vrindavan are home to some of the most revered Hindu temples, and the birthplace of Holi; celebrations here last for 40 days. Though crowded and often rowdy, the parties include street performances depicting the origins of the festival, a not-to-miss affair for culture seekers.
Other Tips for Celebrating Holi
–Avoid Paharganj, Delhi’s famous backpacker area, as celebrations here can get extremely unruly.
-Wear your worst clothes, since the powdered colors might never come off. And it’s better to don dark clothing.
-While Holi is a safe and fun festival for the most part, it is best to stay away from areas where the celebrations look disorderly; the ideal neighborhood is one where men and women are equally involved in the fun.
-Don’t carry your camera, phone and other valuables; preventing them from getting soaked during the festivities is almost impossible.
-Putting a moisturizing base on your face is a good way to avoid breaking out after you remove the powdered colors.
Photos Courtesy of Steven Gerner