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Happy Holi from Jaipur

Written on: Tuesday March 10th, 2009

A journal entry from: Trails in 2008

We timed our trip to Jaipur well, this city doesn't seem to be a tourist's favourite by the sounds of things because its big and busy with lots of touts to hold you hostage in their cousins/uncles/neighbours shop.  But when the Elephant Festival and Holi are on 2 days in a row, you can't help but have a good time and get caught up in the atmosphere. 


The Elephant Festival is fairly self-explanatory, but let me explain Holi – it's a bit crazy.

Hindu's celebrate the beginning of Spring (and remember an old religious story of an evil woman being burnt alive) by smearing people, animals and pretty much anything else in sight with brightly coloured paint. 


When we got told about it yesterday the penny dropped – those fluorescent coloured spice stalls weren't spice at all, but paint powder!  The bright pink paint splashed all over the beautiful and ancient Jaisalmer Fort was temporary and running the gauntlet of the fort gates from menacing kids all armed with water pistols was not an everyday occurrence!


The previous days newspaper got us a little nervous about the action with a Holi advice list, like wear throw-away clothes, sunglasses to protect your eyes, avoid going out between 11am and 4pm, if you have to drive, lock doors and leave all windows up, you get the picture!  We prepared by buying some coloured powder of our own and some new white clothes and were glad we did when the neighbourhoods kids came running when they saw us emerge from our hotel. It took only 2 minutes to be completely covered in various colours, and they loved a few more layers being plastered on them by us.  Kids LIVE for this day! - the poor ones armed with empty water bottles and the richer ones with pump-action water guns – all seeking out people, particularly tourists, to "play Holi".


The Rajasthan Tourism Office put on an event for "tourists to play Holi in a safe environment" after reports of tourists being entrapped by overenthusastic kids and teenagers armed with flouro paint and powder the previous few years.  We went to the gardens of a local hotel, were entertained by musicians, eunuchs and heavily-moustached men.  The grand finale was being put onto an open-top bus that took us around the city - one of the most dangerous things we have done this year - not from the high lead levels of the paint we are covered in, but from the low power lines and branches that threaten to decapitate us at a moments notice.  Screams of "DUCK!!" from someone at watch up front, then a kind of 'reverse mexican wave' would follow!