PICS: The real Holi festival of colour

2018-03-03 08:30 - Anje Rautenbach
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Anje Rautenbach

Move over Colour Runners and make room for the Holi Festival, the first ever festival of colour which was a ‘thing’ long before sweatbands and running shoes made it into the world.

People take part in Holi Festivals all around the world, but it is mostly celebrated in certain parts of India, Sri Lanka and Nepal and begins on the evening of the full moon in the month of Phalgun according to the Hindu Calender; in 2018 Holi starts on 1 March and ends on the 2 March.

MUST SEE PICS: Colours come out for the Hindu Holi festival 2018

Holi is a Hindu festival that marks the arrival of spring and its origins can be traced back to various Hindu legends and there are two myths of how this festival came about. However, the most popular one is about Holika.

Holika was the sister of a demon king, Hiranyakashipu, who received a unique power from the creator; he could not be killed during daylight or after sundown, not on land or water, not inside or outside, not by human, animal or God. Hiranyakashipu’s power went to his head and he demanded to be called God but not even his own son, Prahlad who was a devotee of Vishnu, obeyed and he told his father that there was only one God in the universe, namely Vishnu.

Needless to say, Hiranyakashipu’s ego took a knock and he was not happy, Prahlad had to be eliminated.

Holika, the sister of Hiranyakashipu, had the power that no fire could burn her, so the planwas that Prahlad would be placed on Holika’s lap and together they would be put on a fire.  

Unfortunately, it didn’t go according to plan. Holika’s powers were too weak and she passed away as she suffered burns while Prahlad managed to escape and so the festival of Holi (named after Holika) came to life as it celebrates Prahlad’s victory over his aunt, the triumph of good vs evill; the festival is also seen as a celebration of fertility, colour and love.

Anje Rautenbach

Celebrating Holi in Nepal or India

Holi Festival is something you have to experience to believe; it is a mix of madness, colour, ages, people,  music, smiles, dancing, people stepping on your toes and strangers’ hands touching your face while saying, “Happy Holi!”.

It also an excuse for a lot of festivalgoers to drink beer, grope the nearest female, get stoned and basically have one massive raucous street party. 

Just like any festival, there are a few things to keep in mind if you choose to celebrate Holi abroad.

Your camera

Ever seen those beautiful photos of Holi where festivalgoers throw coloured powder into the air all at once? Or how about the one with the lady dancing and an array of colours are behind her and the shot where someone blows a kiss and all you see is coloured powder?


Of course you want to take photos.

While you see photos there are a few photographers out there who are probably still crying coloured tears over powder (which is basically corn starch) that manoeuvred itself into tiny little spaces of their cameras.

And while you might think you’ll survive a bit of rainbow Maizena, the other thing that those beautiful pictures don’t tell you is the army of locals that will bomb you with water guns and water balloons when you least expect it.

It is impossible to avoid the unexpected expected.

Unless you have a mega zoom lens and find a spot far away (possibly a hotel room with a good view), just know that you might want to insure your camera before the colours invade it.

Unless you can seal your camera and bag it (perhaps with a waterproof pouch), an action camera with a plastic housing is your safest option.

Anje Rautenbach


Some colours wash off easily while others (especially red) take its jolly time. Moisturising your skin before the festival will help you to get rid of the colours on your skin faster.


When it comes to shoes, shirt and pants, keep in mind: the older the better. Washing Holi-covered clothes is not always successful.  Shops will sell white t-shirts one can use to celebrate Holi in and if you want to take your colourful shirt home as a souvenir, remember to bag it to avoid the powder making its way onto other clothes in your bag.

Be careful of the colours

Unfortunately, not all holi colours are safe for your body and it is best not to eat with holi-coloured hands, and best to wear a hat and enough clothing.

Anje Rautenbach

Protect your eyes

Getting sand in your eyes sucks and the same goes for coloured powder in your eyes.

Drink with caution

‘Bhang’ is the official drink of Holi, but drinking too much can lead to high blood pressure and an increased heart rate, so drink with caution or taste it once and move over to something safer.

Celebrate with friends

It is always better to go with a group of friends and stay together during the celebrations. Some hotels also celebrate on their premises, this is a great time for ‘safer’ photos and it eases you into the celebrations. Ask your guest house or hotel where in town it is best to celebrate Holi.

Stay hydrated

Be colourful and water wise, don’t let the heat and constant dancing own you.

Personal belongings

Keep your personal belongings on you and to the minimum; cash and your phone should be enough and a small waterproof bag works best.


If you are celebrating Holi in a country that is not your own, be respectful of the locals and their customs (especially when it comes to the type of clothing you choose to wear).

Anje Rautenbach

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