If I had to give one reason as to why I am so fascinated by the Indian culture, it would be that no matter what festival is being celebrated, the lore is always kept alive and the celebration is anything but low key. It is always welcomed and enjoyed with a lot of hue and cry and the hangover lasts for weeks.
Holi, or the festival of colours is my favourite festival to celebrate as an Indian. Ever since I was a kid, I would look forward to the day when I would wear my oldest clothes and run out of the house resembling a rainbow throwing colours at my friends, being doused with water and ducking water balloons that came flying from nowhere. I wouldn’t mind in the least standing under the shower for hours trying to wash off the paint and then walking around and going to school with patches of colour slowly fading away from my skin making me look like the human version of blotting paper. So, upon arriving in London, celebrating Holi was wishful thinking. I was mildly happy scrolling down my Facebook newsfeed browsing the multitude of pictures uploaded by my friends of them playing Holi. It came as a very happy surprise to me when my friend informed me of an event being hosted where we could celebrate Holi in London. Needless to say, I was in.
Oh boy, was I excited.
Before I dive into the details of my celebrations London style, here’s a small understanding of this festival and how it came about.
Holi is, as I mentioned before, the festival of colours celebrating or welcoming spring. The word ‘Holi’ originates from ‘Holika‘ who was, as legend has it,the evil sister of the demonic King Hiranyakashipu. King Hiranyakashipu had earned a boon whereby he would be indestructible but he became arrogant, believing himself to be God and expecting to be worshipped like one. Unlike Hiranyakashipu, his son Prahlada was different. He disagreed with his father’s acts and decided to remain a devout follower of Vishnu, the second God in the Hindu Triumvirate. This infuriated his father and he was subjected to cruelty, punishments and the like none of which affected him or his resolve. Holika, the evil sister decided to take things into her own hands and tricked Prahlada into sitting on a pyre with her. As they sat, Holika wore a cloak that made her immune to the fire. As the fire crackled and roared, the cloak flew off Holika and wrapped around Prahlada instead. Holika thus burned and Prahalda survived. Vishnu then arrived and killed Hiranyakashipu.
So, a Holika bonfire is lit to celebrate the symbolic victory go good over evil and how fire destroys and creates. The day following this bonfire is celebrated as Holi where people spend hours painting other people with colours and then getting inebriated after consuming one too many glasses of ‘Bhaang’ a natural alcoholic drink made out of the oil, leaves and flowers of the female cannabis plant.
Anyhoo, lets come back to my experience celebrating my favourite festival in London after this short history lesson.
Toothless, her friend Katie and I met up at King’s Cross tube station around mid afternoon. We then headed to Nido’s where the event was being held. As we walked through the doors, loud music and screams flooded my ears. I saw Europeans and Indians running around, slipping in and out of clouds of colours and the familiar fuzzy, warm excitement seeped into my bones. We rushed inside and changed into the t-shirts that the event holders were handing out to us along with a packet of colours. While I chose the green colour, Toothless went for pink and Katie decided on purple. We then walked out to the backyard where the party was being held and well, we went crazy. Smearing colours on each others faces and having the same done to us in return, we spent a good two hours painting ourselves all shades of silly. There were times when we could barely see each other because of the huge colour mists that were being created by flinging colours in the air. It was so much fun and the entire time, I had a massive smile plastered on my face.
It was so much fun seeing Europeans and Indians celebrating the festival together and genuinely having a good time. By the end of it, everyone looked like they had stumbled into quite a few paint cans. No one’s hair looked blonde or brunette any longer. They were instead streaked in hues of blue, red, purple, pink and green.
As I trudged back home, attracting way too many quizzical looks on the tube, I couldn’t help but smile goofily. I did shut up though when I realised I had colour smearing my pearly whites which made me look even more creepy. Upon arriving back home, a good two hours were spent washing away the colours and then trying to rinse out the colour from my favourite pair of jeans and cardigan.
As I saw the coloured water draining away, I reminisced about all the times I had celebrated Holi and how each and every occasion was amazing in its own way. Celebrating Holi London style was no less amazing and it was made even more special by Toothless, Katie and baby boy Divyansh who we bumped into while being attacked by colour squads.
There’s a chance I might be celebrating Holi again in the next few weeks with my hall mates so keep your eyes peeled for another possible Holi post.
Till then, may your lives be as colourful as this festival always is, my Mavericks.