Spring comes to India is a burst of colour

For those hoping to find colours in India, the first week of March was the time to visit. The country burst into Holi, the first day of Spring…

For those hoping to find colours in India, the first week of March was the time to visit.

The country burst into Holi, the first day of Spring according to the Hindi calendar. 

People celebrate Holi by covering themselves and each other with brightly coloured powder and dye.

Though I wanted to see the city of Calcutta during the festivities, I was warned it can get rowdy and dangerous for someone on their own.

So I was delighted when a friend invited me to spend the weekend enjoying Holi with his family.

As I drove through the streets Saturday morning, the celebrations were in full swing.

Friends (and sometimes strangers!) were greeting each other by tossing handfuls of pink and red powder over each other.

People sported faces coated in bright colours — red, pink, green, orange, purple, blue.

Scuffles broke out as people chased their friends.

Others staggered from copious amounts of alcohol and bhang, an edible form of marijuana.

Whenever the car slowed to pass a group of people, I frantically rolled up the windows to avoid bright dye being squirted into the car.

My friend explained that while Bengalis celebrate Holi on Saturday, his family are Hindis from outside of West Bengal.

They wait until after they’ve performed their puja.

The puja is a Hindi ritual that takes place Saturday night, during the full moon.

That night, my friends and I walked to one of the many places where the puja was performed.

A bonfire was lit on the edge of the street, surrounded by a crowd of people.

The smoke blowing over us was to take away any evil spirits, leaving us purified.

Some people were scooping coals into buckets to take home for family members who couldn’t come.

I waited on the edge with the women, while the men moved closer.

Using coals from the fire, they cooked pappadam, a thin crispy bread.

Then we dabbed our foreheads with red vermillion and rice, to show that we had done the puja.

Sunday morning the real fun began.

We dressed in old clothes, and put our money and cellphones in plastic bags. Friends started dropping by the apartment.

We grabbed handfuls of coloured powder and rubbed their faces, wishing them a Happy Holi.

Even aging parents and young babies were gently included.

Midmorning, we moved our festivities to a park where they became considerably more energetic.

There, people were chasing down their friends with bunches of powder and buckets of colour.

Showers of pink dye poured down upon crowds of revelers.

Speakers blared traditional Holi songs redone to synthetic beats.

Musicians wearing deafening drums accompanied them.

On a stage in the ‘dry area’ traditional Indian dancers performed.

My friends ran around, rubbing handfuls of paint on my face, hair, and arms tossing handfuls over me, pulling me under the showers of dye.

I was quickly drenched from head to foot, completely covered in colour.

The park seemed full of people dyed all different colours, completely enjoying themselves.

When they tired of “playing Holi,” they danced and munched on snacks from the vendors. The entire park was a riot of colour and people.

I was all for importing this festival to Canada — until I tried to wash out the dye.

As I repeatedly attempt to scrub the pink from my skin and hair, I realize that this festival was not intended for white-skinned, blonde-haired people like me.

It’ll be weeks until I get the last of the dye out.

Happy Holi!

Emily Tredger is a Whitehorse resident currently working in India.