For photographers it’s often a good idea to plan a trip to coincide with a festival or event. That’s what I did some years ago when I went to Delhi, timing my visit so that I would be there for the annual Indian spring Holi festival. The mythical Hindu origins of the festival are a little too complex to go into here but it’s generally celebrated as the triumph of good over evil and of the colours of spring.
Those colours come in the form of powders, dyes and sprays applied in absolute abandon to anyone who gets in their way, including foreign photographers with expensive cameras. If you don’t want to be covered in colour, some of it fairly difficult to remove, don’t go out at Holi, and if you do, it’s a wise idea to don your oldest, least valuable clothes. Many of the older kids “playing Holi” will be under the influence of the aptly named “Bangh lassi” and they will only be encouraged by your pleas to be spared their spontaneous makeover.
During my first Holi visit in Delhi, I hired a taxi driver and instructed him to take me to some good Holi spots while doubling up as my bodyguard. On no account was any reveller to throw paint at my camera and if they did I would throw my camera at the reveller. Amazingly this strategy worked: my camera stayed black, but I returned to the hotel thoroughly stained. The shots I got could have been better, but many of them were taken while dodging clouds of flying dye, so allowances must be made.
Holi is approaching again and will be celebrated on the next full moon, March 17 – which happens to be when I am next scheduled to land in Delhi. Be warned, Holi revellers – my camera is smaller these days but it still packs a hefty swing.
Happy Holi, India!