Celebrating Holi in India.


by Jim Shannon

A couple of hours south of Delhi by train lie the misty flat lands of Braj. The area isn’t marked on many maps – it's more culturally than politically defined. It’s the birthplace of Lord Krishna and once a year, centre of Holi – Hinduism’s most lively and colourful and festival.

Holi celebrates the beginning of spring, Krishna and the triumph of good over evil in the legend of Holika and Prahalad. The festival is best known for the coloured powder (gulal) and water people throw at each other, a tribute to a prank played by the young Krishna. It’s one of the few times caste and wealth is forgotten. By the time everyone is covered in dye it’s impossible to tell who is rich or poor.

Nowadays, despite Holi’s religious origins, it’s mainly a time to have fun with family and friends. Families celebrate near the safety of their homes, while raucous groups of young men roam the streets looking for as much trouble as they can find.

I travelled to Braj at the end of a short photography trip to India. We spent the first week motorcycling in Ladakh, high beyond the Himalayas, then flew back to Delhi where we picked up a hire car and drove to Mathura, in the centre of Braj.

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