India: the Holi, festival of colors

We were very excited to be in India for the Holi, we even planed part of the trip around that special occasion. We chose Vrindavan as it is a smallish town and the said birth place of Krishna. We had some trouble locating our hotel. No one seemed to know where it was. Used to very low standard guesthouses, we were pretty skeptical when our tuktuk driver had a flash when he saw the address for the 5th time, turned around and said: “here” inside a guarded complex of clean and tall white buildings. When we arrived at the reception, things got weirder. The staff was nice. Genuinely nice. For nothing. And it was clean, the room was bright, large, and the bed was incredibly comfy. It was not even expensive… We arrived around 11am starving after yet another night train. We asked if we could get breakfast and what we understood was something like “there’s no breakfast now but we can find something for you”. They sat us alone in a big canteen and brought us a crazy amount of food that was fresh and good, basically a very cool brunch. And they refused that we’d pay for it. The hotel was pretty much empty but had a very weird vibe.

After brunch, we came back to the room where we slept all day. It was like that bed had powers. One night I even said to Silvere “OK it’s 10.30pm, I’m going to sleep now because I actually want to sleep”. He looked at me and laughed that he’d never thought I would ever say something like that. As a reminder, I’m an insomniac and never go to bed before I’m exhausted, it’s pretty much always after midnight (often after 3am, sometimes 5am) and definitely always way after Silvere falls asleep.  That place, as weird as it was, was an oasis of peace in a very overwhelming country. I think in 3 days I slept around 30 hours. The hotel was in fact part of a project we had no idea about. It’s an NGO called Vatsalya Gram that encourages child sponsorship to provide education to kids in need. During our time there, we were treated like very special guests, it was incredible. They had a celebration one night they took us to, where we got to meet (and be blessed) by Didi Maa, the creator of the NGO and also considered a living goddess by Indians. She is the most important spiritual leader of the country and apparently, we had a huge honor that night. We met there the nicest people ever, who took great care of us, fed us, entertained us and even made us go on stage with Didi Maa at the end of the show to be the first of the (VERY) large crowd sinking the Krishna character under rose petals. Those people asked for nothing and would not stop giving us kindness and smiles. During that evening of celebration, we spent some time with two teenagers who got education through the NGO. At first I found the whole thing a little bizarre and wondered if it was a cult, but the work is there. The kids were extremely nice and well behaved, could speak English and definitely deserved the education they received. The boy wanted to go to the army and travel while the girl, a little younger, was still at school, very eager to learn more. I felt very good that finally we could help, even just a little, by staying there. Those people and their friendliness took over, making the Holi very secondary.


Still since we were in Vrindavan we wanted to see it. The town is pretty, temples are nice and so are some locals. Lots of beggars seat lined up on the road leading to the biggest temple, on both side.  As soon as we arrived there, a group of men covered in colored powdered wished us a happy Holi and asked if it was ok to apply color on us too. Of course we said yes! As it is part of what Holi is. Every color has a different signification but the fun is to put it on other people. So each of them put a different color on us and warmly thanked us. We ended the day with many different colors on our faces, which was all good fun. There really were not that many tourists, ans definitely not many other independent tourists (we only spotted 2 western women in a small group of Indian women). So the day went like that and it was quite fun. Many people took pictures with us, and not just men trying to crop Silvere out but families and women too. When it started to be dark, we escaped. A lot of people seemed drunk and the atmosphere was no longer friendly and warm. We came back the next day to find streets and temples covered in colors! There must have been some serious battles there! Kids were playing pranks, using plastic guns to send colored water on people, even animals were covered in color, the Holi is a big party… As we were walking, everyone kept telling us to be careful with the monkeys, especially with my camera. I was thinking that I was holding on too tight and it was too heavy, but then, one of them little bastard climbed on Silvere’s back (again!) and stole his glasses! My dumb reflex was to clap my hands and scream “no no no no no” while following the monkey. Silvere who did not even understand what happened was like “what the hell are you doing?” and then saw the monkey, on the 2nd floor of a building, with his glasses… A local heard me screaming said “get mango juice!”. I ran to get some without thinking and came back with it under a minute. The guy threw the mango juice in front of the monkey, who dropped the glasses to catch it, and the awesome guy grabbed them. How lucky were we that he was here?

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A poor monkey looking traumatized with Holi paint on its face.

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Celebration with famous dancers at Vatsilya Gram. He is dressed as Krishna. 

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They were part of a parade and wanted me to take a picture so much that they stopped the whole thing!

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We saw them (Hare Krishna people) twice and both time they requested photos. One of them even gave me a flower necklace, apparently a big honor.

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