Nepal’s celebration of Holi is a colorful festival that is open to all, locals and visitors alike. The revered Hindu holiday, which dates back to the fourth century and signifies the arrival of spring, has gained attention in the U.S. in recent years and a number of travelers feel called to participate in the joyful revelry. A care-free celebration with people of all ages smearing each other with colored powders and drenching each other with water in the streets seems like the perfect excuse for a vacation, right?
While Holi truly begins with the installation of a ceremonial pole in Kathmandu Durbar Square almost a week earlier and religious ritual and prayer around a bonfire the night before, the free-for-all of color is found all around the square, the city streets, temples, parks and into the hill region on the day immediately following the full moon in March. The second day of festivities continues in the Terai with celebrations and feasts in area homes.
Often called the festival of colors or the festival of love, Holi’s lighthearted antics have serious cultural ties. It’s rooted in two legends about the Hindu god Krishna, always depicted with blue skin. One tells the tale of Krishna falling in love with Radha, who allows him to paint her skin with color to eliminate their differences. The other shows the mischievous side of Krishna as he seduces all of the local girls, and then teases them by dousing them in colored water as they bathe in the river. He continues to tease them as he hangs their clothes in a tree (represented by the ceremonial pole installed at the beginning of the festival).
The festival also takes its major theme — the triumph of good over evil — from a sacred Hindu story about a king, Hiranyakashyap, who tries to kill his son Phralad in a fire for worshipping Vishnu and not him. In the end, the king’s sister, Holika, is killed in the fire and the boy is saved by Vishnu.
Travelers who understand the deeper meaning of Holi will get even more out of the celebration. We designed the perfect travel itinerary around Holi to immerse travelers in the cultural and physical landscape of Nepal at this time, the spring awakening. We encourage travel agents, operators and travelers to ask us more about how we can help them experience this joyous festival.
A few tips for travelers attending Holi:
- Protect your camera and/or phone in a waterproof bag.
- Wear white clothes that you don’t mind being stained with color. They’ll become a beautiful souvenir of the trip.
- Buy or make colored powders from natural ingredients, like turmeric, marigold, pomegranate, beetroot, and henna.
- The steps of the temples around Durbar Square offer some of the best vantage points to take photos.