Color plus water plus music equals elation. In Nepal, this holiday is aptly named Holi: the festival of colors.
Once a year, the city of Kathmandu is transformed into a rainbow. Smearing powdered dye on strangers faces is the norm. Children drop water bombs from the sky. DJ sets and chanting crowds reverberate throughout the metropolis.
Upon entering the heart of the city, an ecstatic energy triggered all my sensory receptors. We naturally flowed with the wave of people through the alleyways of the city. Ammunition of dye bags are a necessity sold on every corner. Every few steps, you were forced to engage in battle; the cheeks, dye, hands and smiles of strangers interlock enthusiastically in all directions. Within minutes, our clothes, our faces, and virtually our entire being resembled a multicolored abstract painting. Impromptu dance parties broke out in the streets; individuals of every background embraced unconditional friendship.
The strong current pulled us closer to the epicenter of the celebration. Upon reaching Durbar Square, I saw the unfiltered beauty of chaos. At an ancient world heritage site, thousands danced in and around Hindu temples. A semi-truck equipped with a fire-hose sprayed water in all directions. The crowd was drenched, colorful and blissful.
A talented female DJ brought the celebration to stratospheric heights. Dye and water continued, but dancing became the main attraction. Thousands leaped to the rhythm of the bass in a free concert that far exceeded all of my previous festival experiences.
My jumps elevated into a float as a group of fellow dancers hoisted me into the air. My first ever crowd surf couldn’t have been more enjoyable. I eventually descended in one piece and we left for a break of tea and momos.
Holi participants come in all shapes and sizes (and obviously colors). We ended up at a stupa—a holy Buddhist half-dome figure—where we chased a pack of children; they blindsided us with water, while we got our revenge with dye bags. Later in the evening, I lightly spread lilac-colored dye over the bald head of an old man.
Next, we stumbled upon a Holi party at the “Electric Pagoda.” In a jungle-like setting, colors, intoxicants and jazzy tunes flowed heavily. Dancing was the primary occupation of all pagoda-dwellers, who at this point resembled a blended smoothie of crayons.
After many hours of dancing, dye-smearing and laughing, I made my way home just in time for a big bowl of soup and some cha (milk-tea). Lamo-la, my ama-la (host mother) got a good laugh out of my inhuman appearance, but baby Dahmey was a bit perplexed. A cold bucket shower was insufficient to remove the many layers of colors, but this is perfectly fine, because in my opinion, rainbow will forever remain superior to white.
Holi—the festival of colors—is a glorious celebration of life. Any day that strangers caress each-others faces and the concrete becomes a palate, the world is a more loving place.