March 8, 2012

Dodging Colored-Water Balloons in Kathmandu

This picture shows a Holi celebration yesterday, March 7, in Vrindavan, India -- a locale famous for its Holi observances. According to legend, Krishna played Holi with his consort Radha here. Celebrations in Nepal yesterday were more rambunctious... and deadly.

The Hindu Festival of Colors – Holi – took a tragic turn yesterday when two young Kathmandu residents died while participating in the holiday. A ten-year-old boy and a 17-year-old girl both fell off the roofs of buildings while engaged in the practice of hurling balloons filled with colored water at passers-by.

In addition, reports indicate that four people were injured, and another 665 merry-makers were arrested in the capital for indecent behavior. It’s a sad story, but it will not dampen the joyous festivities surrounding Nimesh’s wedding tomorrow -- Friday – to Bhawana.

The describes the holiday – based on Hindu mythology -- this way:
The ancient Hindu festival of Holi falls on late February or on early March [at the full moon]. Allegedly named after the mythical demoness Holika, it is a day when the feast of colours is celebrated…..People can be seen wandering through the streets either on foot or on some vehicle, with a variety of colours smeared over them….Families and friends get together and celebrate the occasion with a lot of merry making. This spring time celebration is also an outburst of youthful exuberance in which throwing colours and water bolloons (lolas) on passers-by is acceptable.
Please click "read more," below.

Holi is also a time when the normal distinctions in Nepali society – age, gender, caste – are relaxed a bit. As we’ve also seen, it’s a time of (often alcohol-fueled) shenanigans by the young celebrants.

I was feeling a bit under the weather yesterday, so I stayed pretty close to the hotel. Since Holi is a national holiday – there are a lot of those here – most everything was closed anyway.

In the afternoon, curiosity got the better of me, and I ventured out onto the streets of the capital. The balloon boys were out and about, hurling their colored-water bombs. I almost got zapped: I saw a boy on a rooftop above me, taking aim. Just in time, I ducked into a doorway before the dyed-water-filled projectile splattered against another pedestrian a few feet away. 

The lad here, pants splashed with dye from a direct hit, hides a water balloon behind his back. Just moments later, he nailed a friend riding a bike:

While this video was shot in India, it provides a colorful – and less violent – glimpse of the visual spectacle of Holi:

In a comment about this video clip, a viewer wrote: "This is a lot cooler than Holy Week at the Vatican."

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