Reveling Holi: The Festival of Colors in Jaisalmer, India

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Story & photos by Marky Ramone Go

I remember the sheen of the rising sun lighting up an ember at the edge of the hills of sand dunes. It is the first thing I saw from where I laid out on a mattress in the open desert.

A few feet away from me, I noticed a black scorpion struggling to crawl away. I look up at our guide with a smile on his face. “Close call” he tells me before breaking into a grin.

Holi revelers on the streets of Jaisalmer

“They are poisonous but they don’t kill people,” he adds. That prevented me from thinking the night we spent at the desert of Jaisalmer was a life-threatening one.

One by one; myself, Aileen and the five other Indian travelers we befriended rose up and marveled at the spectacular sunrise. As what we have witnessed the previous sunset, the rising sun over the desert of Jaisalmer is a picture to behold. It was a rarity finding myself unable to even capture it with my camera. I gazed at it like a lovelorn soul looking at a goddess.

Holee mubaarak

The adorable camel I rode through the desert

The youngest of our guide—already an expert camel herder–kick started the Holi celebration by yelling Holee Mubaarak (Hindi for Happy Holi) before our other two guides started tossing colored powders on us. Before we knew it, we were smudged with pink, yellow, violet, red and blue colors on our faces.

The Holi Festival is an ancient Hindu Festival known as the “festival of colors.” Held predominantly in the Indian subcontinent, it celebrates the victory of good over evil. The manner it is reveled originated from the childhood pranks of Lord Krishna—the reincarnation of Lord Vishnu—of dousing village kids with colored waters.

Occurring every year on the day after the first full moon of March, Holi Festival coincided the morning after our magical experience of sleeping on the sand dunes of Jaisalmer.

Our trek back to the city of Jaisalmer was filled with gaiety episodes bookending with a bittersweet farewell to our camels—who proved to be loveable creatures of the unforgiving terrain of Rajasthan. I patted mine on the head and hear her make a sound as if acknowledging my gesture of goodbye.

More colors in Jaisalmer

The morning of the Holi Festival

Although compared to other cities in India such as Vrindavan, Pushkar, Jaipur and Hampi, the Holi Festival in Jaisalmer appear more laid-back and intimate. There are no mosh-pit type of crowd gatherings on the streets. Rather, locals parade on the streets in waves of varying numbers from a handful to a couple of dozen. Still, I can’t deny feeling the unique festive vibe of the Holi. After wiping the blotches of color powder on my face, I joined our group on the street of Jaisalmer with a clean slate. The locals seem to notice it because a minute later, we were all blemished again with rainbow colors.

I love the fact that the revelers were polite about it. They always ask my permission before flinging powders to my direction. I was like “bring it on, I’m game for this.”

Around early noon, the euphoric vibe turned more chaotic as the crowd started to thicken. Chaotic in a way it should be—otherwise it won’t be the Holi I’ve always wanted to witness.

Good karma brought the Holi to me

I wouldn’t have known that in my excitement to book cheap plane tickets to Kolkata would overlap with the Holi Festival. I just picked two random dates 26 days apart in March to pencil my first-ever visit to India.

Four years later and after a couple more return journeys to India, and the memory of that Holi Festival remains as crystal clear in my head. I can still hear the laughter of the jubilant merrymakers as we all chuck colored powder in the air, catching it by dancing under it facing the sky and with outstretched arms.

Living up to the original emphasis of the Holi rituals to shy away the demoness Holika, I felt like I’ve shed my own inner demons as well. My initial trip to India not only opened my eyes to a wider world, I also discovered my good karma—the main mechanism that brought me there. A favorable fate that shall come aplenty, if only we can continue doing things at the pure desire of our heart and soul.

Image credits: Marky Ramone Go



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