Holi, the festival of colors that takes place in India and Nepal, is less than one month away. If you have ever seen pictures from this event, you may wonder about the true, stain-lifting power of OxiClean. The festival with the staining power of red wine, is a celebration of the start of spring (slash when it starts to get really effing hot in India) among other positive notions like good over evil. While Holi is celebrated all across the aforementioned countries, I was in Agra during the festival in 2016. In the weeks leading up to the festival, you will find the beautiful colored powders on display and ready for sale. This organized beauty quickly transforms into hectic chaos once the festival begins.

Colorful powders for the Holi festival in India
Taste the rainbow (actually don’t)

Like What Do You Actually Do?

My group had our own Holi celebration on the roof of our accommodation. We had loads of colors and snacks and really just attacked each other. There are two formulations of the colors. There are the beautiful powders that you can just slap upon your target or simply toss a handful. These powders do stain. There are also dyes that mix with water that you can shoot out of water guns or pour on people. This shit really stains. Consequently, I was a real life Neytiri from Avatar.

Before Holi photo


After Holi photo


Group photo at Holi
Holi makes your teeth look whiter


Group photo at Holi
Marble is slippery when wet


My face up close
A big thank you to my safety sunglasses


What Should I Wear?

In short, something you may want to throw away. I went into the event with crappy clothes (read: my sister’s shirt), but was sort of thinking, if this stains, then at least I’ll have a tie dye ensemble. False. The colors blend together in the fabric yielding a gruesome shade somewhere between dog food brown and dried blood dark brown. Also keep in mind your clothes are not the only thing that get stained. I was rocking smurf boobs for the better part of a week (TMI, I know, but I’m here to inform).

Additionally, if you are the money belt wearing type, Holi is a day where are valuables will be safer anywhere else than on your person. Don’t risk getting your passport and money soaking wet and stained.

Holi Outfit

(I do recommend dressing more conservatively in India, but Holi was a special occasion)

How Do You Take Pictures?

Now this is a tricky one. I am not a fancy camera owner, but I do know those things are more valuable than your own life. With that said, there is a good chance that it will get wet, or painted, or dropped, or a whole slew of other negative outcomes. I used my iPhone which lives in a Lifeproof case which theoretically protects it from the series of unfortunate events mentioned above. It was a success! At the end of the day, I just dried it off a bit and wiped off some colored powder less those hard to reach crevices.

Looking at my phone
Examining the damage. Life. Proof.

Can I Go Sightseeing Afterward?

While I can only speak for Agra, since that is where I celebrated, going to the Taj Mahal covered in colors from Holi is frowned upon. I mean, the place is all white marble and you are a colorful, ticking time bomb. However, it was totally cool to go to the Agra Fort without changing. The rationale here was that we didn’t want to put on clean clothes and hit the streets because the celebration goes on all day long. I had already ruined one set of clothes and skin that day. And we were right! The walk to the Agra fort was a long one because people were constantly stopping us to wish us happy Holi and add another layer of color to our faces that were already caked in powder.

Agra Fort during Holi
Agra Fort


Holi at Agra Fort
Holi cow!

Is It Safe?

Holi has a bit of a reputation. The local men tend to get really high on lassis (that delicious yogurt drink) prepared with cannabis and drunk and consequently handsy. While we mostly stuck to our own foreigner celebration, we did take it to the streets afterward to visit the Agra Fort. Most passersby were extremely friendly and respectful. However, I personally was victimized in one instance when a “gentleman” decided to put colored powder down the front of my shirt. I regrettably did not punch him in the gut, like I continuously wish I had, but in shocking situations you don’t get to choose how you react. You simply react. I cursed him out (typical of me) and kept walking. It was an upsetting and unexpected situation, and I am only relaying this so that you can be aware. I was not going to let one bad egg ruin the day for me.

The Holi festival was hands down my favorite day in India. I loved seeing another element in the culture aside from the amazing forts and temples. People young and old were out celebrating. There were colors everywhere! On cars, buildings, tuk tuks, cows… I also felt particularly welcomed. During Holi, we weren’t identified as tourists. We were all just individuals, celebrating, in the most stain-inducing way possible.

What is the Holi festival like for a visitor to India? What should you wear? Is it safe? Is it fun? Will it ruin your clothes? Read and find out

18 thoughts on “What Happens at the Holi Festival in India?”

  1. I’m about to be in Nepal for Holi – nothing like India I’m sure, but it should be exciting none the less!

  2. Wow that looks like a lot of fun! I’ve read so much about it but glad you gave your personal opinions about it – appreciate it.

  3. My Lifeproof case has saved me from so many disasters – and I’m glad to know it can survive blasts of colour too! Hahaha. Sounds like you had a fantastic time at Holi. I’d love to get there one day!

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