Hindu’s celebrate Holi in the Banke Bihari Temple, Vrindavan, Uttar Pradesh, India , 1st March 2010

Holi, also called the Festival of Colours, is a spring festival celebrated by Hindus, Buddhists, Sikhs, Jains and others. It is primarily observed in India, Nepal, Srilanka, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and also other countries with large Indian populations. In India, it is in the Braj region of Uttar Pradesh that Holi is celebrated with the most fervour, – in locations connected to the god Krishna: Mathura, Vrindavan, Nandagaon, and Barsana. These places have become tourist destinations during the festive season of Holi, which lasts here to up to sixteen days. The main day, Holi, also known as Dhulheti, Dhulandi or Dhulendi, is celebrated by people throwing colored powder and colored water at each other. Bonfires are lit the day before, also known as Holika Dahan (burning of Holika) or Chhoti Holi (little Holi). The bonfires are lit in memory of the miraculous escape that young Prahlad accomplished when Demoness Holika, sister of Hiranyakashipu, carried him into the fire. Holika was burnt but Prahlad, a staunch devotee of god Vishnu, escaped without any injuries due to his unshakable devotion.

Hindu’s react with joy and awe as the idol of Lord Krishna is revealed (‘darshan’) as they celebrate Holi

A Hindu man, his face flecked with dye stares rapturously as he catches a glimpse (‘darshan’) of the idol of Lord Krishna in the Banke Bihari Temple
A woman prays quietly as Hindu’s celebrate Holi in the Banke Bihari Temple in Vrindavan
A Hindu boy flings a bag of yellow dye over his head as he celebrates Holi in Vrindavan

Method: the main challenge when photographing Holi (aside from remaining stylish!) is trying not to destroy cameras and lenses during the process. The tactic of choice is wrapping everything 3 or 4 layers deep in cling film and re-doing it a couple of times a day. The problem then is that you can’t make adjustments, so you cut small notches through to the control wheels and hope not too much water and dye will penetrate the cameras – as in the religious fervour, you will have entire buckets of  dye-loaded water emptied over you and your kit… You can forget about zooming too so its best to use fast primes. Wear old clothes you can discard afterwards and slather coconut oil through your hair and over exposed skin so that the dye (some of which contains toxins) cannot adhere as well. And keep smiling!




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