People of all castes and creeds congregate along the banks of the River Ganga in Kanpur. The shops are shut. No business this evening. The full moon hangs bright and round in the dark sapphire sky. People below dance to Hindi songs and drums. They chant to the beat as their bodies writhe beautifully to the music, saris sparkling in the moonlight. Hands grab at bowls full of powder paint. Yellows, blues, oranges, reds, pinks. Paint covers the crowd as if a rainbow had burst.
They are rejoicing the victory of good over evil and the start of spring.
Now let’s take you to a slightly different place. A car park outside Battersea Power Station.
Here, a DJ’s beats pound from a small stage. Countless ciders and beers are consumed. Londoners compete to see who can attack the other with more paint.
They are rejoicing the victory of good over evil and the start of spring?
Except it’s August.
Holi festival was originally a Hindu festival to celebrate the new season, fertile land and religious stories about some colourful characters called Hiranyakashipu, Prahlada and Vishnu. It has now reached the shores of Europe in order to celebrate, well, a good time basically. The Festival of Colours is organised by three young Germans who set out to deliver the meaningful Hindi message of equality and throw a good party.
I went to the event with four of my friends on the first day it reached London on 10th August.
The music was good and there were small attempts of bringing the original Hindu message to the fore with Indian dancers. The event is still in its infancy but I think in a few years it might be one of the big contenders of the summer festival circuit. In the mean time, it was great to splatter paint on people.
Word to the wise, don’t bring friends who won’t get down and dirty – although Cheska for Made in Chelsea made an appearance (Oh, yes – celeb spot of the month). An hourly paint-throwing countdown ensured that the crowd (all dressed in white) threw their powder up together to get covered by a cough-spluttering cloud. You literally cannot see your hand in front of your face (a perfect opportunity for a friendly grope of the very attractive man you have been staring at all afternoon – good over evil and all that).
Definitely worth a visit, but only if you’re happy never to see your outfit again. If you missed out on this one, you can wait until next year, or catch up with them somewhere round Europe.
Where: Battersea Power Station
Prices: Early bird £29.44; Regular ticket £43.70. Colour powder can only be bought on site
More info: www.holifestival.com