War of colours erupts in Twickenham

by Rabea Khan

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It was my first Holi in London, and it was also the first time I managed not to have any colour smudged on me. 

New Orleans Arts gallery in Richmond held the Hindu festival of colour known as Holi. Although it was celebrated a week after the actual festival in India, the enthusiasm was absolutely palpable. 

The festival is originated from two Hindu beliefs.  The first one is about Holika, who was the sister of a demon king, Hiranyakshipu. The festival celebrates the victory of good spirits of “Prahlada” over Holika. Hence the name Holi, meaning “burning” in Sanskrit.

The belief is reflected on the eve of Holi, when bonfires are lit across India.

The use of colours during the festival is derived from a mythological story of Lord Krishna playing pranks by drenching the village girls, known as Gopis, with water and colours.

London’s Holi

Holi in Twickenham was the same crazy play of colour, featuring the quintessential Bollywood Holi songs in the background.

You could almost feel as if you were in one of those Holi parties in Delhi.

In an effort to keep the celebration non-messy, only colour powder was used.

Although this is the traditional way of celebrating Holi, water is commonly used back in India.  So much that authorities in Mumbai had to issue a warning urging people not to waste water this year.

Holi’s ingredients

However, the drink synonymous to Holi, was missing. Bhang is a traditional drink prepared from cannabis.

Holi will never be complete without getting drunk on Bhang. It is just like the celebration of Irish St Patrick’s Day of India, when you are officially allowed to be drunk.

Ghujia, the sweet associated with Holi, also did not find its place in any food stalls in Twickenham. It tastes like a sweet samosa, filled with milky Khoya, dry fruits and coconut.

In spite of several missing ingredients, Twickenham’s version of Holi did manage to hit the right chord, not only among the Indians but among other nationalities as well.

Once covered with colours, it is really difficult to tell the colour of your skin. That is what Holi does - bringing people together.