Holi festival in Katmandhu

Although originally Buddhists, the inhabitants of the Katmandhu valley gradually adopted hindouism, which became the major religion in the Nepalese capital today. With this polytheist religion's pantheon of multiple gods and goddesses, the life of the city is thus organised around the many festivities which mark out the Hindu calendar. The festival of "Holi" is certainly the most popular of them.

Holi festival, Basantapur temple, Kathmandu, Nepal

Even if the celebration of Holi goes back to several centuries before Jesus Christ, the symbolic meaning of the festival saw its significance evolve with time. It began as a practice mostly followed by married women wishing happiness and wellbeing for their families, though it represents nowadays an occasion to celebrate the arrival of spring between friends. But always with a lot of joy and happiness.

Nepalese women, Holi, Katmandhu, Nepal   painted nepalese youth, Holi, Katmandhu, Nepal

Holi indeed symbolizes spring and the the arrival of hope and joy, pushing away the winter's sadness and cold, with its luminous summer days. Thus, each year, on full moon's day in the month of "Phalgun" (which corresponds to Mars in the Gregorian calendar) marks the beginning of the festivities. Hundreds of young people, impetuous and enthusiastic, then invade the streets of Katmandhu to throw water at each other, symbolizing by this gesture all the joy of the very close blooming monsoon.

Water fight, Holi festival, Kathmandu streets, Nepal   Water-street fight, Holi festival, Katmandhu, Nepal

Throughout the day, the young Nepalese add a coloured powder called "glutal" to the water used in friendly street-fights. While adults don't participate in the chaos on the streets, they use these colors, symbolizing for them joy and friendship. Outside, children and teenagers express all their youth's exuberance, as the festival slowly comes to an end - with Katmandhu's "painted youth" parading...

coloured nepalese, painted youth, Holi, Katmandhu, Nepal  
colormask, nepalese youngs, Holi fest, Katmandhu, Nepal
  red paint nepali, Holi, Katmandhu, Nepal

At the same time, the women dressed in their most beautiful saris move in groups towards the Basantapur temple where they will bring offerings at the foot of the "Chir." This high bamboo pole is fringed with long strips of cloth representing good luck charms, and is the main area for Holi devotion.

Nepalese women, Holi, Katmandhu, Nepal  

Nepalese hindu woman, Holi, Katmandhu, Nepal

At night fall, whereas the festivities of the day end, the crowd finally gathers to attend the bonfire which will completely burn the bamboo pole of "Holika."

Holi pole, basantapur temple, Kathmandu, Nepal Holika bunfire, Kathmandu, Nepal Holi sacred fire, Kathmandu, Nepal
Tanguy&Violette © 2007