Happy Holi! Celebrating the Festival of Colors in Goa

If you were in India today, chances are that you would now be sporting rainbow hues from head to toe, because today is Holi, the Festival of Colors.

Holi is a Hindu celebration that welcomes spring and bids farewell to winter. Originally, Holi commemorated successful harvests.

As we prepared to take on streams of colorful powder and water this morning, we watched the playful mayhem on the street below our Panjim, Goa guesthouse. Like toy soldiers, children held fluorescent plastic squirt guns and water balloons, waiting for the moment when they could ambush vehicles and motorists with jewel-toned water and powder.

Open-topped trucks drove by, blasting festive Indian music with a Caribbean feel as teenagers and adults on-board cheered.

Poof. A purple stream of powder flew onto the passing revelers painting them in an instant.

The children were euphoric at this victory.

When we finally took to the street, armed with a plastic bag to shelter our cameras, we encountered a jubilant pack of merrymakers. Noticing our squeaky-clean clothing, the group parted, allowing us to pass untouched. We asked them to slather on some colored goodness. They obliged — swirling orange, red and yellow powders onto our faces. Despite the fact that they were gentle on us, we officially felt like part of the club.

Me and Shawn.

As we walked to a Punjabi restaurant for lunch, we saw revelers of all ages with hair that resembled powdered wigs. Locals shouted “Happy Holi.”

Siesta-takers watched a cricket match, while a coffee-house employee channel surfed, briefly stopping at a Holi-themed Indian soap opera; the Bollywood-esque actor’s face was smothered with fuchsia war paint that was perfectly coordinated with his tunic.

We wondered how some of the local diners had made it to the restaurant unscathed.

With the hot sun overhead we decided to stroll back to our charming home away from home, Alfonso’s Guesthouse. As statewide elections had just taken place days earlier, we were told that Holi’s tossing of the colors ended earlier this year (as officials were still busy tallying the votes). On our walk home, the streets were noticeably quiet. The scattered splotches of color on streets and sidewalks were the only evidence of the mischief that ensued just hours before.

Where in the World?

Photography & text © Tricia A. Mitchell. All Rights Reserved.

Published by Tricia A. Mitchell

Tricia A. Mitchell is a freelance writer and photographer. Born in Europe but raised in the United States, she has lived in Valletta, Malta; Heidelberg, Germany; and Split, Croatia. An avid globetrotter who has visited more than 65 countries, she has a penchant for off-season travel. Tricia has learned that travel’s greatest gift is not sightseeing, rather it is the interactions with people. Some of her most memorable experiences have been sharing a bottle of champagne with distant French cousins in Lorraine, learning how to milk goats in a sleepy Bulgarian village, and ringing in the Vietnamese New Year with a Hanoi family. She welcomes any opportunity to practice French and German, and she loves delving into a place’s history and artisanal food scene. A former education administrator and training specialist, Tricia has a bachelor’s degree in elementary education and a master’s degree in international relations. She and her husband, Shawn, married in the ruins of a snowy German castle. They’ve been known to escape winter by basing themselves in coastal Croatia or Southeast Asia. Her writing has appeared in Fodor’s Travel, Frommer’s, and International Living.

14 thoughts on “Happy Holi! Celebrating the Festival of Colors in Goa

  1. Hi Tricia,
    Got here from twitter … yes Holi is quite an experience.
    Missing Holi in India … might go to the local tamed down version this weekend at Stanford grounds.
    Interesting pictures … Didn’t realize Holi was big in Goa too.
    Safe Travels,

    1. Hi Madhu – thank you for your travel well-wishes! As I’m responding post-weekend, you’ve probably already celebrated in Stanford. Have you gotten the colors out of your hair yet?! :)

      We’ve heard that Holi is celebrated on a much larger scale up north. Either way, ours was a gentle introduction to such a fun festival!

    1. Hi Mrsbr & thanks for your comment. We only spent a few days in Goa, but loved the relaxed vibe and friendly locals. And what perfect timing to be there during Holi – that was the icing on the cake!

  2. Having grown up in Mumbai, Holi was very much a part of every year. However I’m now based in the middle of the Blue Mountains, or the Nilgiris in the south of the country, and here, no one knew Holi was last week. In most parts of the south, the festival is absent. Your photographs seemed more like something I was recalling from memory. Thank you for posting!

    1. Greetings, Ruth & happy belated Holi to you! We were pleased that Holi was celebrated in Goa – particularly since we’d read there might not be any such revelry the farther south we voyaged.

      We are now in Kerala – looking forward to exploring the legendary backwaters. The Blue Mountains sound spectacular, though – do you often make visits back to Mumbai? A pleasure to meet you; thanks for dropping in!

      1. Ah yes, Vembanand lake is truly special. If you’re interested in exploring wildlife, Silent Valley and Wayanad are places I’d recommend. Otherwise, Munnar, Fort Cochin and Alleppey are wonderful. Now is a particular scenic time in these hills. I shall next be in Mumbai in the monsoon. For how long will you be in India?

      2. How nice of you to share some travel pointers — thank you! We are now at Fort Cochin, but of course hope to make it to the tea plantations, on a backwater cruise, and perhaps to a wildlife sanctuary while in Kerala. At your suggestion I’ll have to read up on Alleppey and the wildlife-spotting places too.

        We are very lucky to be spending one month in southern India; we’ll return back to Europe in early April but already commented on how fascinating it would be to live and work here!

        Mumbai is such a great city – a big bustling place, but with heaps of character. Do you spend half the year in Mumbai and the other half in the Blue Mountains?

      3. You’re most welcome.
        Ah, no. I graduated less than a year ago, and so have spent most of my life in Mumbai. It was time for me to escape the bustle of it all, so I left last monsoon and found work in the Nilgiris. I then spent some time in Vidarbha and have now returned to the hills. I plan on spending the rest of my life temporarily embedded in varied landscapes. I may be heading to Europe during the winter this year depending on what opportunities education permits.
        The southern part of India is my favourite, but if you ever have the time to explore this country further, the North East is another worthy adventure.

      4. Ruth, congrats on your recent graduation! I like your approach to hopping between varied landscapes…

        I have dear Indian friends in Germany, one of whom is currently doing her PhD on scholarship. Should you have questions, I’m certain she’d be happy to assist. Please just message me a good email address and I can put the two of you in contact.

        And yes, the Northeast of India is definitely on our Travel Wish List — in the north, I’ve only visited the so-called “Golden Triangle.” It was a tough decision to decide between exploring more of the north for these four weeks, or see the south, but I’m thrilled with our decision.

        It’s raining here in Kerala (but feels refreshing) – hope you’re having sunny skies!

    1. That’s a lovely comparison, Alli. Travel does offer a set of diverse experiences, much like different sections of a bookshop. :)

      How has your summer been going? Any bungee jumping follow-ups? The other day, we climbed a small mountain peak here in Germany, and bungee jumping came to mind as we approached some of the steeper areas. Was I ever happy to have my feet again firmly planted on the ground!

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