Holi Festival in Vrindavan and Mathura Part II
After spending a couple of hours relaxing from the morning’s craziness, we headed into the town of Mathura, where a parade was set to occur starting at 2pm. It was obvious as we approached the street that the parade was set to be on, as we could hear loud music blaring, announcing the coming parade. Some women and children observed from the balconies and rooftops above, not wishing to be in the midst of all the action. As we weaved our way through the crowd on the side of the street as to not disturb the parade, we were again doused with color, both in powder and water form.
The parade consisted of about 10-15 vehicles, each filled with children and teenagers who eagerly tossed color onto the people standing in the crowds. Other teenagers would follow behind the vehicle, using its music to form a mini dance party. Intrigued, a few of us myself included, joined the group in the streets and danced along. The locals loved that we were joining in and fought each other in order to be closer to us. Their dancing style is very energetic and aggressive, and seemed more like a mosh pit at times. Dancing with the kids in the street was one of those unique cultural experiences that I always try to pursue, but are hard to come across. I savored the moment and took the opportunity to let loose a little bit.
After a couple of hours, the parade and dance party began to wind down. Overall it was definitely more enjoyable and less intense compared with the morning’s festivities. We were all eager to have a good bucket shower to remove some of the powder and gunk from our hair and bodies, knowing that it would be futile to try to get 100% clean, since the official day of Holi would be tomorrow.
March 24-Official Day of Holi
We woke up very early again at 7am, and donned our colorful (read: dirty) clothes from the day before. Anne Marie decided to sit this one out and head back to Agra, as she had enough of the special attention that she was given by the Indian men. The seven of us remaining headed to Vishram ghat, where the festivities were set to begin. It took about a half hour walk to get there, but it was a pleasant one, a sort of calm before the storm. There were already a few vendors selling the bags of colored powder, so we each picked up one in order to be properly armed when the time came.
We soon came across groups of kids, already with plenty of energy that early in the morning. They gleefully attacked us, and we were hit with a barrage of powder, water, and silly foam. Luckily, we had the ammunition to get them back!
We encountered a few more of these groups as we got closer to the ghat and the river. When we arrived to the ghat, Julian befriended some older men who were making a suspicious looking greenish lassi that was probably laced with something illicit. Knowing that it was probably also made with the dirty river water, Julian was the only one who opted to give it a try-it is the festival of Holi after all!
Since there wasn’t too much going on around Vishram ghat and the river, we decided to return to the streets to participate in the color battle with the kids and adults hanging around there. Even though the overall festivities were less intense than the previous day, I was definitely covered in move powder and gunk than the previous day. Some of the kids would show no mercy, and would spray you for 10-15 seconds nonstop if you happened to be caught in the line of fire. Luckily my go pro is well equipped for situations like this, and I was still able to get some great photos of the chaos up close and personal.
After being on the receiving end of the foul smelling silly foam one too many times, I decided to buy my own can and have some fun with it. Costing a mere 50 rupees, some of the children were now a little more hesitant to attack me first. One bold child tried to grab the can from my hand. I then chased after him, but he ducked into an alleyway. Much to my surprise, about a minute later, he was brought back to me, held down by several of his friends! They urged me to give him a good spraydown, which I gladly did. Payback can be rough!
By late morning, we all had our fill of Holi and were ready to be done. Checkout for our guesthouse was slated for noon, so we all had time for a quick shower to scrub the dyes from our bodies. Due to the lack of mirror in the bathroom, it was hard to determine when one was actually “clean”, and there was still remnants of color on our faces and necks. All of us decided to dispose of our clothes, as they were not in any sort of condition to be worn again. A quick lunch was had next door before we all were to split our separate ways-myself to Jaipur, the Germans to Varanasi, and Jason, Julian, and Chip were headed to Delhi. We all agreed that it was an amazing and unique experience, especially to celebrate it in THE place to do it in India. Sometimes last minute plans do work out, and it is advantageous to be flexible with plans!
Train from Agra to Jaipur
There weren’t many options to get to Jaipur direct from Mathura, I took a quick one hour train ride to Agra, a bigger hub for Jaipur. Since it was a holiday, and Indian trains traditionally book out weeks in advance, the only ticket available was for general class. General class carriages do not have any reserved seating and anything goes in these compartments. There are also no sleeping berths, a nightmare for long-haul journeys. People squeeze themselves into any open inch of space, and other choose to sit or lie down in the luggage space, located above the seating area. Compartments made to hold 6 people in the higher class carriages, held an average of 15 people. When there wasn’t space to sit down, the overflow of people spread to the aisle. Since the train was not originating in Agra and was continuing on, the only space left for me was to carve out some standing room space. As the only foreigner in the train, I was met with a lot of stares. However, when I responded with a smile and wave, many of the people would return smiles back, simply unused to seeing a foreigner. It was going to be a long 5 hours, as gripped my luggage tightly, as there was no space for that either. I put my headphones in and began to zone out.
About an hour into the 5 hour journey, some storage space opened up above so I was freed of my large backpack. A man soon came up to me, introduced himself as Rakesh, and after asking the routine questions asked by every Indian (What is your name? Where are you from? Do you like India? Can we take a selfie together?), he invited me to sit with his 15 or so extended family members in a compartment. Somehow they were able to wedge me right in the middle, where I became the center of attention. I soon learned that only 2 of them could speak English, and only one of them spoke it decently well. I was then asked many more questions by Rakesh as his family looked intently at me. Rakesh then proposed that I sing a song “in English”. Not wishing to begrudge the family that willingly invited me to sit with them, I sang “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star”, which evidently was a big hit with them! After finishing with the song, Rakesh thanked me, and told me that I could resume listening to my music, as he could not think of any other questions to ask me, and the rest of the train was spent with only minimal discomfort.
I would definitely recommend any future travelers to India to ride in the general seating carriages at least once (although definitely not for any overnight journeys!) It provides a unique way of getting to know another subset of the Indian population, as well an extremely economical way to get to your next destination-my ticket cost me 90 rupees, a little less than $1.50 USD.
What has been your most memorable transportation experience?