Monday, March 16, 2009

Happy Holi

One of the reasons I haven't written my blog recently is that I have been immersed in my Managing Rural Development course but I took the day off last week to celebrate Holi - one of the main Hindu festivals which honours Prahlad's miraculous escape from a fire due to his unshakable devotion to Lord Vishnu. The main event took place last Thursday when people come out onto the streets and daub each other with powdered paints which are traditionally made of medicinal herbs that are believed to chase away fevers and colds. Baijayant and his son, Soyem, arrived at my door at 8am armed with plastic bags of "colour" which they proceeded to daub all over my face and head - fortunately, I also had some so was able to return the favour. We then proceeded downstairs where my landlord, Surendra, was preparing a festival drink called thandai made from bananas, yoghurt and chopped nuts. I then "played holi" with the household children who definitely had one up on me as they also had water pistols filled with coloured water. Bizarrely, soon after breakfast most men decamp for the morning to have picnics with their male friends leaving their wives and other female relatives to celebrate on their own – and Baijayant was no exception - so I went across the road to his house where I took part in a more civilised paint daubing exercise with his wife, Geeta, his mother and his father. On my return home I walked into the exhuberant fray that had been taking place at my chez Surendra. Although in the more conservative places like Bhawanipatna, you rarely see women on the streets during the festival, it was clear that behind closed doors some women were determined not to miss out on the fun and all Surendra's female relatives were covered in paint of every colour under the sun although pink is the predominant holi colour. The proceedings end at mid-day on the dot – even though it's India, they're pretty punctual about this – and everyone wanders home to clean themselves up. It took about an hour to get the colour off my face and out of my hair and ears after I which I proceeded back to Geeta's for lunch. In Bhawanipatna, holi is the day you start eating pakhala bhaat, otherwise known as water rice, that is traditionally eaten in the summer months. To prepare the dish, water and yoghurt are added to cooked rice which makes it a much lighter affair than the boiled rice you normally get and I rather liked it. The meal ended with Orissa cakes which to be honest I could have lived without as they taste like fried stale pastry. Mid-afternoon, I wandered back home for a quick snooze – it's started to get quite hot and I can see myself becoming a fan of the afternoon nap in between the studying. Click here to see more pictures.

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