From Jaisalmer it only took us 5½ hours to reach Jodhpur by train, where we arrived late in the evening. The first impressions of Jodhpur were interesting. The streets were very narrow – so narrow that cars cannot drive there – but they were crowded with people, and after every few metres people had lightened bonfires. Was there a riot going on? Not at all! This all had to do with the Holi festival that was about to take place the next day. The evening before Holi people celebrate Holika Dahan, whereby demonic forces are destructed by fire. Unfortunately we arrived late, and many of the fires and ceremonies were already finished. So, we continued to our hotel where we enjoyed a good night of rest.
The next day was a very important day for India: Holi! Holi is the festival of colours, and probably the best known Indian festival around the world. It is a day where Hindus celebrate the victory of good over evil and the arrival of spring, whereby people meet friends and family, eat and drink, and play with the colours! However, people warned us that it is also a festival where many people drink alcohol or bhang (a Marihuana drink), which can make them annoying or violent. So we went out, carefully and prepared!
We only had one day in Jodhpur, so besides celebrating Holi we also wanted to visit the beautiful Mehrangarh fort in the morning. From our hotel it was only a short walk to the fort, which cannot be missed as it rises up above the city. The climb towards the fort was steep and hot, but very impressive!
The fort has been built around 1460 and currently houses a palace museum which you can visit. The museum is big, contains many items, and the audio guide gives a lot of information, but for some reason it was not the most impressive palace that we have visited so far. Maybe the fact that Stephan was walking around while having a fever that day probably did no good either…
From the fort we took a steep road down towards the city. We stopped at a guesthouse to have some food, which was one of the least enjoyable experiences we had so far. Not only was the owner not very nice, but the food was also dirty with colours as the cook did not wash himself after having celebrated Holi that morning. But well.. that’s probably part of the Holi experience!
We headed towards the Clock Tower area, as we had read somewhere that that is the place where Holi is celebrated a lot. However, when we arrived there it was almost empty. In the meantime, we did get coloured by several people, but it was not as enjoyable as we hoped. The people we encountered were mostly young men, who were wandering around in groups. Even though some were nice, some were also a bit importunate – forcing us to take a selfie with them, and being a bit too eager to touch us with colours. At one point we were surrounded by a rather large group of guys on their motors which made us feel uncomfortable, so we decided to call a tuktuk and head back to our hotel. While driving through the narrow streets of the old city we still witnessed a lot of festivities with many people dancing and playing drums, but again there were mostly men involved – which shows how male-dominated this society is. When we arrived at our hotel, we found out that there was also party going on there, with – surprise – only men! They probably had enjoyed several beers already, and were forcing us to join us. We, however, slipped through them and headed towards the rooftop of the hotel, where we enjoyed the view on the city and listened to the sounds of people partying throughout the city.
Our first experience with Holi was probably not the best one, unfortunately. However, many Indians also have different meanings about the festival. Some are lyrical about it, while others are not enthusiastic and prefer to stay inside that day. It also depends where and with who you celebrate it. If you need any tips for celebrating Holi, check out the list we created below!
Also, because we only had one day in Jodhpur, we didn’t experience the city to the fullest and we didn’t get a good impression of it. Apparently it is a beautiful city with many nice places to visit, but unfortunately we didn’t have time for that as we traveled to Pushkar the next morning! You can read about our stay in Pushkar in our next blog!
Where to stay?
We stayed at hotel Singhvi Haveli, a beautiful old haveli converted into a hotel. We had booked a standard room though, which did not have any windows, was rather smelly and the bed was not comfortable either. They do have more expensive rooms which looked way better. They have a very large and nice rooftop terrace and the breakfast was good. It is located in the old city, and therefore not reachable by car as the streets are too small (tuktuks can reach there). The fort is only a 10-minute walk away.
Tips for celebrating Holi:
- Protect your body, as you don’t know how the colours are manufactured. Some people use natural colours, but also chemical colours are used which can cause irritation, or it sticks to your hair and skin for several days (not kidding, we witnessed several people who were still slightly coloured after 3 days – although there is also a chance that they didn’t take a proper shower yet!). Also, protect your hair with a scarf or cap (Heleen’s hair was very dry and frizzy afterwards, and it took a while before it was recovered again), protect your eyes with sunglasses (and be careful when wearing lenses!), and try not to swallow the colours.
- Wear cheap or old clothes that you can throw away afterwards. We managed to wash our clothes afterwards, but it depends on the amount and the quality of powder as well. We witnessed some tourists who were not prepared for this clothe-dyeing, and they did not seem too happy about it! However, as a woman try to avoid wearing white, as people will also throw water on you and everyone can see through your clothes.
- If you go out, go early! Apparently, we missed the biggest celebrations while we were in the fort during the morning. Furthermore, in the afternoon people will be more influenced by alcohol or bhang, which can create a less pleasant atmosphere.
- Try to celebrate it with an Indian family! They know the customs and places to go. Also, as Indians love food, they might have good food at home which they will share with you 😉
- Or celebrate it with other tourists. We felt very exposed just walking around with the two of us, and because we were tourists we attracted more attention as well. In bigger cities Holi parties are also organized, which can be nice to attend.
- As a woman: be careful as many places are male-dominated, and apparently men can take advantage of this festival. Be clear if someone does something you do not like.