The next day we journeyed to Pushkar with as few stops as possible as we wanted to arrive as early as possible to be in time to celebrate “Chotti Holi” or “Little Holi”.
We made good time and had time to check into our hotel, a charming heritage place called the Hotel Master Paradise. Then we made our way down to Pushkar Lake to be blessed ready for the Holi festival. This included us chanting phrase, holding a coconut and saying a blessing for our families. All this was going on as the sun was setting across the lake from us- a trip “wow” moment.
We had a short amount of free time before the main festivities so we explored some of the shopping street where I bought a new travel journal and Fraser braved a haircut and cut throat shave (not too scary until the guy answered his phone so was chatting away and doing it one handed half way through). Whilst Fraser was having this done the locals lit a small bonfire, blessed it and then carried the still hot coals to a small roadside temple.
When he was finished we ran towards the main square to get a good spot for Holika Dahan, we ended up on the front row which was great if a little squashed and uncomfortable with hundreds of people pushing and shoving us. Here was a much bigger bonfire where many rituals were carried out, fireworks set off and the fire was lit. Once the flames began everyone surged forwards and were all very close which would have given health and safety in Britain kittens. Again the coals were carried to the temple and down to the lake. After almost getting scolded multiple times we took our leave and headed back to our hotel (after buying our paint for the next day).
HAPPY HOLI- this was the greeting we heard non-stop the day after from everyone enjoying the festival. Holi is the festival of colour used to welcome in the spring. We all dressed in our white clothes and congregated outside the front of the hotel where we proceeded to chuck and smear paint all over each other. We had been warned that the locals all get a bit over enthusiastic and drink a beverage laced with marijuana, as there is no alcohol in Pushkar, which means they do grab, especially at female tourists, and it can get a little dangerous in the centre of town. Our plan was to get as coloured as possible in our own group and then head into the centre so we could blend in more.
When we did venture into town I found everyone to be merry but not intimidating. We got to the edge of what resembled a mosh pit. A couple of us decided to brave it, despite advice against this, and went into the main crowd. All the men had their shirts ripped from their backs as standard and chucked over the electricity wires but not once did I feel threatened. Many people came up and wiped paint on your face but all were friendly and we just danced around to the club beats being played over a loudspeaker.
When we had all had enough and had sufficiently overheated we went back to the hotel to try and clean the paint off (easier said than done as many of us remained stained for many days)
In the evening we all wandered back into the town where many of the shops had now opened. A small group of us stopped at Sonu Juices for freshly pressed juices, shakes and lassis which were delicious.
We went through the bazaar where the streets were littered with ripped shirts and everything was stained purple. We stopped for food at the Rainbow Café which had views from the terrace across the lake. We got a tuk tuk back to the hotel, which is really very lazy as the whole town is so small walking anywhere is no distance at all.
The next morning we had some free time so some people went back into town again and some of us chose to chill by the pool in the hotel. I tried to go in but only managed to dangle my legs in as it was freezing. We did go to Little Italy for some really good pizza and a Nutella pancake.
Holi was a once in a lifetime, amazing experience and Pushkar was such a great setting for it. The town felt intimate but was also a buzzing party. Everyone should go at least once!!