3/5/2010 | India , Maharastra

Nasik: Rang Panchami, Holi Strikes Back

I put on my already color stained hole ridden shirt which I had worn for the Holi celebration in Hyderabad.  I had saved this item that might ordinarily gone straight to the trash can for this particular day.  I placed my camera inside my dry bag backpack securing the watertight seal.  I put on my worn Tevas, and ventured out in to the streets of Nasik for my third Holi celebration of the year.  I had known that the people of Maharastra celebrate with the throwing of colored water dyes and powder the fifth day after Holi on a holiday known as Rang Panchami, however I had not known the Nasik was the epicenter and among the most famous (most famous if you ask the citizens of Nasik) place to celebrate Rang Panchami.  So it was some what fortuitous that I ended up in Nasik as one of the few foreigners (1 of 4) in town to witness the spectacular spectacle of colors.  The show put on by Nasik dwarfed any celebration of Holi I had yet witnessed.  Throughout the city large showered dance floors were erected in the streets where colored water rained down on exuberantly dancing (all male) Indians, as bursts of colored powder rained down on the crowd.  Ordinarily in The West the sight of hundreds of men dancing in wet clothes might mean you have mistakenly wandered into a rave in the Castro district of San Francisco, but in India where public display of cross gender affection is frowned upon the outlet becomes same sex affection.  Sights such as men holding hands or two guys on a motorcycle one with his arms draped around the waist of another are quite common sights in India and do not necessarily reflect on the sexual orientation of the participants.  Likewise men dancing with men is quite common, and on a day like Rang Panchami, women wisely stay behind locked doors avoiding the masses of male youths on the streets (many of whom are intoxicated).

In addition to the shower dance floors there was a pool near the river in Nasik that was filled with dyed water and decorated with flower pedals.  Hundreds of men gathered around the pool as a puja was performed by an officiating Brahmin.  On completion of the ceremony everyone charged into the small pool.  It was amazing no one drowned in the frenzy.  Even more amazing were the men jumping from nearly 15 feet (~3 m) into this small pool that was about only about 15 ft by 15 ft (3 m x 3 m) itself that was nearly full of bathers.  I watched expecting someone to get maimed or drowned at any moment yet some out everyone seemed to emerge from the red waters smiling and filled with religious ecstasy.

In late afternoon everyone gathered at the ghats on the banks of the holy Godavari River to attempt to scrub off the days celebration.   Ordinarily I refuse to bath in Indian rivers but after being doused with water and dye all day that couldn’t possibly be any cleaner than the river I figured it was worth a shot for the first stage in my clean up attempt.  I joined locals, who were greatly amused by the dye covered foreigner, in the river attempting to scrub the dye out of my skin and hair.  Hopefully the holy river did a better job of washing away my sins than it did removing the color from my hair.  Despite my scrubbing and 3 subsequent 45 minute long scrubs using shampoo and laundry soap, my hair would remain pink for nearly a month, a small price to pay for the experience of Rang Panchami in Nasik.

4 comments to Nasik: Rang Panchami, Holi Strikes Back

  • Christiana

    Micah,

    Wow, what a great account of this festival! I also had no idea that Nashik just happened to have such a fantastic celebration. I am in Nashik right now, and have been asking my local colleagues and people I know how they plan to celebrate holi (which is today, this year) and all I got for responses was a lot of confusion. Somthing about small fires. To be honest I was really confused, since I thought all the festivities should have been today. One girl told me that they throw colors five days later. Now I understand that it must be Rang Panchami. I cannot even begin to tell you how excited I am that I happen to be here now!

    I have a few questions for you, though. You wrote that there were only males in the streets. Since I am female would you say that I should not dare to go near? Do you know of any “safe” places up higher where I could watch from? I would so disappointed to miss this once-in-a-lifetime chance…! I am considering braving the crowd but your blog has made me a bit afraid. How on earth did you manage to capture these photos without damaging your camera…?

    I did notice a couple of women in the crowds, so I am thinking that maybe it is not so dangerous, but since I have light colored hair I know that people will be extra curious and that could lead to bad things.

    I would be so thankful for a bit of advice!

    PS your blog is incredible. Thank you so much for your fantastic account of your experience!

  • Hi Christiana,

    Its definitely more difficult for a female. You can see the day before where they are setting up for things and maybe make friends with some of the residents who have balconies. The good thing is people are generally a bit better than they are in UP, where its all gangs of sexually repressed drunken men. But if you do venture out stay clear of the mobs of men dancing in the showers. I had a dry bag for my camera and whipped it out only when I was in a safe position. Most people were respectful when I had my camera out and I let them “get me” after I put my camera away again.

    hope your have a good time,
    Micah

  • ravi

    i live in nashik and i agree with u. Mobs are dangerous for females.given a chance , i would like to meet u if u live still here. Acquainting a foreigner will be golden chance for me…plz reply ..
    Waiting for reply……….
    On ravindra15196@gmail.com

  • Hi Ravi,
    I don’t live in Nashik just was passing through last Holi, I enjoyed my time there nice city and nice people.

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