So what happens during the Holi Festival?
In Kathmandu, a week before the holiday, which falls on the full-moon, a long bamboo pole, topped with fringes of colorful cloth, called the Chir is erected in front of the Kumari’s house in the Basantpur area of the old royal palace. The Chir pole commemorates Shri Krishna’s teasing of some of the Gopis (milk maidens) by hiding their clothes in a tree while they were bathing in the sacred Jamuna.
From the moment the Chir is hoisted, for the next eight or nine days, the period of playing with colors reigns.
People douse each other with water and throw vermilion powder on each other. This practice commemorates Sri Krishna painting his beloved Radha’s face with colors when he courted her. When Krishna fell in love with Radha, he was worried that she wouldn’t love him because he was dark complexioned (blue) whille she was so fair. His mother advised him to flirtatiously and playfully apply colors to Radha’s face, thus covering up their difference. And it worked…
The play is particularly intense, but still fun, on the 3 last days leading up to full moon day. Ethnic groups from the Terai and Indians celebrate the festival for one day longer.
Holi is celebrated with great fervor. Many people, including women and children, eat or drink bhang, a preparation of marijuana and spices which only adds to the revelry, fervor, and fun.
Late in the afternoon of the full moon day the Chir is lowered and taken to the Thundikhel field in central Kathmandu where it is ceremonially burnt, like Holika was. Playing with color is now officially over, and normal, well-behaved and decorous life resumes.