By Dawn Wong
India is a fascinating country. It is home to thousand year old ornately sculptured temples, the world famous Taj Mahal, modern skyscrapers, and prevalent slums. Over thousands of years, geographical, historical and religious influences have weaved the colourful fabric of Indian culture, one of the oldest known to humanity. Festivals play an important role in India, and one of the most spectacular festivals to date, attracting throngs of tourists yearly, is the Holi Festival. This celebration commemorates the victory of good over evil, particularly the burning and destruction of a demoness named Holika. This victory was made possible with the help of Hindu god of preservation, Lord Vishnu. Holi is also known as the “Festival of Colours” and this moniker was derived from the childhood antics of Lord Krishna, who played pranks on the village girls by drenching them in water and colours.
In parts of India, Holi is also celebrated as a spring festival, to provide thanksgiving for an abundant harvest season. People spend the day smearing coloured powder all over each other’s faces, throwing coloured water at each other, having parties, and dancing under water sprinklers. Bhang (a paste made from cannabis plants) is also traditionally consumed as part of the celebrations.
Special Holi events with music, rain dances, and colours are organised in large cities across India—particularly in Delhi, Rajasthan and Mumbai.
The emphasis of Holi rituals is on the burning of demoness Holika. On the eve of Holi, large bonfires are lit to mark the occasion. This is known as Holika Dahan. As well as conducting a special puja (worship ritual), locals sing and dance around the fire, and walk around it three times. In some parts of India, some even walk across the hot coals of the fire.
As part of your Holi experience, we have curated a list of luxurious hotels near the places of celebration, where you can recharge, post festivities. Be treated to an opulent experience from start to end with their impeccable service, luxurious amenities and sumptuous dining options- before heading out again to join the fanfare.
Taj Umaid Bhawan Palace is a stunning luxury retreat, perched high above the desert capital of Jodhpur. The palace is a blend of eastern and western architectural influences with its Rajput traditional exteriors and art deco interiors.
There are 75 rooms and suites offering fabulous views over the immaculate palace gardens and the Mehrangarh Fort in the distance. Suites are richly adorned with frescoes of exotic animals and some have spa therapy rooms and baths. Enjoy an exquisite dining experience in The Risala restaurant, which offers an extensive a la carte menu and the Sunset Pavilion which provides al fresco dining, specialising in delicious barbeques.
Alila Fort Bishangarh
Located between Jaipur and Delhi, Alila Fort Bisangarh is within close reach of UNESCO World Heritage Site Amber Fort, just 45-minutes away by car. The hotel itself encompasses the Fort and the surrounding havelis, sitting perched on a granite hill. Each suite has been tastefully designed: clean white furnishings meet bold fabrics and large bay windows make for sun-drenched rooms and a perfect spot to enjoy the views.
The intimate space hosts 59 suites, making it the perfect quiet indulgence for anyone who wishes to escape from the frenzy of urban life. With plenty of dining options, an extensive wine cellar and champagne bar, there will always be something to please the most cynical gastronome.
Amanbagh, set within rural countryside in the region of Alwar, showcases the rural splendour and strong cultural heritage of the region. The property is situated in an oasis of greenery that juxtaposes against the arid plains and craggy hills which surround it. The resort style echoes the region’s Mughul architecture and pays homage to the architecture and design of India’s golden age. Staying in this property provides a very unique opportunity to witness first hand the traditions and culture of rural India.
Pool Pavilions are set around the perimeter of the resort, each with their own private pool and garden. The Havelis are set amongst the date and mango trees with their own private courtyard, garden or balcony. There is also a well-stocked library and a roof terrace elevated above a canopy of trees, which has fabulous views over the surrounding countryside. The hotel can also organise a multitude of activities including visits to forts, temples and villages, yoga and meditation and even a ‘Sunset Cow Dust Tour’.
The Oberoi Rajvilas, Jaipur
The Oberoi Rajvilas is a luxury hotel located just outside of Jaipur in Rajasthan in India. Rajvilas has 71 rooms, tents and villas set in extensive landscaped gardens all within easy reach of the famous city of Jaipur and Amber Fort. Built in the style of a fort reminiscent of Princely India, and just half an hour from Jaipur, discover the city that epitomizes Rajasthan. All rooms at The Oberoi Rajvilas have four poster beds and sunken marble baths overlooking private walled gardens. The more extravagant villas have private pools. The dining rooms offer a choice of pan-Indian specialties, western and oriental dishes. Activities at the hotel include tennis, croquet and golf putting but there is also plenty to do in the surrounding area like visiting the spectacular City Palace, the Hawa Mahal, the Amber Fort and the Jaigarh Fort.
After the Holi celebrations, immerse in an array of experiences around India and discover the many other exciting wonders of this land of a thousand cultures and mysteries. Weave through the colourful bazaars of Jaipur, take a stroll through the Mehrauli archaeological park or visit the multiple art hubs in Delhi where you can appreciate the nation’s finest artworks.
Wander Through Ancient Bazaars
The colourful bazaars of the land have a veritable cornucopia of treasures waiting for all who have the patience to unearth them. With specialties like local handicrafts, textiles, gems, and carpets in a riot of colours, Jaipur’s street shopping is a contender to Ali Baba’s cave of wonders. Take a tour across street hawkers and chic boutiques with a personal shopping expert to help you navigate these treasure trove of wonders.
Try a Hand in Indian Delicacies
If you prefer a more unique experience, you may dabble in a hands-on Rajasthani cooking experience at Dera Mandawa. The entire experience involves a trip to the nearby market for ingredients, followed by a lesson in regional specialties. You will be able to sample the fruits of your labour after your session. The passionate couple who own the heritage hotel, will teach guests the divine secrets of Indian cuisine.
Contemporary Art Trails
If cooking is not up your alley, then perhaps a dash of culture may whet your appetite. Arts connoisseurs may want to engage specialty guides to help you navigate and understand Delhi’s Contemporary and Modern Art. Explore the many reputable art hubs in Delhi: Haus Khas, Lado Sarai and Shahapur Jat, where several artists and art collectors have opened private galleries. Take a leisurely tour of these galleries independently, or have an art historian to better help you understand and appreciate the nuances of the art on display.
Whatever you may choose to do in this magical land, the experience will no doubt leave you more enlightened and inspired. As Deepak Chopra once said: “We’re living in a time when the world has suddenly discovered India because it’s run out of raw material for its imagination. The raw materials for imagination are inexhaustible here”; this incredible land will expand your mind and soul beyond the wildest reaches leaving you forever changed.