A Purple Guerrilla

It doesn't look good on me, but it sure looks nice on Jaipur.

We've entered Rajasthan, the Indian state known for having cities referred to by their color. There's Jaipur, the Pink City. Udaipur, the White City. Jodhpur, the Blue City.

 Jaipur's not Barbie pink, not bubble gum either. This venerable old city's walls are painted a dusky rose, a dusty warm color striking against the blue, cloudless Indian sky. Pink is the color of hospitality, and the paint evidently works as a good-luck charm for the tourism industry, turning it into one of the top destinations in India.

And, just when we thought India couldn't get any more vibrant, we ended up here during the most colorful time of year--for Holi, the Festival of Color.

Meant to welcome spring, Holi occurs on the full moon of the third Hindu month, March 1st this year. As the name suggests, it's celebrated with color.

 Literally, color. Dye. Paint. Colored water.

Children (and young men, it turns out) take colored powders, mix them with a little water and smear them all over each other. Bags of dusty paint are upended over people's heads, super-soaker water guns double as high-powered paint cannons, and just a plain old bucket of water turns into a blue bath for your favorite neighbor.

Turning friends, family (and tourists) into human Easter eggs is a tradition started before the common era. In the Hindu epic the Mahabharata Krishna  tosses some dye on his lover Radha. Hilarity has ensued to the present day. We saw ancient paintings in the National Museum showing maharajahs and their courtiers dumping paint on each other. What a fun idea for a holiday!

The reality is a little more intimidating. The party kicked off at sunset last night, when bonfires were lit on the streets celebrating a legendary hero's walk through fire. It's a family holiday, but watching people maneuver ladles full of coals through crowds and boys take burning sticks and zoom off on motorbikes, sparks trailing behind them, makes me a little fire-shy.

This morning, the primary school kids we saw from our hotel's rooftop were having a blast soaking each other in paint and screaming and running. It was like a big paintball game without any teams.

But later, the young men walking by with two-pound bags of powder were looking for mischief, and we've stayed near the hotel today.

Nevertheless, leaving for the restaurant next door we didn't run fast enough and got sprayed with, what else? Pink paint in the Pink City.

**Click here to see our photos from Holi!**


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