If you've ever wondered how Holi appears to the outside world-crazy Indians coating each other with colour and flinging buckets of water around-then take comfort in the fact that we are not the only ones with crazy festivals. There are many around the world that fall in a similar category. Here's a list:
Clean Monday Flour War Carnival, Greece
There's nothing clean about The Clean Monday festival that's held in Galaxidi in Greece. Usually celebrated in early March, this marks the beginning of the 40-day Lent period. On this day, revellers paint their faces and pelt fistfuls of coloured flour at each other. Sacks and sacks of flour (some 1,500 kgs of it) are used; by the end of the day everyone looks they've been through some gigantic flour mill. Precautions are advised and taken, as you can imagine-goggles, masks and even hoods are worn to avoid getting the powder in the mouth, nose and eyes.
The Clean Monday Flour War has been celebrated for more than 200 years. Legend has it that the people of Galaxidi started this as a rebellion against the Ottoman rulers. Clean Monday is also called Ash Monday, so one theory is that the coloured flour could have signified ash.
The Battle of the Oranges, Italy
Food, it seems, makes for the perfect thing when it comes to slinging matches. Yet another food-throwing festival is celebrated in the picturesque Italian lake-town of Ivrea. This time it's oranges.
Like most events, the roots of this ritual too are steeped in history. Back in the 12th century, the town was ruled by a cruel and oppressive Count who was infamous for forcing himself onto the village's brides on the night they were married. He did this till, one day, a bride managed to overpower him and cut off his head. The town consequently burst into celebrations and then fought with the ruler's army to complete their victory.
Since then, each year, the residents of Ivrea divide themselves into nine teams and re-enact the battle by attacking each other with oranges. There are many explanations for why oranges were used, the most popular one being that they signify parts of the male anatomy. The other one being that the people threw stones at the army, so in the later years, as part of the reenactment, oranges were used as they were in abundant supply in the region.
Held in February each year, this orange-slinging match requires 400 tons of the fruit. A girl from the town is chosen to play the part of the miller's daughter (the bride who beheaded the Count) as are others who play the parts of the soldiers, generals and the like.
After the "battle" everyone joins in the fun turning the streets into rivers of sweet orange juice.
Songkran Water Festival, Thailand
Thai New Year, called Songkran, is on April 13 each year and it is celebrated in a way we're very familiar with-by throwing water at people. Children, especially, love this 3-day festival during which they carry around water-guns (much like our pichkaris) squirting all and sundry. Many also use buckets filled with ice-cold water to douse unsuspecting people-especially the police.
The story about why water is used is because, in the olden days, Songkran was the time when statues of Lord Buddha were brought out to be cleaned with water. This water was collected and sprinkled on by families on each other for prosperity and good luck. As time passed, the sprinkling turned into dousing and then into fun water fights. Understandably, this is now the most loved part of Songkran.
Boryeong Mud Festival, South Korea
If you want to see mud-slinging in its most tactile form, go to South Korea in July. Having gained a lot of popularity in the recent past, this mud festival, held in the beach town of Boryeong, is attended by Koreans and tourists alike.
It is believed that the mud flats of Boryeong's beaches are extremely rich in minerals which are used in the manufacture of cosmetics. In fact, herein lies the reason for the festivals origin-it was actually a marketing initiative launched to educate people about the qualities of Boryeong's mud.
Now, it has turned into a tourist attraction where, if official figures are to be believed, almost 30 lakh people flock to the beach town and partake in two weeks of fun-filled activities. These include mud massages, mud baths, mud air-bounce, mudfall adventures etc. Imagine a huge mud carnival where millions of people are doing everything possible with the mud, from swimming in it to getting rained on by it.
Also, the party does not end with nightfall-that's when the performances and rave parties begin.
Never thought I'd say this, but Holi, in comparison to the above, seems remarkably restrained!