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Holi celebrations in Varanasi, India

Image courtesy: ©Porus Khareghat/Lonely Planet

As nervous as this may make you feel, celebrating Holi in the holy city of Varanasi is something that should make you throw caution to the wind and book your tickets! Menacing, threatening, ruthless are words that one often hears about Varanasi but brave travellers might love the carefree vibe and the zealous celebrations in the city of Shiva. Here are some tips:

1. Speaking of Shiva, bhaang is a common ingredient to add some fun to Holi. It is offered in the form of ‘thandai’ (a milk based drink) or ladoos, during the festival. It is better to take this in reasonable proportions with people that you are comfortable with. Many youngsters on the road offer this to travellers and urge them to join in for an authentic experience of Holi, but untoward incidents are not uncommon. You may want to order your own thandai, a day before the festival from Kashi Vishwanath Thandai Ghar (09307372459, 09307372459), rather than take something spurious.

2. The roads are slathered in different colours during Holi, but the vantage point for you is someone’s terrace. Things can get a little uneasy when you are in the middle of boisterous young boys, so enjoy the show from a distance and play at local homes with people you may know. The best place to do that may be at a travel hostel like Stops, where you can douse other travellers in colours and also enjoy a safe Holi.

3. The mania around colours remains only till noon. A loud siren warns merry makers to shift the chaos to their own homes. This is a good time to head towards the ghats, likely to be covered in unimaginable colours. The mood becomes mellow by this time.

4. Holi is never complete without gujia and other sweets. Stock up on these from one of the oldest sweet shops of Varanasi, Shribandhu, in Kachauri Gali. If you are staying near Dashashwamedh ghat, this is walking distance.

5. If you are a culturally inclined traveller, try and reach there a day early to see the idol of Holika go up in flames in different areas of the cities, especially close to the ghats.

AUTHOR'S BIO: With a penchant for travelling ‘ungoogled’, Supriya has willingly got lost a number of times in the most obscure places of India for the last 8 years. She lives on a healthy diet of anecdotes and tea with auto drivers, co-passengers and locals! Supriya currently runs a Bangalore based travel-photography outfit called Photography Onthemove and writes regular features for India and International travel publications. More on