In the Pink, or Holi: the Hindu Festival of Color

Celebrating Holi in India with F|S photographer Neil Greentree and a local musician in traditional costume

The pink-necked man above is longtime F|S photographer Neil Greentree. In March of 2007, he visited Jodhpur, India, to photograph the paintings in the royal collection for the exhibition Garden and Cosmos: The Royal Paintings of Jodhpur. During his stay, Neil was invited to the maharaja’s annual Holi celebration, held on the lawns behind Umaid Bhavan palace (where the paintings were stored at the time). The festival was scheduled for Neil’s last day in Jodhpur—he had a 3 pm flight to Delhi.

Having heard about Holi’s wild festivities, Neil prepared by going into town one night and buying an inexpensive, white cotton kurta pajama, which could be tossed afterwards. When he arrived at the party, he found it full of local musicians and dancers, the royal family, and about 150 guests who were treated to food and drink piled high on long buffet tables. Most importantly, everyone was given colored powder to throw.

In a recent interview with Bento, Neil recalled his excitement at the scene: It was as if the Holi paintings featured in Garden and Cosmos had come to life. His favorite moment, he said, was when the princess told him, quite firmly, “Neil, put down your camera. I am not joking; put it down on the table.” He didn’t know why—she was ordinarily so polite and well mannered! Neil was thus astounded when the princess poured a bucket of pink water over his head.

Running late and with a plane to catch, Neil said his goodbyes and headed to the airport, just making his afternoon flight. He boarded dressed like this, with all his color on.

Howard Kaplan

Howard Kaplan

Howard Kaplan is museum writer at Freer|Sackler.