Steam rises into the cold night air as sweat-soaked bodies jostle in the darkness, writhing to the rhythm of a driving rock beat. The roar of the crowd. The heat of the night. The rumbling, pounding heartbeat of the earth, rising up through the soles of our bare feet.
We are one. Countless arms flung into the air in celebration of life itself. But we are one. A seething, euphoric mass, savage, wild and hungry. Ferocious. Tribal. Free.
Then calm. The gulal. A long, droning, guttural chant washing over us. A deep, low animal growl, painful, almost as if it was torn from the soul. Yet soothing. Gentle.
A ghostly cloud lingers in the starry sky, haunting and pale, casting a spell over the dazed crowd below. A whisper of anticipation. An intake of breath. A sigh…
BOOM! The silence is broken by a million hands showering the air with Technicolor rainbows. Vibrant powder fireworks flung high into the night sky. Faces, hair and clothes drenched in spectacular colours, and everywhere the brilliant, happy smiles of the ecstatic throng.
And as the cool night air melts into crimson dawn, the sun rises on a sea of colour-saturated strangers, united by the moment, bound by the experience.
For many, this will be their only Holi. But the memory will live on in every night sky and be rekindled by every dawn.