The spring arrives and people in India are ready with the colours for the Holi celebration. Holi is the festival of spring.
“The appearance of Gulmohar on the trees is a sign that spring is here and everybody rejoices. The flowers change the whole atmosphere after the harsh winter when there were no leaves and flowers. The slight sun brings out the leaves and flowers so to rejoice that we celebrate Holi,” explained Mita Pandey from Gujarat, India.
The flower, Gulmohar, in English is known as the Royal Poinciana, flamboyant, flame of the forest, or flame tree.
People believe that the colours in the nature will also add colour to their lives. “People play with colours and special sweets are made for the occasion,” she added.
It was these flavours of joy that someone who was from a distant land was able to capture through his camera lens while being in the festival, which has now become an annual attraction.
This centuries old tradition turned out to be a delight for the Omani photographer Abdulaziz Shehab Ahmed al Shukaili. “I learnt about Holi from my friend who was working in India. He invited me to go and see how Holi is celebrated and experience it for the first time in my life,” he said.
So there he was heading to Mathura, India. “I understood it is one of the most popular places for Holi. There is an ancient temple in Mathura.”
In fact Abdulaziz went to Mathura twice to capture the moments of Holi in 2016 and 2018. His images from the celebration turned out to be breathtaking but photographing the festival was not easy as one can imagine with all the colours that are splashed around.
“The big challenge I found was to keep the camera clean. It is very hard to achieve that. You have to cover the camera and yourself and smile all the time, because it is not allowed to be angry or serious there. I made sure I did not leave my camera anywhere because people do not just use colour powder but also coloured water. The water was more challenging . But it was very nice to see the local people and their lifestyle and most importantly how they smile throughout,” Abdulaziz recollected.
According to Abdulaziz the best part of this photography session was that was the festival’s unique experience. “For sure you could not have done something like this before in my photographic journey that itself was overwhelming. In addition it was a different life and people, different culture – the happiness was contagious. I saw the joy in their simple life. I came across poor people also but they were so happy! These aspects touched my heart. And that is why I went back again to relive the experience.”