India Holi & Hola Mohalla Photo Adventure Vacations – Inspire, Create and Learn.
We’ve combined two of the most exciting festivals in India, “Holi and Hola Mohalla”, into one colorful, wonderful and exciting photo adventure.
Holi is a traditional Hindu festival which celebrates the beginning of spring as well as the triumph of good over evil. Known around the world for the colored powders that revelers throw on each other, leaving festival-goers coated in color by the end of the day. Holi is one of the biggest Indian festivals celebrated and has a special place in Indian culture. People from around the world visit India just to be a part of this mesmerizing festival. Holi in Vrindavan is especially famous because of its unique celebration. Famous for being the land of Lord Krishna, the region of Braj attracts pilgrims and tourists from all over India and the world during Holi due to its special cultures and traditions.
Hola Mohalla is a Sikh festival celebrated in the month of Phalguna, the day after Holi. The annual festival is held at Anandpur Sahib in Punjab, Hola Mohalla was started by the tenth Sikh Guru, Gobind Singh, as a gathering of Sikhs for military exercises and mock battles on the day following the festival of Holi. It reminds the people of valor and defense preparedness, concepts dear to the Tenth Guru, who was at that time battling the Mughal empire. The three-day festival’s mock battles are held followed by music and poetry competitions. Nihang Singhs (Sikh warriors) carry on the martial tradition with mock battles and displays of swordsmanship and horse riding. They perform daring feats, such as Gatka (mock encounters), tent pegging, bareback horse-riding and standing erect on two speeding horses.
This adventure is designed not only to guide you to the most photogenic locations carefully planned for the best light, but to aid you in mentally visualizing a scene before capturing the decisive moment. Our aim is to raise your awareness and spark your creativity, so that you not only go home with images to be proud of, but use your new found skills to improve and expand your photographic technique in general. Apart from the technical aspect of learning your camera settings and capabilities, you will learn how to turn an ordinary image into an extraordinary image by using your own creativity.
In addition, you will become knowledgeable on how to survey the landscape, utilize and approach your environment, photograph people indigenous to the region and the cultural considerations and challenges of photographing in a foreign country. Our time together will include individual and group discussions, inspiring ideas and great fun. We cannot think of a better country to express your creativity than India.
HOLI & HOLA MOHALLA 9 DAYS
Day 1 | Delhi – Chandni Chowk – Lotus Temple
Upon meeting at our hotel in Delhi, we will enjoy our group introductions and discuss the days ahead. We will have lunch at one of our favorite Indian restaurants where we will discuss over lunch our individual photographic styles, preferred subjects, techniques and level of experience. We will also talk about what to expect over the coming days, and how to achieve our photographic goals. After lunch we will wander around the neighborhoods of Delhi to capture it’s people, architecture, markets, colors and chaotic streets. Delhi’s chief “sight” is it’s street life. The teeming bazaars of imagination lie in “Old” Delhi, the city of the Moghuls, established in the 17th century and still largely Muslim: the immense Jama Masjid (Great Mosque) dominates the quarter.
It’s main thoroughfare, the tumultuous Chandni Chowk, abuts the Red Fort, whose pristine lawns and lofty Moghul audience halls offer a tranquil haven. To the south, British-built New Delhi is a fascinating contrast, radiating out from the boutiques and cafés of Connaught Place: here, the dusty alleys are replaced by broad, arrow-straight boulevards and four-square monuments. The imperial mall, Rajpath, leads to the mighty arch of India Gate, designed by Edwin Lutyens in the 1920s, and now the focus of New Delhi’s passeggiata.
In the evening we enjoy our “Welcome Dinner” where we sample various dishes that India is renowned for. Before returning to our hotel, we will head towards Nehru Place to capture the magnificent Lotus Temple, constructed in white marble. This site is especially photogenic at night. (D)
Day 2 | Delhi – Old Delhi – Chandni Chowk – Markets
After breakfast, we will head out to capture environmental portraits and general street photography in Old Delhi’s Chandni Chowk. The main street of Old Delhi is as crowded today as it was during the time of Shah Jahan who built the market in 17th century. Apart from being one of the most popular streets in the world, it is also the oldest and busiest market of Delhi. Chandni Chowk is a great place for photographers as the hustle and bustle of the market makes for very interesting photographs. Capturing the colors, sounds and sights of the lively market are a challenge for any photographer. Located nearby is Khari Baoli (the spice market), which will be a great site to capture the colors, textures and patterns of the local produce sold.
After lunch we will head out for some interesting architectural photography. Located in South Delhi in Chhatarpur, the Shri Adhya Katyani Shakti Peeth Mandir is the largest temple complex in India. Created completely out of marble, this is a stunningly beautiful temple that will fill any photographer’s heart with delight. Some great religious and architectural photography can be done at this location. In the evening we will head out for some low-light shooting to capture the atmosphere in Old Delhi’s neighborhoods before returning to our hotel. (B)
Day 3 | Delhi – Vrindavan – Iskcon Temple
After breakfast we depart Delhi for our drive to Vrindavan. In the afternoon we visit the Iskcon Temple. The International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON) was founded by his Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami (Srila Prabhupada) in New York City in 1966. ISKCON is a devotional tradition based on the teachings of Bhagavad-gita and Srimad-Bhagavatam. (B) (D)
Day 4 | Vrindavan – Barsana – Ladoo Holi Celebration or Pre Holi
Today is full day of photography at the Ladoo Holi Celebration in Barsana. Residents of Barsana near Mathura in Uttar Pradesh celebrate ‘Laddoo Holi’ by smearing one another with colored powder and distributing ‘Laddoos’ to mark the Holi. This is to please the Lord Banke Bihari and Radha Rani. The flung Laddoos are pocketed with reverence as blessed offerings so hence the name ‘Laddoo Holi’. Devotees from different parts of the country visit Barsana to celebrate the festival with much fun and gaiety. The spraying of colors symbolizes the start of spring. (B) (D)
Day 5 | Virindavan – Barsana Lath Mar Holi
On the first day of Lath Mar Holi, gops (shepherds) from Nandgaon come to Barsana to play Holi with the gopis (shepherdesses) of Barsana. The festival begins with a ceremony at the Radha Rani temple. After this ceremony gops then march out of the temple on the Rang Rangeeli Gali where they stop to play holi with the gopis, who stand in groups along the street.
The significance behind Lathmar Holi: It is believed that young Lord Krishna once cribbed to his mother, Yashoda, about Radha’s fair complexion and he being dark. Yashoda teasingly suggested Krishna to color Radha in a playful manner. So one day, little Krishna went to Barsana (Radha’s village) from Nandagaon (where Krishna grew up) and colored Radha and her friends. Radha and her friends took offense and chased Krishna and his friends with “lathis” or sticks. From there on evolved the festival of Lath Mar Holi.
The second day gops from Barsana go to Nandgaon to play holi with gopis at Nandgaon. We will photograph as many aspects of these celebrations as possible throughout these two days. (B) (D)
Day 6 | Virindavan – Kusum Sarovar Holy Place – Flower Holi
After breakfast we take a short drive to the stunning Kusum Sarovar Holy Place. Kusum Sarovar belonged to the period of Lord Krishna, located between Govardhan and Radha Kund. Kusum Sarovar is 450 ft long with a 60 ft deep well and features a flight of stairs on all sides. The Sarovar is believed to be the place where Radha, along with gopikas, used to collect flowers and meet Lord Krishna. Kadamba trees are found all over and it is said the Kadamba tree was the favorite tree of Lord Krishna.
In the early afternoon we return to Virindavan to experience and capture the Flower Holi. On the Ekadashi before Holi, the Banke Bihari Temple at Vridnavan celebrates a unique Holi, which is not celebrated with conventional dry or wet colors, but with flowers, and hence the name Phoolon wali holi (Flowers’ Holi). The event is not as popular as the other events, but is quickly getting it’s due. The gates of the temple open around 4 PM and the Flower Holi starts right after that. However, unlike other Holi festivities, this is a short affair of just about 15-20 minutes, during which flowers are thrown at the devotees by the temple priests. If you are not on time, it’s very easy to miss. (B) (D)
Day 7 | Virindavan – Delhi – Chandigarh (Flight) – Holla Mohalla
After breakfast transfer to airport to board our flight for Chandigarh. Upon arrival in Chandigarh we will transfer to our deluxe tent camp in Anadpur Sahib. We will spend the afternoon capturing pre festival Hola Mohalla activities.
The Hola Mohalla celebration started in Gurudwara Patalpuri Sahib with the recitation of Akhand Path and the beating of 5 old Nagaras. A community kitchen has been set up to serve the Hola Mohalla devotees. ‘Langar’ is served on the roads leading to the the festival. Huge crowds from all over India come to enjoy the Hola Mohalla celebration in Punjab. (B) (L) (D)
Days 8 and 9 | Anandpur Sahib – Holla Mohalla
Most of Hola Mohalla festival can only be enjoyed in Anandpur Sahib, as the city has followed the tradition since it was started by Guru Gobind Singh Ji. Thousands of Nihang assemble in Anandpur Sahib to be a part of the Hola Mohalla Festival every year.
For the next two days we will immerse ourselves in the Holla Mohalla festivities. These include “horse riding by Nihangs, marshal arts performances of Punjab, religious programs, llangar, cultural activities like music, dance and poetry programs, and demonstration of traditional weapons. The photography opportunities are endless. In the evening we will celebrate with our “Farewell Dinner” in our camp. (B) (L) (D)
Day 10 | Chandigarh – Delhi (Flight)
After our morning breakfast we depart for Chandigarh Airport for out flight to Delhi where we will exchange information and bid you farewell. We urge you to extend your stay in India and make good use of everything you will learn on our photo adventure. (B)
May all who come as guests… leave as friends®
Experience | Difficulty
Beginner, amateur, enthusiast and semi-pro photographers
DSLR, mirrorless, compact or iPhone cameras
Travel by private air-conditioned car, train and mini-van
Minimal elevation changes and lots of walking
(non-photographers also welcome)
Travel, urban, landscape, architecture and people photography
Professional photographer | guide
Photo walks & discussions
Small group size (4-8 guests)
4 or 5 star hotels
Tented camp (deluxe tent)
All Entrance fees
Roundtrip domestic flight
Delhi – The Imperial or similar
Virindavan – Nidhivan Sarovar Portico or similar
Anandpur Sahib – Deluxe Tent Camp
Arrival & Departure Airport: Delhi, India (DEL) – Transfer time to hotel 50min
Our adventure begins at 11 AM on the first day and ends at noon on the last day.
Travel Visa: A visa may be required depending on your nationality.
Options and Benefits
Private Guided Tours & Adventures
We offer amazing private guided photo adventures, cultural tours and vacations for individuals, couples, families and groups. We can customize any of our published adventures, as well as others, to meet your individual needs, schedule, budget and interests. This may include the finest 5-star accommodations, business-class travel, and private guides and fixers who are able to make the impossible possible. If you are not interested in a photo-centric vacation, but you love our approach to private travel, we will be happy to design and deliver an amazing adventure focused on travel, culture and cuisine.
We offer travel insurance through Travelex. The cost for travel insurance can be as low as 4% of the total trip cost, depending upon age and other factors. Knowing you have trip cancellation coverage can make a big difference should you have to cancel for some unforeseen reason. Travelex Insurance Services is a BBB Accredited business with an A+ rating.
Travel, Street, People, Landscape, Aerial, Motorsports, Fashion
A New York based photographer, creative director and businessman, Michael has traveled the world photographing people, urban and street, architecture, landscapes, motorsports, aerial and fashion. He enjoys the challenges that various photographic disciplines present. He has helped design and build many of PWA’s photo adventures. Michael manages the companies private photo adventures for select guests around the world.
As an artist, he is currently pursuing a ongoing visual storytelling project titled “Vanishing Cuba” which includes images from his 16 trips (and counting) to Cuba.
Michael was introduced to photography by his father at the young age of 11. Using his dads WWII Argus C3 and a basement darkroom, he began his love affair with the camera. Although Michael spent his early years in marketing and design at the helm of his own advertising agency for 25 years, he also founded New York’s first digital photography studio “Icon Digital” in 1995 utilizing Hasselblad medium format camera’s and Leaf digital backs. He is the father of four beautiful children including one son who is an accomplished cinematographer.
When Michael isn’t on assignment, in the studio or on an adventure, he can be found traveling the world searching for unique photography opportunities, exceptional hotels, amazing restaurants or maybe creating your next travel adventure.