As an intrepid traveler poking around in South Indian cities, you need to think about two kinds of holidays. One are the public holidays declared by the state or central governments, which might mean that everything from banks to post offices and other government services will be unavailable.
These holidays include everything from Republic Day and Independence Day to Mahatma Gandhi's Birthday, and religious holidays like Good Friday, Christmas, Eid, Vinayaka Chaturthi, Ram Navmi, Janmashtami, Guru Nanak Jayanti, Maha Shivratri, Mahavir Jayanti, and so on.
The second set of holidays that might cause havoc to your travel plans and vacations are the fun kind like Holi, Diwali, Dussehra, Pongal and Onam. Not only are they government holidays, but you’ll also find that all the usual tips and suggestions provided in the guidebooks and tourist brochures are pretty much useless during these special holidays.
For example, you’ll have the time of your life a few days before Diwali, when the shops are all lit up bright and everyone is out shopping. It’s an infectiously happy vibe that makes you want to celebrate too. But once the clock hits 12 am on Diwali, kids and adults alike start setting off firecrackers on the streets. It goes on for at least 24 hours, and the streets are deserted and shops and restaurants shuttered. Anyone walking the streets or driving around at this time has to navigate a minefield of firecrackers thrown by people along the streets that could go off right under you.
Ditto for holi when anyone can throw colors on you. This includes colored water and water balloons. If you’re all alone and well-dressed on the streets, gangs of kids armed with colored paste and balloons will attack you without mercy and every inch of your skin and clothes will look like a drunk artist’s version of modern art. Again, the streets are deserted and shops closed, with the marauding bands of colored brigands in full control.
Pongal and Onam aren’t dangerous for tourists, but most shops and restaurants are still closed for 2-3 days as the owners enjoy the holidays with their families and friends.
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