India’s holy festival of colours

Welcoming spring
India’s annual Holi festival, this year on 27 March, marks the end of winter and celebrates the upcoming spring harvest. This exhilarating Hindu holiday, where gulal (vividly coloured powder) is thrown onto the singing and dancing crowds, also commemorates the victory of good over evil, dating back to a Hindu legend of the destruction of the demoness Holika. Here, a Delhi man paints a design in coloured powder for the base for a bonfire. On Holika Dahan, the day before the festival, fires are lit to purify the air of evil spirits.

Drenched in colour
Holi is a day of high energy for people of all ages, as crowds gather throughout the country to sing religious songs and throw coloured powder. Holi got its name as the “Festival of Colours” from a legend in which the Hindu god, Krishna teasingly smeared colour over goddess Radha’s face in jealousy of her fair complexion. Today, the throwing of colour symbolises affection in honour of Krishna and Radha’s love.

Orange mist
Flowers and roots are used to create Holi’s vibrant colours. The traditional orange-red powder is made from the flowers of the palash tree – the bright red and deep orange blooms are spread out on mats to dry in the sun and then ground to a fine dust.

A splash in the face
Holi is celebrated throughout India, but the day is particularly popular in the country’s north with celebrations lasting for 40 days in the towns of Mathura and Vrindavan in the state of Uttar Pradesh. Mathura is where Hindu god Lord Krishna was born, while Vrindavan was where he spent his childhood. Pichkaris (water guns), buckets and water balloons are commonly used to douse festival participants with tinted water.

Showing respect
A common ritual at the end of the celebrations is to lie on the ground to give respect to the gods.


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