Indian festival of colour rocks Dubai

An estimated 10,000 people poured through the turnstiles at the city's Wonderland theme park alone to celebrate the death of a demoness on the Holi holiday.

Covered in paint and water, people celebrate Holi yesterday at Dubai's Wonderland theme park. The Hindu religious festival has over the years evolved into a secular party, compete with dancing and eating.
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DUBAI // Thousands of revellers drenched in vivid colours danced, sang and sprayed one another with water pistols yesterday in celebration of Holi.

The Indian "festival of colours" was celebrated across Dubai, with an estimated 10,000 people pouring through the turnstiles at the city's Wonderland theme park alone.

In keeping with tradition, well-wishers hurled bags of brightly coloured powdered paint at one another before drenching their targets with water.

The spring festival has spread from its roots in northern India and has evolved into a riot of colour and celebration.

"Everyone is here to have a lot of fun and let off steam," said Sunny Bhatia, who was covered head to toe in purple paint at Wonderland.

The focal point of the celebrations at the park was a huge lake, into which partygoers waded up to their ankles in water that had turned a ruddy crimson, the colour of the most popular paint of the day. Others watched the action warily from the side of the lake.

Bollywood music blared from speakers while hundreds of people, soaked and paint-splattered, danced.

Holi is a Hindu festival, but it has been secularised and is popular with all denominations in India.

"It is not a Hindu festival, it is an Indian festival," said Maddy Singh, 24, who is of Sikh descent. "It's just about having as much fun as you can."

The common wisdom among Holi devotees is to wear your worst clothes. Even though the bags of powdered paint sold in Dubai are water soluble, many celebrants were resolved from the outset to dispose of their shirts.

One reveller, Mayur Damanice, went so far as to tear a sleeve off his T-shirt and wear it as a headband. For four hours he squirted water pistols and danced with friends.

"We're still not tired," he said shortly after 4pm. "We're going to another party this evening."

The festival involves two parts, Holika Dahan and Holi, which this year fall on March 19 and 20, respectively. They are often celebrated in the UAE over the weekend nearest to those days.

On Holika Dahan, bonfires are lit to mark the destruction of the demoness Holika, for whom the festival is named. The paint warfare usually takes place the next day.