Tens of millions of revellers in India smeared each other in bright blue hues to mark the Hindu festival of colours, following muted festivities over the past two years due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Holi is one of the main Hindu festivals and is celebrated with much fanfare across the country to welcome spring and celebrate the eternal love of the mythical deity Krishna and his consort Radha.
Hindus also performed religious rituals and made bonfires, a significant event the night before Holi, to signify the triumph of good over evil.
The festivities had been largely marred by the pandemic in the last two years as restrictions to stop the spread of the virus were in place across the country.
India has recorded more than 43 million confirmed cases and more than 513,000 deaths since January 2020.
Most restrictions have been lifted in recent weeks after a dip in the numbers of new infections, with authorities recording slightly more than 2,500 cases and 149 deaths in the past 24 hours.
After a lull lasting two years, markets were decked out again with various hues, water pumps were selling fast and sweet shops were abuzz with customers.
In cities and towns, lavish feasts were organised and sweets distributed to celebrate the festival.
Many housing societies and residential complexes organised cultural programmes.
“We couldn’t celebrate any festival with family and friends in the last two years but this year, it feels like the old days are back,” Ritam Sarkar, 29, a resident of the New Delhi suburb of Noida, told The National. “It feels very good.”
In the Hindu holy cities of Vrindavan and neighbouring Mathura in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh, believed to be the birthplace of Krishna, hundreds of thousands of devotees gathered outside temples where they played Holi with colours and flower petals.
The festival, although celebrated for two days across the country, started a month ago in Vrindavan, where women played Lathmar Holi, loosely translated to “beating with sticks”, as they chased men with sticks — a recreation of Krishna and Radha’s frolics.
Many widows, who are abandoned by their families, also broke Hindu social norms by smearing bright colours on each other. They are traditionally expected to stay indoors as their presence is considered to bring about bad luck.
In Kerala, people celebrated the festival in a traditional manner by splashing water mixed with turmeric powder.
In northern Punjab state, members of a warrior Sikh set called Nihangs observed Hola Mohalla a day before Holi and exhibited their combat skills.