India braced for the Festival of Colours

5th Feb 2014

Next month sees one of the most well known festivals and events in the Hindu calendar - with India set for colourful, vibrant celebrations.

Holi will be enjoyed for three days around next month's full moon (from March 17), with the festival saying goodbye to the winters and spectacularly ushering in spring with a kaleidoscope of colour.

Northern India is the best place to observe the event, which is also known as the Festival of Colours.

A wild final day sees children and adults flock outdoors, throwing vibrant gulal (powder) on one another.

It is licensed mayhem on the streets as dyed water is fired from syringes, hurled from buckets and poured into balloons, which are then thrown at people. Everyone is fair game.

So a word of warning. Don't wear your best gear on this day because, as a tourist, you will be singled out and probably end the day looking like gulab jamun (a red, sticky Indian sweet).

The evening before, massive bonfires are ignited at leading crossroads in towns and cities and demon effigies are set on fire.

The whole celebration is marked to represent the triumph of good over evil.

Whether you think good or evil wins the next day may hinge just how much gulal gets thrown over you.

Tourists on city breaks to Udaipur can enjoy watching huge Holi celebrations. Here, the royal family hosts an ornate party at the City Palace.

Elsewhere, the Uttar Pradesh towns of Mathura, Nandgaon, Vridavan and Barsana are associated with the birth and formative years of Krishna, bestowing them particular Holi significance.

Outside India, the festival is called Fagu in Nepal.

This is a more restrained blend of India's Holi and Thailand's Songkran.

Water is sprayed around as a mnemonic - late in Nepal's dry spell as the country hots up - that refreshing monsoons are just around the corner.

Coloured powder and water (particularly red) is dispersed as in India.

Once more, overseas visitors will be singled out.

Holi's origins are believed to date back to around the 3rd century BC.

Copyright Press Association 2014

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