FROM Delhi to Dhaka, the Festival of Colours has kicked off in the Indian Subcontinent.
The Hindu spring festival of Holi, marking the triumph of good over evil at the end of winter, is famously marked by crowds throwing coloured powder and water at each other.
During Holi, Hindus seek to forget past conflicts, forgive others and repair relationships.
Lasting for a night and a day between Thursday and Friday this year, is a time spent with family full of laughter.
On March 1, those marking the occasion burn a bonfire to signify the victory of good over evil.
The tradition of throwing colour on March 2 is said to come from the legend of Hindu god Krishna, whose blue skin came from his breast milk being poisoned by the she-demon Putana.
The festival is also observed by many non-Hindus in the Subcontinent including Jains, Sikhs and Nepalese Newar Buddhists.
The festival is no stranger to controversy, sparking accusations of cultural appropriation in the West and anger among Indian women’s groups who say that men use the occasion it to harass women.
While most play and sing songs, some have added local variations to the festival, delving deep into Hindu mythology.
In the northern town of Barsana, women wield wooden sticks to beat up men singing risque songs in a version called “Lathmar”, or stick-wielding Holi.
The ritual draws on a story about Hindu god Krishna, who was chased away by women in Barsana while he wooed his beloved. Echoing that practice, women hurl sticks at men, who try to escape. Those who get caught are made to wear women’s clothing and dance.
Celebrations begin a week early in the town of Vrindavan, Krishna’s birthplace.
The town is home to Hindu widows who are made to forgo adornments and cannot return to their families after the death of their husbands. But on Holi, they sing and dance and play with colours before they go back to their sequestered lives.
Additional reporting from Reuters.