South Asia celebrates Hindu festival of Holi
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South Asia celebrates Hindu festival of Holi

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.

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Vendors selling coloured powder for Holi celebrations, wait for customers along a roadside in Guwahati, India, February 28, 2018. Source: Reuters/Anuwar Hazarika

During Holi, Hindus seek to forget past conflicts, forgive others and repair relationships.

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A Hindu devotee, smeared in coloured powder, takes a rest on a road during a procession for Holi celebrations in Kolkata, India, February 28, 2018. Source: Reuters/Rupak De Chowdhuri

Lasting for a night and a day between Thursday and Friday this year, is a time spent with family full of laughter.

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Devotees sing religious song during Holi, the Festival of Colours, in Bhaktapur, Nepal, March 1, 2018. Source: Reuters/Navesh Chitrakar

On March 1, those marking the occasion burn a bonfire to signify the victory of good over evil.

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Hindu devotees walk around a bonfire during a ritual known as “Holika Dahan” which is part of Holi festival celebrations, in Ahmedabad, India March 1, 2018. Source: Reuters/Amit Dave

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.

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Art depicts Krishna and Radha in Hyderabad, India. Source: Shutterstock

The festival is also observed by many non-Hindus in the Subcontinent including Jains, Sikhs and Nepalese Newar Buddhists.

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A woman, smeared with coloured powder, dance while celebrating Holi, the Festival of Colours, in Kathmandu, Nepal, March 1, 2018. Source: Reuters/Navesh Chitrakar

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.

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College students shout slogans against what they say is hooliganism by men in the name of the Hindu festival Holi, in New Delhi, India, March 1, 2018. Source: Reuters/Saumya Khandelwal

While most play and sing songs, some have added local variations to the festival, delving deep into Hindu mythology.

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Women offer prayers inside a temple during Holi celebrations in Ahmedabad, India, March 1, 2018. Source: Reuters/Amit Dave

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.

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Source: Reuters/Adnan Abidi

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.

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A widow daubed in colours takes part in Holi celebrations in the town of Vrindavan in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh, India, February 27, 2018. Source: Reuters/Adnan Abidi

Celebrations begin a week early in the town of Vrindavan, Krishna’s birthplace.

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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.