A Saturated Snapshot of This Year’s Holi Celebrations

Revelers are already soaking in shades of the spring festival

Students celebrate Holi in Kolkata, India. Pacific Press/Corbis
A child gets in the spirit in Mathura. Prabhat Kumar Verma/ZUMA Press/Corbis
The aftermath—a donation box soaked in color. Prabhat Kumar Verma/ZUMA Press/Corbis
Revelers sit on a wall in Mathura. Pacific Press/Corbis
A widow lies in flower petals. Widows have traditionally been excluded from Holi celebrations, but many are participating this year. Prabhat Kumar Verma/ZUMA Press/Corbis
A woman throws yellow powder in Basantapur Durbar Square in Kathmandu, Nepal. Skanda Gautam/ZUMA Press/Corbis
A Mathura widow hides her face as Holi celebrations rage. Pacific Press/Corbis

Spring is a time for vivid color—blossoming flowers, blue skies and brilliant green leaves add a hint of tint to a world battered by winter. But even the colors of spring pale in comparison to the brilliant hues of Holi, a spring festival celebrated in India, Nepal and throughout South Asia.

The festival has come by its colorful reputation honestly. Thanks to gulal—richly-colored powders that are thrown in the air and smeared on faces—every part of the streetscape is transformed in to a psychedelic, saturated visual experience. During the festival, which celebrates the triumph of good over evil, gulal floats down from rooftops, puffs into the air and makes its way onto every surface.

Holi is fun, but getting ready is no joke. People prepare with everything from skin treatments to help ensure the color will eventually wash off to cooking delightful treats to fuel the festival. This year, officials are pleading with revelers to hold off on water use in a bid to conserve water and keep toxic chemicals from being released into India’s water supply.

Not everyone has historically been welcome to the celebration, though. As Julie McCarthy notes for NPR, widows are excluded from the party due to social taboos. But this year, some women broke the mold and celebrated anyway, reveling in falling rose petals and joining in the colorful fun. It was part of a boundary breaking, widow-specific Holi celebration at a widows' ashram in Vrindavan that drew over 1,000 women, the Indo‑Asian News Service reports.

Holi will be officially celebrated at different times and dates across India and Nepal, and March 23 and 24 are bank holidays to give people time to relax and revel. It’s celebrated in different ways, too: As Surabhi Nijhawan reports for India Times, people do everything from exhibit martial arts to dance and light huge fires to playfully beat their brothers-in-law to bring in spring. 

So get out in the streets and celebrate (or just look at this slideshow of some of this year's most beautiful Holi moments so far). 

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