The actual Holi 2012 date may still be a few days away on March 8, but India's most flamboyant festival has an early showing each year in two small villages in Uttar Pradesh where the colors start flying for Lathmar Holi.

To honor the end of winter and beginning of spring, hundreds assembled in Barsana village over the weekend to kick off the festivities.

According to tradition that has its roots in Hindu mythology, Krishna would go to Barsana, Radha's village, and tease her and the other gopis at Holi. In retaliation, the women of Barsana would chase Krishna and his friends out with sticks.

It is said that the darker-skinned Krishna was jealous of the fair-skinned Radha and pestered his foster mother Yashodha about it so much that she told him he could change Radha's skin by sprinkling her with colors.

Today, men from Barsana arrive at the Radha Rani temple where they're soaked in colored water by men from Nandgaon. Then, the women of the village beat them with wooden sticks called lathis as they depart town.

During lulls in the action, men taking part in the theater of the day sip a mildly intoxicating drink called thandai that is laced with bhang paste, made from cannabis or ganja.

Lathmar Holi is a prelude to the greater Holi celebration - a festival that involves the hurling of neon powder until every human is tie-dyed into a spirograph of color. Holi is celebrated across the subcontinent, but takes place within the greater Shigmo celebrations in many areas of the south.

Have a look at the 2012 Lathmar Holi celebrations below: