When thick neon clouds hover above the Indian subcontinent each March, you can be sure that the 1.24 billion people lost in the Technicolor haze below are having a great time. These rainbow clouds, after all, herald the beginning of spring and have become the iconic symbol of India’s annual Holi celebration.
Holi officially kicked off on Monday, though India’s flamboyant festival has an early showing each year in two small villages in Uttar Pradesh where tinted powder flies through the air for Lathmar Holi.
The colorful celebration has its roots in Hindu mythology. It’s said that darker-skinned Krishna was jealous of fair-skinned Radha and pestered his foster mother Yashoda about it so much that she told him he could change Radha's skin by dousing her in colors. Thus, each spring Holi revelers hurl neon powder [known as gulal] and colored water into the air, tie-dying participants into spirographs of color. The vibrant hues are said to represent energy, life, joy and the coming of the new season.
Celebrants light huge bonfires to ward off evil spirits and commemorate the victory of good over evil on the eve of Holi. On the day of the main event, men typically wear white kurtas, while women don white saris or shalwar kameez. Of course, these clothes don't stay white for long. Children have free range to smear gulal on friends and neighbors while adults toss dyed water in a riot of color. The result looks something like this: