Holi, a Hindu festival, heralded the beginning of spring as people across India celebrated the festival of colors Thursday.
Celebrated every year with great fervor, the traditional Holi festivities include extensive use of colored powder. People smear the powder in dry and wet forms on each other's face and throw colors in the air to welcome the colorful season of spring.
Though the basic tradition of Holi across India includes playing with colors and indulging in traditional confectioneries, certain customs are unique to only a few regions.
During Lathmar Holi, unique to Nandgaon and Barsana villages in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, men sing provocative songs to gain the attention of women, who then beat them with bamboo sticks called lathis.
The youthfulness and enthusiasm associated with Holi, as in Spain's Tomatina festival, has made it quite popular in various other countries as well. It's celebrated across Nepal also with full vigor.
Traditionally, Holi is regarded as the festival to celebrate good yield.
There are many legends linked with the festival. A mythological belief has it that Lord Krishna celebrated Holi with His beloved Radha and hence Holi is observed to commemorate their divine love.
According to another popular legend, Holika, sister of king of demons Hiranyakashipu, was burned to ashes while trying to kill her nephew Prahlada, a Lord Vishnu devotee. The burning of Holika is celebrated as Holi as a victory of good over evil.
Check out below the pictures of 2012 Holi celebrations in India.
People dance as others spray coloured water on them during the "Lathmar Holi" at village Nandgaon in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh March 3, 2012. Reuters
A teacher holds a plate with coloured powder before hurling it on her students as they celebrate Holi, also known as the festival of colours, in the western Indian city of Ahmedabad March 7, 2012. The traditional event heralds the beginning of spring and will be celebrated all over India on March 8. Reuters Reuters
A veiled Hindu woman holds a bamboo stick as she celebrates "Lathmar Holi" in Barsana, in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, March 2, 2012. REUTERS/Adnan Abidi
A woman reacts as another woman applies coloured powder to her face during celebrations of Holi, also known as the festival of colours, in the southern Indian city of Hyderabad March 8, 2012. REUTERS/Krishnendu Halder
Boys with painted faces react to the camera as they celebrate Holi, also known as the festival of colors, in the northeastern Indian city of Guwahati March 8, 2012. REUTERS/Utpal Baruah
A boy is seen covered with coloured powder at a temple during "Lathmar Holi" at Nandgaon village, in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, March 3, 2012. REUTERS/Adnan Abidi
Students of Rabindra Bharati University, daubed in coloured powder, pose for a photograph as they celebrate Holi, also known as the festival of colours, in Kolkata March 6, 2012. REUTERS/Rupak De Chowdhuri