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Often seen as a festival of good harvests and fertility of the land, Holi is celebrated on the day after the full moon in March every year. On the full moon night, bonfires are lit on street corners to cleanse the air of "evil spirits and bad vibes", and to symbolize the destruction of the "wicked" Holika [this is very problematic for the thinking crowd], for whom the festival is named. The following morning, the streets fill with people running, shouting, giggling and splashing. Marijuana-based bhang and thandai add to the uninhibited atmosphere.
This exuberant festival is also associated with the love of Krishna and Radha, and hence, Holi is spread over 16 days in Vrindavan and Mathura. Apart from the usual fun with colored powder and water, Holi is marked by vibrant processions which are accompanied by folk songs, dances and a general sense of abandoned vitality. Today Holi is an excuse for Indians to shed inhibitions and caste differences for a day of spring fever and fun. Teenagers spend the day flirting and misbehaving in the streets, adults extend the hand of peace, and everyone chases everyone else around, throwing brightly colored powder (gulal) and water over each other.
Somewhere around noon, the craziness comes to an end and everyone heads to either the river or the shower, then inside to relax and partake of sweets. In the afternoon an exhausted and contented silence falls over India. Although Holi is observed all over the north, it's celebrated with special joy and zest at Mathura, Vrindavan, Nandgaon, and Barsnar, all towns associated with Krishna.
Each area celebrates Holi differently, including the Bhil tribes of western Madhya Pradesh, who've retained many of their pre-Hindu customs. Rural Maharashtra celebrates it with dancing and singing. In the towns of Rajasthan — especially Jaisalmer — the music's great, and clouds of pink, green, and turquoise powder fill the air. The grounds of Jaisalmer's Mandir Palace are turned into chaos, with dances, folk songs, and colored-powder confusion. [ — Text adapted from IndiaExpress.com]
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