x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Painting the town red yellow blue green

Holi, the Festival of Colours, was celebrated in rainbow style in Dubai yesterday.

Holi festival revellers at Dubai Creek yesterday
Holi festival revellers at Dubai Creek yesterday

The crowds gathered to celebrate Holi, the Festival of Colours, the traditional start of the Hindu New Year, at Dubai Creek park in Dubai with the traditional paint and water throwing. Holi is a spring festival widely celebrated across Northern India and elsewhere. It is regarded as the Hindu festival most like St Valentine's Day in the West, with men and women mixing and enjoying themselves. Despite the religious roots of the celebration, there is not much religion involved in the festivities today. In some places the tradition is that men and women take part in a mock battle, with the men not allowed to fight back.

Holi, it is said, is a great leveller: when everybody is covered in paint, no one can see if you are wearing shabby clothes or designer gear. The festival falls every year on the day after the full moon during the month of Phalunga, which this year was March 1, when traditionally, in India, bonfires are lit. The fires symbolise the destruction of the wicked Holika, after whom the festival was named.

The paint-throwing normally takes place the day after that, although in places like the UAE the festivities are normally held off until the nearest weekend. While balloons and paper water bombs filled with coloured water are hurled, many, particularly children, use water pistols or long syringes called pichkaris for long-range squirting.