x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 January 2018

Spring ushered in with splash of colour

Weekend is set aside for picnics and parties so working people can enjoy the carnival mood that traditionally accompanies the first harvest.

Shoppers buying colour powders and water guns for their children in Bur Dubai for Holi.
Shoppers buying colour powders and water guns for their children in Bur Dubai for Holi.

Weekend celebrations have been planned across the nation to mark the Indian festival of colours, known as Holi, which heralds the coming of spring and the first harvest of the year.

In India, Holi is usually celebrated over two days and those taking part distribute sweets, visit neighbours and friends, and playfully throw dry powder and coloured water at each other. There, the festivities began yesterday with Choti (Small) Holi. Choti Holi is normally more subdued, and children usually pay their elders respects by gently applying coloured powder to each other's cheeks. Today's activities - Badi (Big) Holi - are much more raucous, with celebrations starting early, and spilling on to the streets. It lasts until the afternoon, after which people retire to their homes to bathe and rest.

However, in the UAE, because Holi falls in the middle of working week, the Indian expatriate community has moved the festival to the weekend. The Indian Ladies Association in Abu Dhabi will host a picnic for the families of its members on Friday at the Al Masaood Park. Lunch will be served, accompanied by children singing," said Indrani Roy, president of the association. "It is actually a family get-together. In India, this is harvest time and it's a time to celebrate. Here, everyone gets together and sweets are distributed."

Tushar Kumar, a construction worker who lives in the Industrial City of Abu Dhabi in the Musaffah area, said he and his friends will have a quiet celebration today, distributing sweets among friends. "We are not allowed to play with colours in our living quarters," he said. However, on the weekend, a number of labourers, all from the Indian state of Gujarat, will travel to Dubai to celebrate in Bur Dubai with relatives who live there.

Colour powders, known as gulal, have flooded shops in Dubai's Meena Bazaar area, a popular spot for Indian shoppers. Almost every store is selling their own stock of red, orange, green, yellow and blue gulal. The packs of colour are sold for as little as a couple of dirhams. "The sales have started picking up already since morning. Like every year, most of our stock is sold out by the end of the week," said Anil Anbudham, a salesman at a shop near the temple in Meena Bazaar.

Colourful water balloons and water guns also attract the attention of shoppers who visit the area. "These water guns are very popular among children. They worked well last year, which is why we ordered a greater variety of water guns from India this year," said another trader. Sold for around Dh7, the plastic guns, also known as 'phickaris', are a huge hit with children who use them to spray coloured water at each other during the celebrations.

Along with the colours, supermarkets are also selling sweets for the occasion. "I am doing a complete Holi shopping today with my children. They have got their colours and will be playing Holi in the weekend. I will buy some sweets and will invite friends home," said Savita Das, a shopper at the bazaar. "These are some of the few ways to connect to our Indian culture and traditions. Being an expatriate, it is really exciting to be able to celebrate Holi outside India. This is my third year in a row that I will celebrate Holi in Dubai," said Krishna Nair, a resident of Bur Dubai.

Holding Holi celebrations at the weekend allows many more people to turn out and enjoy the spirit of the day. The Indian Association of Dubai has organised an event on Friday morning at the Dubai Creek Park. Adults and children are invited to turn up with dry and water colours and other materials to celebrate the festival. The entrance fee is Dh25 for singles and Dh50 for families. Holi celebrations have also been planned in Umm al Qaiwain, where organisers have arranged a beach party for the weekend at the Barracuda Beach Club.

Neeru Ahuja, an organiser who works with Tones Advertisement, said: "Beach Holi is something different. I just thought to myself that I am so fond of this festival so I should organise something. Now I am very proud of it because a lot of people are going to attend." Free transportation to Beach Holi has been provided from three locations, including buses from Sharjah and Dubai. Ms Ahuja is expecting more than 1,500 people to attend the Friday celebrations, where admission rates range from Dh50 for a single and Dh85 for a couple to Dh150 for a family of four. DJs, food, colour and performances will be on hand for those who attend.

"I have provided the bus drivers with plastic sheets for the seats," said Ms Ahuja. "This is for when they have to transport back the guests who have been playing with colour all day." sbhattacharya@thenational.ae pmenon@thenational.ae