India celebrates Holi; expats, tourists join in revelry (Roundup)March 11th, 2009 - 10:42 pm ICT by IANS
New Delhi, March 11 (IANS) It was time for colour, music, dance and food as India Wednesday celebrated Holi with expatriates and tourists from abroad joining in the fun though celebrations were low-key in many places.
Even though most political leaders refrained from playing Holi, Delhiites Wednesday celebrated the festival with enthusiasm.
Amidst chants of ‘Bura na mano, Holi hai’ (Don’t mind, it’s Holi), people of all age groups danced to the beat of drums and smeared one another’s faces with colour. Children hurled water-filled balloons from the safety of rooftops and balconies of their houses.
Also known as Dhulendi, the festival of colours is celebrated by people by throwing colours at each other. Bonfires are lit the night before as ‘Holika Dahan’ or ‘Chhoti Holi’ (Little Holi) to pray to the goddess of fire.
People visited houses of relatives and friends and enjoyed gujjia, a traditional sweet.
“Colours, dance, fun and sweets are on mind while celebrating this festival. On Holi I like to be with my friends and family members. I freaked out completely,” said Tanu Sehgal, 24, who works in a music production company.
Hundreds of foreigners, mostly expatriates and vacationers, celebrated Holi with coloured powder, traditional food, drinks and music throughout the day.
“This is an amazing festival - Europe and America do not have festivals of colours. We love the freedom of it, the spirit of togetherness and informality,” said Gregory Scultz, a German businessman who has been in India for the past one year.
Gregory, who lives with his wife Daphne and a son in Defence Colony, New Delhi, hosted a Holi party at his residence for a few close friends. The food was Indian, but the music and beverages were imported. The revellers - nearly 50 of them, mostly expatriates from Europe, and a few Indians - also went to the Birla temple to pray and make offerings of flowers and sweets.
At a party in a farmhouse in Chhattarpur, christened the Holy Cow festival, sponsored by German beverage major Jagermeister, more than 200 foreigners played with colours, danced and had their heart’s fill of delicacies like chaat, Bombay pav, bhel puri, kulfi malai and aloo tikki - traditional food associated with the festival.
A large number of foreign delegates at a conference on tobacco in Mumbai did not miss the opportunity. It was the first time many of the foreigners got introduced to Holi, thanks to the initiative of the organisers of the 14th World Conference on Tobacco or Health that ends Thursday.
“It was the first time that I experienced Holi,” said Naptal Offen, a delegate from the US. “I was struck by the similarity between Holi and a Jewish festival.”
Tourists from India and abroad joined people of Rajasthan in celebrating Holi Wednesday as they painted one another with colours and danced in the streets.
“We came here especially to be part of this beautiful festival. We enjoyed it. We do not have anything like this in our country,” said an Australian tourist who identified himself as Patrick.
West Bengal celebrated Holi - or Dol Jatra as it is called in the state - with colour, songs and prayers.
Thousands of people from within the country and abroad assembled at Santiniketan, about 180 km from Kolkata, with the campus of the Visva Bharati University presenting a picture of mirth and gaiety.
The festival was a marriage of north Indian and Bengali cultures in Kolkata. While those from the north celebrated it in the traditional style throwing colour at one another, Bengalis exchanged sweets and pleasantries.
However, water scarcity played spoilsport in many parts of Madhya Pradesh and people had to celebrate the festival with only dry colours.
Vendors selling colours, gulal and ‘designer pichkaris’ (squirt guns) in Bhopal and other places in the state were disappointed.
“I have so far not been able to sell even 10 percent of the stuff as the water problem has taken a toll on our business. I have incurred a heavy loss and will keep myself away from this business next year,” Ashish, a shopkeeper, said Wednesday morning.
There were reports of revelry going wrong in some places.
Two people were killed and at least seven injured as the police opened fire on clashing groups of two communities in Varanasi town of Uttar Pradesh Wednesday, an official said.
The police opened fire to quell communal violence that broke out during Holi revelry near the Gauriya Masjid in Bazaridiha locality under the Bhelpur police station in the heart of town, a home department spokesman said.
One person died and five others were injured in clashes among Holi revellers when bombs were hurled by a rival group in Kolkata, the police said.