New Delhi: Vibrant red, blue, green, yellow and pink colours spread joy and merriment as people across India celebrated the festival of Holi Thursday by smearing coloured powder on each other and exchanging sweets and greetings.
In the capital, a warm spring sun added enthusiasm to the celebrations as people came out in large numbers to play Holi.
Squeals of laughter echoed all around as the young and old alike threw colour on each other and buckets full of coloured water were squirted through `pichkaris`, drenching everyone within range.
Many youngsters threw water balloons on people from inside their balconies and gardens.
In crowded urban pockets, the celebrations were more robust. Large bands of revellers, armed with coloured water -- deep purple, black and silver -- smeared anyone they came across with colour.
Sweets, especially the traditional gujiyas, were the order of the day as people exchanged them and greeted each other. The more adventurous downed the refreshing thandai, laced with bhang, to add zest to their celebrations.
In West Bengal, the festival - called "Dol Jatra" - was celebrated with colour, songs and prayers at Santiniketan, about 165 km from Kolkata, where Nobel laureate poet Rabindranath Tagore had re-introduced it as a spring festival in the Visva Bharati University he founded.
In some parts of the state, the festival is marked by placing the idols of Krishna and Radha on a picturesquely decorated palanquin, which is carried by devotees around the town.
At Nadia district`s Mayapur, thousands of devotees from various parts of the world congregated at International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON) global headquarters to celebrate the day as the birth anniversary of Vaishnav saint Chaitanya Mahaprabhu.
In Mumbai, youngsters indulged in a no-holds barred Holi, throwing buckets full of water at each other. Children also threw water-filled balloons their often unaware friends and family members, drenching them.
"I am so excited about Holi. This is fun, fun, fun... and I love it," said five-year old Gaurang Kamat who was the first in his housing society in Worli in south Mumbai to take to the ground with an array of balloons, pichkaris and colours.
By afternoon, streets in Mumbai saw all shades of colours - dry and otherwise -being thrown by people on each other. Several housing societies across Mumbai also arranged for music systems to add to the fun, and saw both children and adults dancing to "Rang barse, bheege chunarwali", "Aaj naa chhodenge bas hum," "Holi khele Raghubeera" and so on.
However, the celebrations turned sour in Dharavi slum in south-central Mumbai as nearly 200 children suffered colour poisoning and were admitted to hospital following allergic reactions.
"So far 176 children have been admitted to the hospital with complaints of skin allergy, burning of eyes, giddiness and vomiting," a duty medical officer from Sion Hospital told IANS.
According to hospital officials, some cases were critical on admission but are now stable and responding well to treatment.
Holi was celebrated across Uttar Pradesh with fervour and an added dash of political celebrations as triumphant Samajwadi Party (SP) leaders, led by party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav, played the festival of colours in style.
Mulayam Singh, who was in his home village of Saifai (in Etawah district), greeted the people, along with his brother and Rajya Sabha member Ram Gopal Yadav, while his son Akhilesh Yadav stayed back at Lucknow and met party workers.
At other places across the state, Holi passed off peacefully with no untoward incident being reported, police said. There was, however, a road accident at Kosi Kalan in Mathura in which a dozen people were injured.
The festival is associated with the legend of demon king Hiranyakashyapu whose son, Prahlad was a devotee of Vishnu. It symbolises victory of good over evil and is one of the most prominent Hindu festivals.
In Vrindavan, Holi was celebrated with enthusiasm in the Sri Krishna land from Goverdhan to Gokul in Mathura district.
The temples were a riot of colours as devotees drenched each other with gulal.
In Mathura, groups of pilgrims showered coloured water and gulal on passersby near the Dwarkadheesh temple. And at the Vishram Ghat on Yamuna river, it was a huge cloud of red gulal, said Gopi, a priest.
However in Bihar, the festival of colours was deferred by a day -- due to astrological reasons, and most people in the state will celebrate the festival Friday.