Indians welcome Holi festival in riot of colour

Millions across India welcomed spring with their annual "festival of colours" on Friday, celebrating by covering each other in water and dazzling paint.

New Delhi: Millions across India welcomed spring with their annual "festival of colours" on Friday, celebrating by covering each other in water and dazzling paint.

The ancient Hindu festival of Holi, which heralds the end of winter and the victory of good over evil, is marked with a national public holiday and sees revellers pour onto the streets.

"Happy Holi to everyone. May this festival of colours fill your lives with lots of joy," tweeted Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday, the start of the two-day festivities.

Celebrated mainly in India, Nepal and other countries with large Hindu populations, Hoil falls on the last full moon of winter.

In the northern village of Phalen, a Hindu priest ran over a huge fire before cheering crowds to mark the burning of the demon Holika.

Dr Puranbare, a 63-year-old visitor from the western city of Pune, said he had travelled hundreds of miles specifically to see the "unique" village ritual.

"It`s not otherwise humanly possible for a man to cross such a huge fire," he told AFP.

Elsewhere in the country, people partied with water pistols and coloured powder while dancing to drum beats and music.

In New Delhi, police made "elaborate" arrangements to rein in drunk and reckless drivers, arming officers with cameras to film any offenders, the Press Trust of India news agency reported.

Joyous celebrations also took place earlier this week in Vrindavan in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh, the so-called "city of widows" more commonly associated with grief, which only started celebrating the colourful festival three years ago.

In the city of Mumbai disabled youngsters were seen spraying each other with a rainbow of colours.

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