Hundreds of women in two north Indian towns have celebrated Holi, the Hindu festival of colours, by playfully hitting men with wooden sticks in response to their “teasing” as part of a ritual.
After two years of subdued revelry due to COVID-19, the Holi celebrations that began last week recreated the legend of the Hindu god Krishna spraying his consort Radha and her friends with red, yellow, green and saffron colours.
The women were from Nandgaon, the legendary hometown of Krishna, and the men were from Radha’s hometown of Barsana – twin towns about 115km (70 miles) south of the capital New Delhi.
The men wore turbans and held shields above their heads to protect themselves from the women’s blows in the mock battle.
The devotees, smeared in coloured powder, then prayed at the 19th century Nandagram Temple near where Hindus believe Krishna and his brother Balram spent their childhood. They exchanged sweets and drinks as part of the celebrations.
Some men were caught by women and made to dress like them. They then sang and danced along with the women.
The “Lathmar Holi” (Stick Holi) festival attracts visitors from around the world in large numbers.
Holi traditions vary across India. In most parts, the holiday will be celebrated on Wednesday, turning the streets and lanes into playgrounds as people throw water balloons and shoot squirt guns at each other.
Holi, which marks the advent of spring, is widely celebrated in India, Nepal and other countries with large Indian subcontinent diaspora populations.