AP PHOTOS: India celebrates Holi, the Hindu festival of color that marks the reawakening of spring

NEW DELHI (AP) — Millions of Indians celebrated Monday the Hindu Holi festival, dancing to festive music, exchanging food and drink and smearing each other with red, green, blue and pink powder, turning the air into a joyful kaleidoscope of color.

Widely known as the Hindu festival of colors, Holi marks the arrival of the spring season in India, Nepal and other South Asian countries as well as the diaspora. It celebrates the divine love between the Hindu god Krishna and his consort Radha, and signifies a time of rebirth and rejuvenation, embracing the positive and letting go of negative energy

Across the country, people — some dressed in all white — celebrated the festival by drenching one another in colored powder while others flung water balloons filled with colored pigment from balconies. Some used squirt guns to chase down fellow revelers in parks, and others danced on the streets to music blaring from speakers.

Food and drink are a big part of the festivities. Vendors in parts of India sold Thandai — a traditional beverage prepared with milk, dry fruits and can sometimes be laced with cannabis.

Another tradition that marks Holi is Bhang, a paste made by grinding the leaves of the cannabis plant and is used in drinks and snacks. It is connected to Hinduism, particularly to Lord Shiva, and is eaten during some religious festivals in the region. The paste’s sale and consumption are permissible under Indian law, although a few states have banned it.

In parts of India, people also lit large bonfires the night before the festival to commemorate the triumph of good over evil.

Holi traditions vary across India.

Last week, in preparation for the festival, hundreds of women in two northern towns celebrated by playfully hitting men with wooden sticks in response to their teasing as part of a ritual. Known as the “Lathmar Holi” (Stick Holi), it attracts a large number of visitors.

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