Hindus celebrate Holi, the festival of colors across India

Hindus celebrate Holi, the festival of colors across India

Friends and strangers warmly hug each other as they smear their faces with kaleidoscopic powders _ red and green, yellow and purple. Joyful children splash revelers with water balloons and spray colored water from squirt guns. There is dancing in the streets to the thunderous beat of drums.

Holi, a major Hindu festival of colors in India, is a joyous and colorful celebration of the arrival of a spring harvest season, combined with a religious legend marking the victory of good over evil.

The celebration begins the night before Holi. Large bonfires are lit in what is known as "Holika Dahan" (burning of demon Holika) to mark the triumph of good.

At daybreak, it's time for visits to the homes of relatives and friends to forget and forgive and repair broken relationships. Hindus comprise nearly 80 percent of India's 1.3 billion people, but Holi is not just a Hindu festival. The streets and lanes across most of India are like meeting places, where people of all faiths douse each other with powder and water of every hue.

The festival also has an unsavory side. The drinking begins as early as noon _ alcohol, as well as the cannabis-based drink bhang. With it comes drunken driving and trouble in the streets. Many women complain of teasing and groping amid the crowds.

Indian revelers dance as color is sprayed on them during celebrations to mark Holi, the Hindu festival of colors, in Prayagraj, India, Friday, March 22, 2019. (AP Photo/ Rajesh Kumar Singh)

Indian revelers dance as color is sprayed on them during celebrations to mark Holi, the Hindu festival of colors, in Prayagraj, India, Friday, March 22, 2019. (AP Photo/ Rajesh Kumar Singh)

Indian revelers, faces smeared with colored powder, dance during Holi celebrations, or the Hindu festival of colors in Prayagraj, India, Friday, March 22, 2019. (AP Photo/ Rajesh Kumar Singh)

Indian revelers, faces smeared with colored powder, dance during Holi celebrations, or the Hindu festival of colors in Prayagraj, India, Friday, March 22, 2019. (AP Photo/ Rajesh Kumar Singh)

Indians dance during celebrations marking Holi, the festival of colors, in Gauhati, India, Thursday, March 21, 2019. (AP Photo/Anupam Nath)

Indians dance during celebrations marking Holi, the festival of colors, in Gauhati, India, Thursday, March 21, 2019. (AP Photo/Anupam Nath)

An Indian man has colored powder smeared on his face during celebrations marking Holi, the Hindu festival of colors, in Allahabad, India, Wednesday, March 20, 2019. (AP Photo/Rajesh Kumar Singh)

An Indian man has colored powder smeared on his face during celebrations marking Holi, the Hindu festival of colors, in Allahabad, India, Wednesday, March 20, 2019. (AP Photo/Rajesh Kumar Singh)

Indian priests spray colored water and powder on devotees during celebrations marking Holi on March 20, 2019. (AP Photo/Ajit Solanki)

Indian priests spray colored water and powder on devotees during celebrations marking Holi on March 20, 2019. (AP Photo/Ajit Solanki)

An Indian girl gathers color powder from the ground during celebrations to mark Holi, March 21, 2019. (AP Photo/Anupam Nath)

An Indian girl gathers color powder from the ground during celebrations to mark Holi, March 21, 2019. (AP Photo/Anupam Nath)

An Indian street vendor sells colored powder a day ahead of Holi, March 20, 2019. (AP Photo/Anupam Nath)

An Indian street vendor sells colored powder a day ahead of Holi, March 20, 2019. (AP Photo/Anupam Nath)

An Indian girl grimaces as her face is smeared with colored powder during celebrations marking Holi, the Hindu festival of colors, in Gauhati, India, Thursday, March 21, 2019. (AP Photo/Anupam Nath)

An Indian girl grimaces as her face is smeared with colored powder during celebrations marking Holi, the Hindu festival of colors, in Gauhati, India, Thursday, March 21, 2019. (AP Photo/Anupam Nath)

A Indian Hindu devotee applies colored powder to another during Holi festival celebration at the Lord Jagannath temple in Ahmadabad, India, Thursday, March 21, 2019. (AP Photo/Ajit Solanki)

A Indian Hindu devotee applies colored powder to another during Holi festival celebration at the Lord Jagannath temple in Ahmadabad, India, Thursday, March 21, 2019. (AP Photo/Ajit Solanki)

Revelers smear colored powder on a woman during celebrations marking Holi, the Hindu festival of colors, in Mumbai, India, March 21, 2019. (AP Photo/Rajanish Kakade)

Revelers smear colored powder on a woman during celebrations marking Holi, the Hindu festival of colors, in Mumbai, India, March 21, 2019. (AP Photo/Rajanish Kakade)

Revelers smear colored powder on a man during celebrations marking Holi, the Hindu festival of colors, in Mumbai, India, March 21, 2019. (AP Photo/Rajanish Kakade)

Revelers smear colored powder on a man during celebrations marking Holi, the Hindu festival of colors, in Mumbai, India, March 21, 2019. (AP Photo/Rajanish Kakade)

Revelers throw colored powder on a woman during celebrations marking Holi, the Hindu festival of colors, in Mumbai, India, Thursday, March 21, 2019. (AP Photo/Rajanish Kakade)

Revelers throw colored powder on a woman during celebrations marking Holi, the Hindu festival of colors, in Mumbai, India, Thursday, March 21, 2019. (AP Photo/Rajanish Kakade)

Colored water is splashed on a woman during Holi festivities in Allahabad, India, Thursday, March 21, 2019. (AP Photo/Rajesh Kumar Singh)

Colored water is splashed on a woman during Holi festivities in Allahabad, India, Thursday, March 21, 2019. (AP Photo/Rajesh Kumar Singh)

Indian revelers dance as colored powder and confetti are showered on them during celebrations to mark Holi, the Hindu festival of colors, in Prayagraj, India, Friday, March 22, 2019. (AP Photo/ Rajesh Kumar Singh)

Indian revelers dance as colored powder and confetti are showered on them during celebrations to mark Holi, the Hindu festival of colors, in Prayagraj, India, Friday, March 22, 2019. (AP Photo/ Rajesh Kumar Singh)

Revelers throw colored powder on a woman during celebrations marking Holi, the Hindu festival of colors, in Mumbai, India, Thursday, March 21, 2019. (AP Photo/Rajanish Kakade)

Revelers throw colored powder on a woman during celebrations marking Holi, the Hindu festival of colors, in Mumbai, India, Thursday, March 21, 2019. (AP Photo/Rajanish Kakade)

Indians play with colored powder to celebrate Holi, the Hindu festival of colors, in Gauhati, India, Thursday, March 21, 2019. (AP Photo/Anupam Nath)

Indians play with colored powder to celebrate Holi, the Hindu festival of colors, in Gauhati, India, Thursday, March 21, 2019. (AP Photo/Anupam Nath)