What is Holi, the Hindu festival of coloured powder and bonfires?

Locals including Hindu widows throw flower petals and colored powder during the religious arrival of spring festival calledHoliat the Gopinath temple in Vrindavan, 180 kilometers (112 miles) south-east of New Delhi, India. Picture by Manish Swarup
Locals including Hindu widows throw flower petals and colored powder during the religious arrival of spring festival calledHoliat the Gopinath temple in Vrindavan, 180 kilometers (112 miles) south-east of New Delhi, India. Picture by Manish Swarup

Hindus are celebrating one of the world's most colourful religious festivals this week - which has had more of an impact in the UK that you'd think.

The traditional festival is held to celebrate the beginning of spring, and of the championing of good over evil.

Coloured power is thrown in giant celebrations, leaving wonderful rainbow explosions on people, buildings and streets.

The festival is the inspiration for the Color Run and Obstacle Color Rush events and their imitators, which have taken the North East and the rest of the UK by storm.

These see competitors pelted with coloured powders as they take part in fun runs and obstacle courses.

Holi is also depicted in the music video for Coldplay's Hymn for the Weekend in 2016.

A Color Run event taking part in Sunderland.

A Color Run event taking part in Sunderland.

Although the festival originated in India, it has been adopted in many places around the world. Celebrations formally began on the evening of March 12 and end tonight, March 13 - and the festival is marked by today's Google Doodle.

The legends and customs:

Bonfire

Holi celebrations come from various Hindu legends. One is the story of how the god Vishnu saved his follower Prahlada from a pyre on which his evil aunt Holika burned.

To mark this, the night before the Holi, a Holika bonfire is burned to celebrate the victory of good over evil.

Preparations begin days before the festival people start gathering wood for for the bonfire in parks, community centers, near temples and other open spaces.

An effigy to signify Holika, who tricked Prahalad into the fire, is placed on the top - much like our guy on Bonfire Night.

Coloured powder

The coloured powder - known as gulal - comes from the legend of Krishna, whose skin was dark blue. He was worried he wouldn't be accepted by Radha, with whom he was in love, so he coloured her face to make her like himself.

The colourful powder is perfumed, and scattered on everyone in the giant rainbow celebration, which remembers Krishna's love, and signifies the coming of spring and the season's many colours.

Traditionally the powder was made of turmeric, paste and flower extracts, but in modern times this has been widley replaced with synthetic versions.

Each colour used has a different meaning: red is for love and fertility, blue is the colour of Krishna, yellow is the colour of turmeric, and green symbolises spring and new beginnings.

As part of the preparations for Holi, Hindu families stock up on pigments, food, party drinks and festive foods.