Wrong end of the stick for some as Hindus mark Holi and the start of spring

NEW DELHI (Reuters) - Indians are celebrating Holi, the Hindu festival of colors, this week, spraying water cannon and smearing colored powders over each other in an annual ritual marking the beginning of spring.

While most play and sing songs, some have added local variations to the festival, delving deep into Hindu mythology.

In the northern town of Barsana, women wield wooden sticks to beat up men singing risque songs in a version called “Lathmar”, or stick-wielding Holi.

The ritual draws on a story about Hindu god Krishna, who was chased away by women in Barsana while he wooed his beloved. Echoing that practice, women hurl sticks at men, who try to escape. Those who get caught are made to wear women’s clothing and dance.

The main festival is on Friday this year but celebrations begin a week early in the town of Vrindavan, Krishna’s birthplace.

The town is home to Hindu widows who are made to forgo adornments and cannot return to their families after the death of their husbands. But on Holi, they sing and dance and play with colors before they go back to their sequestered lives.

Reporting by Neha Dasgupta; Editing by Sanjeev Miglani and Nick Macfie