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India colours the world as Holi goes international

After Diwali, Holi is the Indian festival that is celebrated most enthusiastically worldwide. The Indian diaspora in the United Kingdom, United States, Caribbean islands, South Africa and virtually everywhere else come together to celebrate Holi.

Traditionally, Holi celebrates the end of winter and its religious significance is the burning of Holika, the evil sister of the demon Hiranyakashipu. According to Hindu mythology, Hiranyakashipu's son Prahlad was a consummate devotee of Lord Vishnu. The father, infuriated with his son's piety, committed him to untold torture. For one of these he solicited the help of his wicked sister Holika, who tricked Prahlad into sitting down on her lap in a blazing pyre. Holika herself was wrapped in a cloak that made her invulnerable to fire. When Prahlad, blind with devotion for Vishnu, entered the pyre, the cloak flew off Holika's body and protected Prahlad instead. As for Holika, she was burned to char.

The Holi bonfire takes its name from Holika's immolation and signifies the destruction of all evil in the world and the beginning of a new springtime of hope. This vernal ritual also sees revellers smearing each other with colour. Traditionally, natural colours were used but these are now replaced by chemical dyes.

Across the world, local people are invited to join the Indian community in the festivities and today, Holi has an international allure.

Enjoy these Holi images from our Flickr photographers

ENJOY MORE HOLI GALLERIES: