Widows paint the town red as India celebrates Holi

Indian children from the Bright Academy play with coloured powder known as gulal as they celebrate the Holi festival in Siliguri on March 4, 2015. -- PHOTO: AFP
Indian children from the Bright Academy play with coloured powder known as gulal as they celebrate the Holi festival in Siliguri on March 4, 2015. -- PHOTO: AFP
Indian college students put powdered colour on each other's faces as they participate in the Holi festival in Jammu, the winter capital of Kashmir, India, on March 4, 2015. -- PHOTO: EPA
Indian college students put powdered colour on each other's faces as they participate in the Holi festival in Jammu, the winter capital of Kashmir, India, on March 4, 2015. -- PHOTO: EPA
Indian school children put powdered colour on each other's faces as they participate in the Holi festival in Jammu, the winter capital of Kashmir, India, on March 4, 2015. -- PHOTO: EPA
Indian school children put powdered colour on each other's faces as they participate in the Holi festival in Jammu, the winter capital of Kashmir, India, on March 4, 2015. -- PHOTO: EPA
Indian children from the Bright Academy pose with coloured powder known as gulal used during the Holi festival in Siliguri on March 4, 2015. -- PHOTO: AFP
Indian children from the Bright Academy pose with coloured powder known as gulal used during the Holi festival in Siliguri on March 4, 2015. -- PHOTO: AFP
Students put coloured powder on each other as they celebrate the Holi festival in Bhopal, India, on March 4, 2015. -- PHOTO: EPA
Students put coloured powder on each other as they celebrate the Holi festival in Bhopal, India, on March 4, 2015. -- PHOTO: EPA
Indian children from the Bright Academy pose, after splashing each other with coloured powder known as gulal, as they celebrate the Holi festival in Siliguri on March 4, 2015. -- PHOTO: AFP
Indian children from the Bright Academy pose, after splashing each other with coloured powder known as gulal, as they celebrate the Holi festival in Siliguri on March 4, 2015. -- PHOTO: AFP
An Indian widow dances as she celebrates Holi or 'festival of colors' in Vrindavan on March 3, 2015. -- PHOTO: AFP
An Indian widow dances as she celebrates Holi or 'festival of colors' in Vrindavan on March 3, 2015. -- PHOTO: AFP
Indian widows throw petals as a sign of welcome on the arrival of Bindeshwar Pathak, founder of NGO Sulabh International which funds some Indian widows sheltering in ashrams, before playing Holi or the 'festival of colours' in Vindravan on March 3, 2
Indian widows throw petals as a sign of welcome on the arrival of Bindeshwar Pathak, founder of NGO Sulabh International which funds some Indian widows sheltering in ashrams, before playing Holi or the 'festival of colours' in Vindravan on March 3, 2015. -- PHOTO: AFP
Indian women purchase colored powder for the 'holi' celebrations at a roadside stall in the old city of Allahabad on March 4, 2015. -- PHOTO: AFP
Indian women purchase colored powder for the 'holi' celebrations at a roadside stall in the old city of Allahabad on March 4, 2015. -- PHOTO: AFP
Widows daubed in colours chant religious hymns as they dance during the Holi celebrations at a widows' ashram at Vrindavan in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh on March 4, 2015. -- PHOTO: REUTERS
Widows daubed in colours chant religious hymns as they dance during the Holi celebrations at a widows' ashram at Vrindavan in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh on March 4, 2015. -- PHOTO: REUTERS
A widow daubed in colours takes part in Holi celebrations at Vrindavan, in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh on March 3, 2015. -- PHOTO: REUTERS
A widow daubed in colours takes part in Holi celebrations at Vrindavan, in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh on March 3, 2015. -- PHOTO: REUTERS
Widows daubed in colours chant religious hymns as they dance during the Holi celebrations at Vrindavan in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh on March 4, 2015. -- PHOTO: REUTERS
Widows daubed in colours chant religious hymns as they dance during the Holi celebrations at Vrindavan in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh on March 4, 2015. -- PHOTO: REUTERS

VRINDAVAN, India (AFP) - Revellers have begun painting the town red across India at the start of riotous celebrations to mark the spring festival of Holi, including in a town usually associated with grief as a so-called "city of widows".

Holi, also known as the festival of colours, is celebrated across India this week as revellers flowerbomb each other with powdered paint, with festivities reaching a crescendo on Friday, which is a public holiday.

But some of the most moving celebrations have been in Vrindavan in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh, home to around 2,000 widows who have been shunned by their families after the deaths of their husbands.

While the idea of widows taking part in any kind of celebration has been traditionally frowned upon, the widows of Vrindavan have been joined by hundreds of other women since they began marking Holi three years ago.

"The best part about the festival is that we get to change and wear different clothes than those that we wear almost everyday," Ms Manu Ghosh told AFP after taking part in a Vrindavan paint fight on Tuesday.

"We can dance, sing and mess around together. The food, particularly the sweets during Holi, also remind me of the days when my husband was still alive," said the 85-year-old, who was widowed 21 years ago.

There were similarly joyous scenes in the city of Mumbai on Wednesday, where disabled youngsters sprayed and smeared each other with a rainbow of colours.