Hindus in Pakistan get colourful for 'Holi'

Members of Pakistan's small Hindu community celebrate Holi, the festival of colours, and one of the most fun-filled Hindu festivals.

KARACHI (REUTERS) - Hindus across Pakistan began celebrating 'Holi', the Hindu festival of colours, on Sunday (March 12).

Holi, which is celebrated with the onset of spring, brings together people as they play with colours, distribute sweets and dance together.

In Pakistan's port city of Karachi, around 400 local Hindus gathered in the Swami Narayan Mandir, one of the city's Hindu temples, to playfully splash colours on one another in a joyous welcome of spring.

"The Holi festival is basically the biggest festival of the Hindu community. During this festival people visit each other's houses, distribute sweets, and greet their friends," said a Hindu doctor, Pardeep Kumar.

"In the evening, people get together in one place to worship and daub colours on one another. The purpose of sprinkling colours is to paint the entire society in one colour so that the differences in the society can be brought to an end."

Security was exceptionally tight around all Hindu temples across the country, and worshippers had to undergo a thorough search before they entered venues of the festival.

Holi, perhaps the least religious of Hindu festivals, is widely recognised for the throwing and applying of coloured water and powders on friends and family, which gives the holiday its common name "festival of colours".

This ritual is said to be based on the story of Lord Krishna's playful splashing of "gopis" (wives and daughters of cowherds) with water, but most of all it celebrates the coming of spring with all its beautiful colours and vibrant life.

Holi is primarily observed in India, Nepal, and Sri Lanka but also in countries with large Hindu populations such as Suriname, Malaysia, Guyana, South Africa, United States, Mauritius, and Fiji.

Non-Muslims make up only about three per cent of the 190 million population of Muslim-majority Pakistan.