DHAKA – Bangladeshi youths on Sunday smeared red, yellow and green colored powders on their faces in the historic quarters of the capital’s Old Dhaka neighborhood, where preparations are underway for the joyous Hindu celebration which begins at dusk and runs through Monday night.
Thousands of Bangladeshis, including many university students, turn out annually to light Holika bonfires the night before the main Holi day, when a water fight with colored powders will break out among crowds as enthusiastic party goers dance to blasting music and hand drums.
“Holi celebration takes place with a lot of joy and verve,” notes the Society for the Confluence of Festivals in India, where the Hindu tradition originated, adding that “no other festival gives so much liberty to the people to let their hair loose and enjoy their hidden crazy self.”
Though originally a Hindu tradition to celebrate legends delighting in the triumph of good over evil, people of all faiths in Muslim-majority Bangladesh partake in the joyous event that transforms Old Dhaka’s main Hindu area of Shankhari Bazar into a fun fair of color wars involving buckets, water balloons and sometimes marijuana-laced edibles.
This year’s Holi comes just eight months after a terrorist attack on a bakery frequented by expats stunned the nation and has been followed by a series of small scale attacks on members of religious and ethnic minorities, including Hindus.
The government has since pledged to improve security at public events held in the capital city, home to some 15 million inhabitants, a welcome measure for Dhaka locals.
“I’d think security would be really beefed up this year after the Holey (Artisan Bakery) attack. The government is finally taking it seriously,” said Dhaka native Tazkira Sattar, referring to safety measures in the city.
Hindus comprise roughly 10 percent of the Bangladeshi population, and welcome Holi celebrations as a sign of national unity to usher in springtime on the full moon of the Hindu calendar, according to an epa journalist.