Time was when people could not imagine playing Holi without water but that is what many were forced to do this year in parts of Madhya Pradesh, as water shortage forced them to celebrate the festival with only dry colours.
Given the water scarcity in Bhopal, Ujjain, Indore, Jabalpur, Gwalior and other districts, several organisations had appealed to the people to celebrate 'Tilak Holi' this year and save precious water.
At several places like Ujjain, people played Holi with flowers. At other places they simply applied gulal to one another.
Many youngsters stayed away from the celebrations as state-level board examinations are on.
"Children are the main factor in festivals like Holi but when they too have refrained from playing Holi, there is no charm left," said M.M. Beg, a Bhopal-based doctor.
Vendors selling colours, gulal and 'designer pichkaris' (squirt guns) at main markets here were disappointed with the tepid response from Holi revellers.
"I have so far not been able to sell even 10 percent of the stuff as the water problem has taken a toll on our business. I have incurred a heavy loss and will keep myself away from this business next year," Ashish, a shopkeeper, said Wednesday morning.
Bablu, another petty shop owner nearby, added: "I was worried about the sales this year. But still I took the plunge. I regret my decision now. Look, there are hardly any buyers around."
Bigger players' fate was no different this year.
"By this time last year, I had sold more than 90 percent of my colours and pichkaris. This year, I have not been able to sell even one-fourth of the stuff. If the water problem persists next year, I will not set up my stall," said Shyam, who has a shop in the sprawling Bittan Market area here.
Does this mean people have become conscious of the need to save water?
"Yes, they have. Even the media has been calling for a dry Holi. The sale of gulal is relatively better, but even that is less than previous years," points out shopkeeper Shahid.
Even if people wanted to celebrate a full blast Holi, there was no regular water supply in this state capital Wednesday and only half of the city areas got water thanks to an alternate supply arrangement.
The civic body refused to provide water tankers and water drums to revellers, as has been the practice right from the Mughal era.
Bhopal Municipal Corporation (BMC) officials said supplying water to the entire city would have created a long-term problem as only 20 percent water was left in the Upper Lake - the main source of supply for the city.