The continuing wet spell in many areas of Uttar Pradesh has dampened the spirits of Holi revellers. The chill has forced people to pull out their woollens once again.
This time of the year, it usually gets warm in Mathura, Agra and adjoining areas that see nature smiling in a riot of colours. But sudden showers on Tuesday and overcast skies on Wednesday have cast a spell of doom on Holi celebrations on Sunday.
"In Vrindavan we have been waiting so long for Holi but the weather gods seem to be in a bad mood. Let's hope the clouds clear off in a day or two," says a worried Pandit Mahesh Chand Shukla.
In Barsana, the Lathmar Holi, when women (gopis) of the village use lathis to beat up the colour throwing men, luckily got over on Ekadashi two days ago when the sun was still smiling.
"This year the celebrations had many more visitors and pilgrims from all parts of India, some foreigners too," said a Barsana pandit.
Holi in the area known as Braj mandal comprising six districts of Agra division is time for celebrations and fun.
This festival is more socio-cultural than religious as all communities join the festivities, sing, dance and throw colours and occasionally let out excess steam through violence.
Agra and the surrounding rural hinterland will be soaked in colours.
In the Braj area, because of the Sri Krshna-Radha folklore, Holi is indeed a fascinating, colourful cultural exposition.
The festival of Holi continues for almost a fortnight from Ekadashi. In the rural areas it is free for all with men and women joining in the throwing of mud, dancing — and naughty tricks too.
In Agra, Holi has moved away from streets to clubs and banquet halls, as the society gets more urbanised and perhaps more civil.
This year a special programme involving residents of two colonies, one representing Sri Krishna's gang and the other Radha's group, will have a real showdown in Kamla Nagar, a posh colony of Agra.
"Earlier it used to be impossible to move out of the house. We have gradually become urbane. But rural areas continue to engage in full-throated singing and dancing to the beat of dholaks and nagadas," says old-timer Surendra Sharma.
Agra being a quintessential Mughal city, one cannot overlook the rich tradition of Holi celebrations set by Akbar and Jahangir. Both indulged in the merriment and showered gulab and colours on the revellers. Musical mehfils were held all night and community bhang drinking was the order of the day.
Urdu poets Nazir Akbarabadi, emperor Bahadur Shah Zafar and so many others have penned special Holi songs including "phags" to be sung during celebrations. Sufi saints Amir Khusrau and Nizammuddin Aulia also sang Holi songs in pure Persian.
Contemporary paintings show Jahangir playing Holi with his wife Noorjahan. The Holi carnival lasted several days even during the time of Bahadur Shah Zafar who had special arrangements made for the celebrations.