Holi festival subdued in India over coronavirus concerns

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Indians dance and throw colored powder during Holi festival celebrations in Gauhati, India, Tuesday, March 10, 2020. The festival heralds the arrival of spring. (AP Photo/Anupam Nath)

NEW DELHI – Hindus threw colored powder and sprayed water in massive celebrations of the festival of Holi in India on Tuesday, but the enthusiasm was subdued compared to previous years because of fears of the new virus.

Brightly colored powder filled the air in most parts of North India. But in the capital, New Delhi, many events were canceled as the number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the country rose to 47.

Holi, which marks the advent of spring, is widely celebrated in India, Nepal and other South Asian countries.

Most years, millions of people from toddlers to the elderly throw powder at each other and play with water balloons and squirt guns.

But this year Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted that he would not participate in public Holi celebrations because of the virus outbreak.

“Yes, it’s coronavirus that made us cancel our programs,” said Anshuman Ghulati, festival director of Holi Moo, one of the biggest Holi events in New Delhi which last year drew some 7,000 people from around the world.

“People are scared this year, we have canceled our event,” he said.

Other groups in New Delhi also canceled their plans.