KOLKATA, March 8 (IANS): West Bengal celebrated the festival of Holi - or "Dol Jatra" as it is called - with colour, songs and prayers amidst heightened security Thursday.
Thousands of people from both India and abroad assembled at Santiniketan, about 165 km from the state capital, where Nobel laureate poet Rabindranath Tagore had re-introduced "Dol" as a spring festival in the Visva Bharati University he founded.
The Santiniketan campus in Birbhum district was a picture of mirth and gaiety as people danced on the streets to the strains of Tagore songs that exhorted everyone to mingle in joy.
The spirit of Tagorean culture seemed infectious, as the darkness of the night was dispelled with girls and boys of Visva-Bharati, accompanied by their teachers, going around the campus urging people through songs to open their doors ("Ore grihabasi, khol dwar khol, laglo je dol") and usher in the spring festivities.
The girls, resplendent in golden sarees and garlands of fragrant flowers, and boys in traditional kurta-punjabi, took part in a song and dance routine at the Ashram Math (university main ground). The function ended with everyone smearing the other with abir.
The curtains would come down on the festivities in the evening, with the rendering of Tagore's dance drama 'Mayar Khela' by the university students.
The festival was a marriage of north Indian and Bengali cultures in this metropolis. While those from north India celebrated it in their traditional style, the Bengalis exchanged sweets and pleasantries.
As the morning progressed, the youngsters moved around their neighbourhoods in groups, throwing water missiles and smearing coloured powder on one another.
Security was tightened across the state, especially in sensitive areas of the city, Santiniketan and Mayapur to prevent any untoward incidents.
"There are no reports of untoward incidents till now. Situation is absolutely peaceful. There is a huge police presence on the roads to prevent any breach of peace," city Police Joint Commissioner (headquarters) Jawed Shamim told IANS.
An officer manning the state police control room here said that peace prevailed in the districts.
In parts of the state, the festival is marked by placing the idols of Krishna and Radha on a picturesquely decorated palanquin, which is carried by the devotees around the town.
People dance around and sing hymns in joy, and spray coloured water and smear gulal on each other. At Nadia district's Mayapur, about 130 km from here, thousands of devotees from various parts of the world congregated at International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON) global headquarters to celebrate the day as the birth anniversary of Vaishnav saint Chaitanya Mahaprabhu.
Devotional songs and cultural programmes, discourses about the life and teachings of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu marked the day at Mayapur.