Streets across India turned into a playground as people threw coloured powder and water at each other to celebrate Holi, also known as the festival of colour.

Holi Hindu festival
A man reacts as coloured water is splashed on him during Holi celebrations in the southern Indian city of ChennaiReuters
Holi Hindu festival
The face of a widow is seen daubed in colour after she took part in Holi celebrations in VrindavanAnindito Mukherjee/Reuters

The festivities were particularly spirited in the town of Mathura in the Braj region of northern India. Women playfully beat men with sticks and tried to rip their shirts off. In turn, men used their torn clothes to retaliate. All this was combined with such large amounts of coloured powders and dyed water that the streets ran orange.

Mathura is where Lord Krishna was born, and Holi festivities can go on for more than a week.

holi huranga
A woman beats a man with torn clothes during Huranga celebrations at Dauji temple near the northern Indian city of MathuraAnindito Mukherjee/Reuters
holi huranga
Men drench women with liquid colours and women tear off the clothes of the men at Dauji temple near the Indian city of MathuraAnindito Mukherjee/Reuters
holi huranga
A child lies in a puddle of coloured water at the Dauji temple near Mathura, northern IndiaAnindito Mukherjee/Reuters
holi huranga
A boy throws coloured water on a girl during Huranga festivities at the Dauji templeAdnan Abidi/Reuters
holi huranga
A woman tears the shirt off a man during Huranga celebrations at Dauji temple, near MathuraAdnan Abidi/Reuters
holi huranga
Women beat men with torn clothes during Huranga festivities at Dauji temple near the northern Indian city of MathuraAdnan Abidi/Reuters

Being covered in colour brings relative anonymity, and in largely conservative India, this means Holi is a time when men and women and boys and girls can mingle with relative freedom.

Holi Hindu festival
A widow is daubed in colours during Holi celebrations organised by non-governmental organisation Sulabh InternationalAhmad Masood/Reuters
Holi Hindu festival
A woman daubed in colours takes part in Holi celebrations at a widows' ashram at Vrindavan, in the northern Indian state of Uttar PradeshAhmad Masood/Reuters
holi huranga
A man throws coloured powder on a crowd of revellers in BaldeoRoberto Schmidt/AFP
Holi Hindu festival
A man's faced is covered in coloured powder during Holi celebrations in HyderabadNoah Seelam/AFP
Holi Hindu festival
People celebrate the festival of colours in AllahabadSanjay Kanojia/AFP
Holi festival
A woman's face is smeared with coloured powder during Holi celebrations in the Sivasagar district of AssamAFP

Some studies have suggested the industrial powders used can be toxic and cause asthma, temporary blindness and even skin cancer.