Kathmandu, Mar. 17: It's Holi Thursday. And a day later in Terai.
It has been a long wait for Mahesh Luitel but Holi has finally arrived. The 26-year-old engineer has been looking forward to celebrating the festival for months and now, it is here.
“This year is going to be wild,” said Luitel, a resident of Kalopul, Kathmandu. “We are going to make up for the past two years,” he said, unfurling a pure white shirt he plans to wear for the festival.
“Let smearing begin!” Luitel exclaimed.
Holi, also known as Fagu Purnima, is the Hindu festival of spring that signifies the victory of good over evil. However, it is also a festival of extensive physical contact with people smearing colours and splashing water on each other. This is why, to control the spread of the coronavirus, the authorities imposed restrictions on the festival, prohibiting public gatherings and celebrations. These restrictions began in 2020 and continued on-and-off through 2021 and were only recently fully lifted after the Omicron-fuelled third wave of the COVID-19 pandemic subsided.
“This had taken the colour out of the festival of colours,” said student Jyoti Baraili. “But this year, things will be different. This year, Holi will finally be as merry as before the pandemic.”
The police too expect there to be much fervour around the festival this year and have prepared a special security plan to ensure no unpleasant incidents occur on the day. “We think more people will come out to celebrate Holi this year than previous years because of the lack of restrictions and decline in COVID-19 infections,” Superintendent of Police Santosh Singh Rathour, spokesperson for the Metropolitan Police, told The Rising Nepal.
Rathour informed that the Metropolitan Police Office, Ranipokhari had mobilised more than 3,500 police personnel across the Kathmandu Valley to ensure that there are no unpleasant incidents on the day. Also, more than 68 traffic checkpoints have been established to check drunk-driving, over-speeding, carrying more people than the seat capacity and other offences.
He also said that police would pay special attention to areas like Basantapur, Thamel, Mangalbazaar, Jawalakhel and Sanepa which attract large crowds. “Similarly, officers will be going out in plain clothes as well as patrolling on cycles, motorbikes and four-wheelers to prevent merrymakers from harassing people, forcefully putting colours on others and endangering the health and safety of the public.”
Rathour also asked everyone coming out to enjoy Holi to remember that the pandemic was still not over. “It would be in our own interests to wear masks, maintain social distance and use sanitizers.”