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Scent of festival in air, to-do lists near an end

Patna, March 15: Children would take to the streets with pichkaris (water guns) in hand, youngsters would descend on the streets in worn-out clothes and professionals would sing Fagua (Holi songs, mostly in Bhojpuri) with glasses of scented thandai.

Residents in the city are ready to celebrate Holi, the festival of colours, with fun and frolic. People who have relatives in the districts also left for their native places to celebrate Holi with family and old friends.

Some like Indraneel Biswas, who works in Delhi, have also made their way to Patna. “I have come home to celebrate Holi with my family and friends. I would gorge on puwa and chicken cooked by my mother in the morning and then go out to play colours with my childhood friends. We will wash off the colours later and then again go meet people with dry gulal in the evening,” he said.

The offices that were open today were already in the grip of the Holi fever. Get-togethers (Holi milan) were organised at many offices, including Bihar State Power (Holding) Company Ltd.

H.R. Pandey, the deputy general manager (public relations), said: “This was the first time that the company employees, right from Class IV to chairman-cum-managing director Sandeep Poundrik, celebrated Holi milan. Musical and cultural programmes were also organised.”

Holi celebrations in the city would formally start tomorrow with Holika Dahan (lighting of bonfire). Holi was originally a spring festival of fertility and harvest.

According to legend, demon king Hiranyakashipu tried to set Prahlad, his son and a devotee of Lord Vishnu, on fire for refusing to worship his father as a god. During an attempt on his life, the king tried the help of his sister (Holika) who had a special garment that prevented her from catching fire. The king asked her to sit on a bonfire with Prahlad but the garment flew from Holika and covered the king’s son. Prahlad came out unharmed while Holika was burnt to death.

The legend is celebrated by observing Holika Dahan the night before Holi. Authorities this time have, however, taken a strict stand to protect trees that are often targeted for wood during Holika Dahan. Patna divisional forest officer Gopal Singh has issued an order to file FIRs against people found pruning standing trees for Holika Dahan. Three patrolling teams from the forest department are also on duty.

Ashok Ghosh, faculty member at AN College and an environment expert, suggested that though burning wood causes the least pollution, only waste wood should be used for Holika Dahan. “Even we used to collect wood in our childhood days for Holika Dahan but only from waste furniture or other wooden materials. Cowdung cakes also cause less pollution,” said Ghosh.

Police would be on their toes to maintain law and order during the festival. Traffic today was a nightmare, as vehicles remained stranded on Mahatma Gandhi Setu for hours.

For the festival, senior superintendent of police Manu Maharaaj said: “Around 15 to 16 sensitive points have been identified across the city where two companies of state Rapid Action Force would be deployed. This would be in addition to the normal deployment of police constables. All police stations have been asked to stay on high alert. Apart from closed- circuit television cameras installed in the city, quick mobile teams would keep a close eye on all areas.”

If the police are looking after security, health experts are busy cautioning revellers about use of colours.

Amar Kant Jha Amar, principal, Patna Medical College and Hospital, said: “Dark colours contain harmful chemicals, including mercury, lead, zinc and aluminium, which are cancerous and cause respiratory disorders. Residents should opt for natural colours. If taken in high quantities, bhaang can lead to deadly diseases and make a person go in to a state of frenzy.”