At least 16 Holi revelers drowned even as millions across the country took part in the dazzling festival Wednesday in which people from all strata of society and religious persuasion take to the streets, hugging and dousing or painting one another with water or dry colors, singing and dancing and feasting on all kinds of food and sweets.
The Press Trust of India news agency, quoting authorities, reported seven youths drowned in the Ganges River in Kanpur in northern Uttar Pradesh state after celebrating Holi. Similarly, six teenagers drowned in southeastern coastal Andhra Pradesh state. Another three drowned in West Bengal state.
The drowning toll was expected to rise.
Mukherjee said Holi "is a harbinger of joy, hope and fulfillment for all." Singh said Holi is a celebration of "life and goodness and gives opportunity to strengthen the spirit of brotherhood."