Ginger Harry sees red in Nepalese Holi festival paint fight

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Prince Harry's ginger beard was turned a deeper shade of red when he joined in the playful mayhem of a Hindu festival.

The 31-year-old's cheeks and forehead were covered when he took part in a powder paint fight as Nepalese schoolchildren celebrated Holi, the Hindu festival of colour.

Marking the arrival of spring, its central ritual sees revellers throw powder paint and coloured water at each other as social conventions are relaxed.

The ceremony started with the school's head girl, Juna Garung, smearing paint on Harry's face, he in turn grabbed some coloured powder and wiped it on the face of his Army colleague, Gurka officer Major Prakash Gurung.

It soon descended into good-natured chaos, with dignitaries and Harry trading paint which left their clothes and faces splattered.

The Prince was at the Gauda Secondary School in the village of Okhari, 4,500ft (1,372m) up in the mountains, to see how the British-based Gurkha Welfare Trust is helping to fund the rebuilding of the school after a number of buildings were damaged during last year's earthquake.

Before the paint fight began, he was shown around the school, where brick-built classrooms will replace the temporary tin huts where the children are being taught.

He then played volleyball with the children on a beaten-earth playground and used his 6ft 2in (1.88m) height to all its advantage as he guarded the net while Major Gurung was on the opposing team.

Harry had been given a rapturous welcome by the villagers when he first arrived and was weighed down with the garlands and scarves they placed around his neck - at one point he joked "There's lots more space".

He had trekked for an hour down the hillside, which stands in the shadow of the Annapurna range, having spent the night as the guest of an 86-year-old Gurkha widow.

Harry described the experience of sleeping under the same roof as the Nepalese family as "amazing''.

He had a taste of rural village life as he sat down to a curry chicken dinner with the elderly widow and her family and then bedded down in a sleeping bag in her sparsely-furnished communal room.

In the morning he woke early to see the spectacular sunrise over the distant Himalayan mountains.

Looking at the stunning scenery, he reflected on his short period with Mangali Tamang, 86, a widow of a former Gurkha rifleman, saying: "It was amazing really, peaceful actually.

"Lots of dogs barking, but it didn't seem to bother them. Apparently the locals, they're happy if the dogs are barking, but they're not happy if they dogs are not barking.''

He added: "The family were fantastic, we had a proper feast of a meal and then they vanished, that was it, never saw them again.

"We all went to be early so we were tucked up by half past eight, then everything started to come to life at quarter past, half past five.''

When Harry trekked up to the tiny village of Leurani on Monday afternoon, the cloudy conditions had obscured the famous mountain range, but the skies cleared by the following morning.

Looking at the impressive view, Harry, who was casually dressed and wore a cap, said: "Nice to be able to see where we are,'' then added: ''In the shadow of the Himalayas.''