Lathmar Holi in Mathura Vrindavan – A combo of colors and sticks

Vrindavan Holi

Holi, popularly known as the festival of colors, is celebrated almost all over India.  It is a spring festival of fun, frolic and friendships. On the night previous to Holi, Holika dahan(bonfire) is done and people dance and sing songs commemorating the event. Holi will be celebrated on 24th of March this year with Holika Dahan preceding the festival on the night of 23rd of March.

Apart from the typical Holi celebration, each region has its own share of rituals. One such interesting ritual is found in the neighboring villages of Barsana and Nandaon near Mathura in Uttar Pradesh. This way of celebration is known as ‘Lathmar Holi’ which literally translates to “hitting with lathi(staff)”.  It seems scary. Doesn’t it? But no; it is done in a friendly way actually.

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What’s the story behind Lathmar Holi?

Barsana was the birth place of Lord Krishna’s beloved Radha. It is said that Lord Krishna being dark in complexion and Radha being fair, Lord Krishna applied color to her face. Thus began the festival of colors. Legend has it that one day Lord Krishna was playfully teasing Radha and her friend gopis. The women of Barsana took offence and chased Lord Krishna and his friends away by running after them with lathis.

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Holi Calendar 2016

Celebrations Date Day
Lathmaar Holi at Barsana 17th March 2016 Thursday
Lathmaar Holi at Nandgaon 18th March 2016 Friday
Holi in Mathura 19th March 2016 Saturday
Holi at Banke Bihari Temple in Vrindavan 20th March 2016 Sunday
Holi celebration in Gokul 21th March 2016 Monday
Dwarkadish Temple in Mathura 22th March 2016 Tuesday
Holi celebration in Temples & streets of Vrindavan 23th March 2016 Wednesday
Actual Holi celebration 24th March 2016 Thursday

17th March 2016  : Lath Mar Holi in Barsana

Since then, the tradition is being followed in Barsana where men come from the neighboring town of Nandgaon to apply color to women of Barsana and are chased away. They are equipped with shields for protection. This takes place in the sprawling campus of the Radha-Rani or Ladli temple. In this mock battle of sorts, the men try their best to not get captured. The unlucky ones are forcefully led away and get a good thrashing from the women. Further, they are made to wear female attire and dance in public. All in the spirit of Holi.

Lathmar Holi at Nandgaon
Lathmar Holi at Nandgaon | Photo by Krupa Gurunathan

18th March 2016 : Lath Mar Holi in Nandgaon

The next day men from Barsana go to Nandgaon to drench the women of Nandgaon with kesudo (orange colored flowers that leave their color in water) water and palaash. During Holi, people drink ‘Thandaai’, a drink which is generally made intoxicating by adding ‘Bhaang’ (cannabis). Bhang produces varying effects in people that range from increased craving for food to ecstasy. The air itself becomes colored and songs lauding Lord Krishna and Radha can be heard at every corner of the village. Nandgaon is 55 kms form Mathura

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20th March 2016 : Holi in Vrinadavan

On the 1st of March, the holi festival will be celebrated at Vrindavan (11 kms from Mathura). The celebration at Banke-Bihari temple on this day is worth visiting. Here watch Hindu priests throw colored water and marigold garlands over the devotees, and feel the crowd surge forward to get a better glimpse of their beloved Lord Krishna.

Holi at Braj
Aaj Biraj Mein HOLI hai!!

Thousands of believers and tourists congregate to watch this ceremony every year. To maintain safety and security of viewers, the state tourist board has set up excellent vantage points for the public. A large open ground, on the outskirts of the town is specially set aside for this magnificent display of the festivities.

How to reach there?

  • By Air:

Agra airport is approximately 102 km away from Barsana. The international airport at Delhi, which is connected to almost every important city in the world with major airlines is around 111km away from Barsana.

  • By Road:

Barsana bears a direct road link from Delhi to Agra; it is connected to Mathura by road and is at 45km distance. It is also connected via buses to Mathura as well as these cities.

Lath mar Holi

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Devotees inside Krishna temple during Lathmaar holi

Lath mar Holi (Hindi: लट्ठमार होली, IAST: laṭhmār holi, IPA: laʈʰmɑːr hoːliː) is a local celebration of the Hindu festival of Holi. It takes place days before the actual Holi in the neighbouring towns of Barsana and Nandgaon near Mathura in the state ofUttar Pradesh, where thousands of Hindus and tourists congregate, each year.[1][2][3] The name means “that Holi in which [people] hit with sticks” (laṭh is a thick traditional staff).

Color Drenched Gopis in Krishna Temple

Lathmar women waiting for Gopis to hit them on their shield, at Nandgaon.

Lathmar women hitting Gopis

Legend has it that Lord Krishna visited his beloved Radha‘s village on this day and playfully teased her and her friends. Taking offence at this, the women of Barsana chased him away. Since then, men from Krishna’s village, Nandgaon, visit Barsana to play Holi in the town which has the distinction of having the only temple dedicated to Radha in India.[citation needed]

In the sprawling compound of the Radha Rani temple in Barsana, thousands gather to witness the Lath Mar holi when women beat up men with sticks (laṭh or lāṭhī) as those on the sidelines become hysterical, sing Holi Songs and shout Sri Radhey or Sri Krishna. The Holi songs of Braj mandal are sung in pure Braj Bhasha.[citation needed]

On the first day of Lath Mar Holi, gops (shepherds) from Nandgaon come to Barsana to play Holi with the gopis (shepherdesses) of Barsana. The festival begins with a ceremony at the Radha Rani temple. After this ceremony gops then march out of the temple on the Rang Rangeeli Gali where they stop to play holi with the gopis, who stand in groups along the street. The second day gops from Barsana go to Nandgaon to play holi with gopis at Nandgaon.
Holi played at Barsana is unique in the sense that here women chase men away with sticks. Males also sing provocative songs in a bid to invite the attention of women. Women then go on the offensive and use long staves called “lathis” to beat men folk who protect themselves with shields.

During intervals, participants sip ‘thandai‘, a cold drink that is sometime intoxicating because it is laced with a paste calledbhang, made of cannabis. Bhang and Holi go together. After drinking bhang, people react in different ways, some crave for sweets, others cry or laugh. It is an ecstatic experience, which is heightened by the revelry. It is a great way to de-stress and bond.

The women of Barsana start preparing a month in advance. The mother-in-laws feed their daughters-in-law rich food so that they show off their prowess on the Holi battle zone. It is a show of love, fun and equality.

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