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Lath Mar Holi

Lath Mar Holi

In Barsana & Nandgaon,
Mathura District, Uttar Pradesh, India.


HOLI ! How do you describe it? Colours, Fun, sweets?  There is something more than colours and fun that we need to recall history about it. Mathura is considered to be culture hub of Holi Festival where thousands of people congregate and celebrate festival. So, I was planning to explore though it was my second visit and booked tickets three months back to avoid last minutes bewilderment. On Mar 15th night itself, I was very excited to travel on next day which lead to sleepless night as well. When time clocked 3 am, I rushed to airport to catch flight by cab since it was odd hours. After a short three hours journey, I landed Delhi and people were friendly to help us to reach Railway station by Metro. I was fascinated by top class Metro train though I couldn’t bear air pollution in such cold climate. As usual, our berth was occupied by someone and so we had to move somewhere and adjusted by ourselves.

After a prolonged journey, we reached Mathura, a birth place of Lord Krishna and a small town of Uttar Pradesh. After refreshing for a while, we visited Vishramghat and discussed about next day plan about Holi in Barsana village , a birth place of Radha where its located 50km from town. Well, I have extracted details from various source about Lath Mar Holi

“Lath mar 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 of Uttar Pradesh. Lath means thick traditional staff and that holi in which people hit with sticks. 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 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 as those on the sidelines become hysterical, sing Holi Songs and shout Sri Radhey or Sri Krishna. The Holi songs of Brajmandal are sung in pure BrajBhasha. On the first day of Lath Mar Holi, gops from Nandgaon come to Barsana to play Holi with the gopis 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 RangeeliGaliwhere 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 called bhang, 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 history of India always fascinates and surprises me when they are being unlocked. Well, I am recollecting my experience about Holi in Nandgoen and Barsana. It was quite tedious to find a cab to be hired and so we somehow managed to find a right driver though he speaks only Hindi. On next morning (Mar 17th) , I was picked in morning itself since I was not aware that event was expected to be happened in dusk hours . Riding in State highways brought enough trouble to your spine despite of short journey and we had to walk towards Radhe Rani temple for a while. A thousands of pilgrims from different parts started to congregate and celebrate on the base of mountain. After reaching inside the temple through stampede, we found nothing interesting except crowd and so we were struggling by roaming inside temple in such hot weather.  Police were not all friendly since most of the photographers failed to follow basic ethics. We had to come out and chilled with Lassi after temple was shut down in noon hours. Roads were filled with super crazy colors and people were creating enough chaos. Thousands of people were enchanting about braj songs near the entrance of temple and a kind of aroma was encountered which depicted an amazing spiritual life. Temple was flooded with pilgrims once door was opened and Gopas started to occupy in row wise manner and braji songs were being enchanted.  I was pushed, crushed and dragged in crowd though hundreds of volunteers were deployed. Once I was moved inside temple, it was like wonderland where shower of Color water was pouring in all direction which was uncontrollable.  Moreover, color powder was pouring in all direction which was like a riot. Unimaginable moments, actions, expression, spirits, love, joy , life and true essence of wild Holi were encountered. All the tough moments I faced on that were vanished in a fraction of seconds and dusk rays percolated through ventilators which depicted some hope and it lasted fraction of seconds! This kind of experience needs to be cherished throughout my life time!

On second day, experience in Nandgaon village had not ruled out in that case as well and moreover weather was not all pleasing to handle and it was great to explore moments in harsh lighting though I felt something missing. Protecting camera was one of the biggest issues in such wild situations and another biggest challenge was to capture the event without a single photographer in the frame! I am sure that photography will be prohibited in forthcoming years!

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Srivatsan Sankaran
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