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.

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

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.

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