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Lathmar Holi of Braj

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Vrindavan, 2016.03.25 (Bhaskar Thakur): All of us in India must have celebrated Holi – the very joyful, energetic festival of colour. Holi – Popularly known as “Phagwah” in Assam, “Dol jatra” in West Bengal and “Fagu” in Nepal, the festival is celebrated with different names and traditions across India.

But what if I tell you that there is a village in Mathura district, Barsana where people play Holi with wooden sticks? Yes, this village near Vrindavan is the birth place of our dear Radha Rani and lies just beside Nand Gaon, our Kanha’s village. Here, men from Nand Gaon come to play Holi with the girls of Barsana and hope of raising their flag over Shri Radhikaji’s temple. But, instead of colours they are greeted with sticks by the gopis, the women folk of Barsana village. Hence, the Holi get its new name here Lathmar Holi. As the name suggests, “Lath” – Stick, “Mar” – To hit, this is Holi played by hitting sticks.

As per Hindu mythology Lord Krishna visited his beloved Radha’s village on this day and playfully teased her and her friends by applying colours to them. The Gopis took offence and chased Lord Krishna and his friends away by running after them with lathis (sticks).

Men and women of Braj even today clash in a colorful display of battle. Men of Nand Gaon raid Barsana with the hopes of raising their flag over Shri Radhikaji’s temple. They receive a thunderous welcome as the women of Barsana greet them with long wooden sticks. The mock battle starts where men would try hard not to get captured and reach Radhikaji’s temple. The rule also says they cannot retaliate back. The unlucky ones are forcefully led away and are made to wear female attire and dance in public in the spirit of Holi.

All this takes place in the sprawling campus of the Radha Rani temple, called as Radhikaji temple. Renowned poets like Surdas, Nand-das, Kumbhan das and others have picturesquely described how Lord Krishna received similar treatment and was forced to don a sari and wear make-up and perform dance before being released by the gopies.

I visited the place last year and saw how fulfilled Holi is here in this part of India. I had always heard about Braj Holi and wanted to experience it firsthand. This year again I am on way to Braj to get drenched in colours of happiness and joy.

Let me share some photographs from Lathmar Holi of Braj while wishing you all a VERY HAPPY COLOURFUL HOLI.

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