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Traditional songs describing Radha Krishna’s holi games

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Vrindavan, 2019. 03.15

Throughout the  “Hindu” world the Spring Festival of Holi festival is celebrated for a few exciting days, but in The Vraja Realm, Shri Yugala Kishor’s own Playground, it is so enjoyable that it lasts for a full 40 days, starting on 10th February 2019 and not concluding until 21st March! Thus it is known as Hora; the”Vast Hori”. We have already been playing since Vasanta Pancami, through Jaya Ekadashi, Hori Dandaropana, Ropani ko Utsava and Shri Nathaji ko Patotsava and Vijaya Ekadashi.

On Thursday 14th March 2019, we arrive at: Phalgun Shukla, Holiashtakarambha. On this day begins the lead up of 8 days to the culmination of the play with the lighting of the Holika Fire.

Since the play is at its most vigorous at this time, during these 8 days weddings and other auspicious social rituals are not performed.


Dhamar ko Pada

Raga Saranga, Poet Rasakhan

[The Gopis address the Enchanting Shri Krishna]

 “O, Enchanter! Hohohoho, It is Hori!! Yesterday You came into our realm and unleashed some fresh insults upon us !! ||1||

Today, although You are the Lord Who sports in the Forest Bowers, why are avoiding us and sitting so close to Your mum? The lasses whom You insulted on that day have very enthusiastically come over here to Your  Gokul! ||2||

Then those Cowherd maidens challenge Him and,dying of thirst for the Nectar of His beauty, kidnap Him from there! Their beauty is effulgent as they embrace that Lord Who is as beautifully dark as a rain-filled cloud. ||3||

The Vraja lasses put collyrium into His eyes and make Him run and dance like a jester, laughing to see this scene!! Says the poet Rasakhan, “One insult is worth more than a hundred words of respect!!”||4||

Friday 15th March

Phalgun shukla 9 – varshane ki holi

Socially, Hori is a festival of fun and outspokeness. Songs full of insults are sung to the Lord. Men and women gather at the shrines and sing and dance to the seasonal rhythms. This is followed by the ‘horanga play’ which has a slightly varying character in each of the Vraja Villages. In several of these, the ladies dress up in their finery for battle and the young men of the village have to escape lashes from the ladies’sticks [lathmar holi].

The most famous Lathmar Holi takes place in and around Rangili Galli  [“The Colourful Alleyway”] in Shri Varsana Dham. This occurs on the ninth day of the bright half of the month of Phagun. Men from Nandagaon [Krishna’s village, about 8 kilometres distance] come in a musically charged procession to Varsana.

To get up to the temple, they must climb up the steep pathway of that Rangili Galli where beautifully dressed  and adorned Vrajavasin ladies emerge fully veiled from their houses wielding long sticks with which they beat the shield bearing men over the head as they dance in a squatting stance.

When they finally manage to reach the top of the path, at Shri Radharaniji’s temple, an exciting festival of wet and dry colours overtakes everyone and all of this is accompanied by the seasonal music focusing on the drumbeats- often ‘nagadas’ – huge drums played by four or more men at the same time, that are so big they need to be on wheels to move.

Thus signifying that the climb up to total bliss, at the Lotus-Feet of Shri Radharani, the Queen absolute of Joy, can be fraught with divinely imposed danger – but that one must be willing to humble oneself and dance to the divine tune before one attains the state of actually playing within the Lords own Realm.

Before any of this can occur the  “Hori ko Nyoto” (invitation to the Holi Play) must be given. How they are exchanged is fully described in 2 long songs called “ Dhamar Pande ke Pada” where the Pande is the Brahmin responsible for delivering the invite. One goes from Nandagaon to Varsana and one from Varsana to Nandagaon, and these invitations are the precursors of the most prestigious event in the Vraja Holi Calendar.

The beats are infectious and the whole area turns into a dancing crowd, coloured from head to toe in fragrant wet and dry colours. The sky fills with clouds of colour and the music never stops.


Dhamar ko Pada:

Raga Vilavala

 “Pande ko Dhamar, Nandagaon to Varsana”

Poet Jana Hariya [possibly Sri Harirayji]

The Brahmin Pandit goes to Varasana from Nandagaom. Shri Vrishabhanu is most generous and respectfully welcomes him. ||1||

He smilingly bows his head to him, bathing his feet and feeding him. ||2||

When the Vraja Ladies hear of his arrival they all come crowding into Vrishabhanuji’s home in order to play Holi. ||3||

They apply mustard oil to his head and then flower oil to his limbs which become shiny, just as if they were rubbing oil onto an image of Sri Hanumanji. ||4||

They put a black collyrium in his eyes and a big red dot on his face forehead which looks like a patch stuck onto a leaking black pot to seal it. ||5||

Then the ladies, who all walk as gracefully as she-elephants, rub sticky glue into his moustache in order to shape it up. It’s as if the month of Phagun has personified and come to Vraja in order to join in the Holi Play. ||6||

One of them anoints him with light sandal paste, bows to him and then add dark sandal paste which make him look like the fresh flowers that appear on the Palasa tree in this Spring Season. ||7||

One of them puts a string of small beads made from cowdung around his neck and another dresses him up in a loose shirt. These look like bells painted with alligator designs on them, tied around an elephants neck ||8||

They smother him with so many handfuls of colour that he begins to yawn, making him look like a priest wearing necklaces of gunja beads. ||9||

One lovely lady pours a pot full of buttermilk over his head. It looks like the sacred Mount Govardhan is being bathed in raw milk ||10||

He runs away like a thief when dawn comes, only to have Ganga water poured all over him, like the water that has washed the Lords Feet breaking out of Lord Shivas locks. ||11||

His teeth begin to chatter noisily as his body begins to shiver. They sound like nice musical rhythms being played! ||12||

Then he calls out, “O,Radhe,O,Sri Radhe! O,Daughter of Sri Vrishabhanuji, I surrender to you!.||13||

Hearing these words spoken so lovingly Sri Radha approaches, full of sympathy. |She brings a padded jacket that belongs to her father and helps the Purohitji to put it on. ||14||

He goes to Shri Kiratiji and bows at her feet, she then gives him some hot milk to drink. As he does so, Shri Krishna, Who has been playing Holi, comes there dressed as a bridegroom ||15||

Everyone gathers together, in all shapes and sizes,to stage a wedding procession.Rishi Vyasa is there with his avadhuta son Sukadev. ||16||

Also there are the four Brahman boys, Sanaka etc.who enjoy their renunciate status. As he circumambulates the globe, Indra also stops there and the Gopis make him dance madly! ||17||

Then they make him roll in the mud of Holi colours in the narrow pathways of Vraja. Also brought to this stage is the curiously four faced Brahma. ||18||

Ganesh with five faces sings with all five of his mouths. Narad who had been rendered crazy by Shri Hari comes there dancing. ||19||

Seeing Nanda’s Son, he puts a conch to his mouth and sounds it. Mahadevji takes off his tiger skin garments and gives them to Shri Thakurji Who very much likes them. ||20||

Lord Krishna Who disperses all sorrows laughingly shouts, “ho ho ho Hori”, and everyone else laughs too. The Lord’s potency Maya casts her net of magic and Narad happily spreads the joy to the scene. ||21||

All became full of Love as Cupid’s army stole all their hearts. Lalita ties together Shri Radhaji’s and Shri Krishna’s upper garments with a knot to simulate Their wedding. ||22||

After tying the knot in the Daughter of Vrishabhanu’s garment Lalita they make crowns for Both of Them from peacock feathers and fresh young mango leaves. ||23||

She takes yellow cloth and creates a small wedding pavilion. They use Hori insults in place of the vedic mantras to solemnize the marriage. ||24||

The Holi fire is lit and the Groom makes offerings and offers respect to it [bowing and circumnambulating].Then everyone gets to eat bagfuls of special Holi foodstuffs. ||25||

The Poet Janahariya now sings “anyone who sings this account of Their lovely Holi Play will blossom like the spring. The Lord Who is as dark as a rain-filled cloud takes up His residence in Varsana |26||

Rasiya Song

Poet Ghasiram

 “Phāga khelana Barasāne āye haiṁ
Naṭavara Nãndakiśora|
Ghera laī saba galī rañgīlī,
|Chāya rahī chabi chaṭā rañgīlī,
Ina ḍola mṛdañga bajāye haiṁ,
Banśī kī ghanaghora||1||

Jura milike saba sakhiyāṁ āyī,
Umada ghaṭā aṁbara meṁ chāī,
Jina abīra gulāla uḍāye haiṁ,
Mārata bhara bhara jhora||2||

Lai rahe coṭa gvāla ḍhālana pai,
Keśara kīca maleṁ gālana pai,
Hariyala bāṁsa mañgāye haiṁ,
Calana lage cahuṁ ora||3||

Bhaī abīra ghora añdhiyārī,
Dīkhata nāhīṁ nara aru nārī,
Rādhe saina calāye haiṁ,
Pakare mākhana cora ||4||

Jo lālā ghara jānoṁ cāhau,
Tau horī kau phaguā lāo,
Śyāma ne sakhā bulāye haiṁ,
Bāṁṭata bhara bhara jhor ||5||

Rādhe jū ke hā hā khāo,
Saba sakhiyanan ke ghara pahuñcāo
Ghāsīrāma kathā gāȳe haiṁ,
Lagī śyāma te ḍhora” ||6||

 “The Dancer Supremo, Shri Krishna, Son of Nanda, has come to Varasana to play Hori. He and His sakhas fill “Rangili Gali”. Their colourful beauty shines brightly all around. Their beating of the dol and mridanga drums accompanies His lovely loud playing of the flute ||1||

Then all the Sakhis form a group and arrive there. Through their joyful play, clouds of colour fill the skies. They cover anyone who throws up white, pink or red powders with bagfuls of colour. ||2||

They beat the cowherd lads on the shields that they hold above their heads, rub the kich [the muddy mixed wet and dry colours] into their cheeks and then, gathering more bamboo poles, begin to wield them all around. ||3||

The clouds of powdered colours make the sky grow dark and no-one, neither the ladies nor the lads, can see anything. Shri Radhaji gives the signal to capture the Butter Thief! ||4||

They say, “Well,little boy! If you want us to let You go You must give us our Phaguva reward!” The dark Krishna calls to all His friends and they distribute bagfuls of gifts ||5||

He says “Do whatever Radhaji tells you to and take gifts to all their houses!”

The poet Ghasiram, lovingly attached to the dark and Beautiful Shri Krishna, now sings this tale.”||6||**

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