In this blog post, I would be detailing the aspects of Holi for visitors in Brindavan & Barsana. India is a land of festivals. There are various kinds and categories of celebrations. From the somber to the raucous. Among all these, Holi, the festival of colours stands unique and apart in this context. Since its inception, the festival spread to many parts of the globe and is celebrated in various forms. In fact, some aspects of this festival are celebrated in multiple other celebrations as well, globally. As with changing times, the festival is now marked with modern ways of celebration. However, the ancient religious fervour and devotion is still seen if one travels to the birthplace of Holi, the area encompassing Brindavan-Barsana and Nandgaon.
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Holi & India
Vivid hues smear the sky as India ushers the season of spring with the Kaleidoscopic festival of Holi. Marking the end of the winter season and heralding the joy of the victory of Good over Evil, Holi is celebrated all over India and across the globe. There are many folklores and legends associated with why Holi was conceptualized and observed. To know about all these, I would recommend a read of this worthy article
However, for me, Holi was to be seen at the source itself. I am talking about a visit to celebrate Holi at Brindavan where Krishna spent his childhood years. Holi celebration in Brindavan is on a different level altogether. Every year thousands of visitors come to Brindavan and to the towns of Barsana and Nandgaon to participate and witness the Holi celebrations and traditions. People jostle for space to visit the famed Banke Bihari Temple at Brindavan for celebrating Holi in Brindavan. This temple dedicated to Lord Krishna has a mesmerizing black idol of Lord Krishna.
Holi celebrations in Brindavan Barsana & Nandgaon
The Holi celebration Brindavan is generally week-long . The Holi celebration is spread over the villages of Barsana, Nandgaon and finally Brindavan. People travel from across the county as well as abroad to witness these celebrations. I would recommend out here; Holi for visitors in Brindavan & Barsana, visitors should arrive at least a day before the start of the celebrations to get into the theme and vibe of this place.
Traditionally, the men playfully apply colours to the women. On the opposite end, women reciprocate by beating them with sticks in a mock fashion. This event, known as Lathmar Holi, depicts the divine but at the same time mischievous love play between Radha and Krishna in legends. Truly the Barsana Holi is mesmerizing and intriguing.
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Holi for visitors in Brindavan & Barsana
If we speak in detail, the following events happen that are spread over a couple of days.
At Barsana, we have two main events. One is known as the Laddoo Holi, at which there is a celebration that happens at the Radha Rani temple. The place is abuzz with joyous festivities. The celebrations comprise dry colours and the Indian sweetmeat Laddoo. These are used extensively while greeting each other and also by the temple administrators to all the visitors. The people of Nandgaon come to Barsana on an invite to take part in this celebration.
For me, this was the first celebration event and I was unsettled to fully imbibe the rapid play of events happening. There is no formal structured way of the event unfolding hence one has to be attentive to understand how the situation unfolds. There is something known as “Samaj“. In my understanding, this is a collection of men from both the villages of Barsana and Nandgaon who sit together in parallel rows across each other and undertaken religious reading of scriptures amplifying the tradition of Holi and in praise of Lord Krishna. All this happens while colours and water is being thrown all over the place and on the people participating in the Samaj itself.
LaathMaar Holi: This again is played out on the streets and town square of Barsana after the celebration of Holi at Radha Rani temple. Firstly at the Radha Rani temple, there is a frenzied play of colours, both wet and dry by all present. After that, the action shifts to the narrow streets. These streets have seen these events played out for decades and the entire setup of these streets still steeped in the old way of construction and vibe only heighten the sense of this celebration.
In Lath-maar Holi, men from the village of Nandgaon visit Barsana village to play Holi but are greeted by the village women who try to hit them in mock action and chase them away from the village. The men protect themselves from using traditional shields. The dress attire of both men and women is traditional and with bright colours including tastefully decorated turbans.
This is derived from the legend wherein Lord Krishna used to visit Barsana to play with Radha and tease her. Taking offence to this, Radha and her friends tried to drive him out of the village. This was a part of the intricate love play between Krishna and Radha.
Nandgaon: The next event happens at Nandgaon, where the men from the Barsana village visit to play Holi at the famed Nandgaon temple. Unlike the Radha Rani temple, the festivities at Nandgaon built up slowly, assisted by the large temple courtyard that can accommodate many people.
Widow Holi. The Holi is played amongst the widows who come and settle at Brindavan. Though this is a low key affair, a lot of interest among travellers who wish to participate in this particular celebration is rising. It is important to note that for women to play Holi with bright colours was an important step towards overriding the social stigma associated with widows in India at one point in time. Holi for visitors in Brindavan & Barsana has so many of these unique celebrations that once participated leave a deep impact on the conscious.
Phool-wali Holi: This particular celebration happens inside the Banke Bihari Temple. Post offering of prayers, large quantities of flower petals are released from the corridors onto the devotees below in the central courtyard. This truly is a mind-boggling experience. However, a word of caution, there is a tremendous amount of crowds who surge to participate in this particular ceremony.
My thoughts on Holi for visitors in Brindavan & Barsana
- One needs to prepare for these celebrations owing to the intensity in which these are celebrated.
- Choice of clothing is critical
- In the case of photography being the main focus, I will dedicate a separate post for it; just be aware that the gear needs to be protected against water and dry colours.
- There is no concept of fewer colours if one is joining the celebrations; it is a no holds barred situation considering the amount of crowd and proximity of people
- The concept of personal space is difficult to enforce considering that the crowd will be boisterous
- Carry lots of oil and apply all over the body before joining the celebrations and cover the ears and head.
- Use comfortable walking shoes
- Banke Bihari temple is not designed to handle the amount of crowd that swells up as the day progresses. So be very cautious in entering the temple.
What is my Blog all about ??
My blog focuses quite a bit on ancient temple history among other places of travel which I keep doing. The temple history posts come up because there has been in ancient Indian History so many monumental architectures which were created. Read through the posts on the Land of 1000 temples, Tamil Nadu or Stunning churches of Goa. I am sure a visit to them would be fascinating to just about anyone purely from an architectural magnificence prism of view. In case interested read about HAMPI here. How about thinking of Manikarnika Ghat, Varanansi.
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How did Holi in Brindavan & Barsana affect me
Holi was a totally immersive experience for me. I have played Holi in the past, but those were during my childhood days in my neighbourhood. The Holi celebrations at Barsana and Brindavan were on another level. There was intensity, religious vibes, raw feel to the entire experience. People packed closely, covered with colours, identities no more distinct The realm of personal space and differentiation primarily diminished. It is truly a different way of looking at Holi and what it does to the people in this one week.
I became a part of the human crowd, identity immersed under a layer of bright colours. My actions now replicating the deeply contagious vibes that flowed through the gathered crowd as I felt more and more drawn to the basic rustic theme of celebrating something that no more needed understanding. Just let the soul be loose and flow in the sea of emotions all around.
The age-old theme of the way Holi is to be celebrated is no more visible, the softness of Holi is not the dominant theme. There is a rawness to the entire atmosphere and it definitely lends a vibe of pure unadulterated thrill to the entire period one is in this part of the world, celebrating something that still is linked to the legends of the Gods.
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- Stay Options. I would recommend to stay at Brindavan for it is centrally located and has multiple stay options
- Transportation. Hire a cab or an auto through the Hotel as it would be needed when one is returning back in evening. Not having a assured transportation can severely hamper the return back to hotel action.
- Eating: There are sufficient budget options to eat in Brindavan. Carry packed lunch when visiting Barsana and Nandgaon.
- How to reach Brindavan. It is recommended to reach Delhi and then take a bus or a train to reach Mathura/Brindavan accordingly( 180 kms away ). I used a bus from Delhi.
- Safety. It is overall Safe to visit and participate in the celebrations. However one should always be cautious especially as the evening comes in. Avoid getting into an altercation with the locals. Be participative in the celebrations but always be on the side of caution. Apply common sense in all situations.