Culture Festivals and Events

Travel Guide To The Festival of Colours – Holi

Colour, chaos, camaraderie, celebration is all that Holi is about. The festival, which marks the victory of good over evil is celebrated throughout the country with great fervour. Also called the festival of love, this day sees people forget their shared bitterness and envelope the amity. Holi is one of the most awaited festivals of the year and an altogether different soul-stirring experience in Vrindavan and Mathura. 

The locals in Vrindavan and Mathura start their Holi celebrations almost 40 days in advance. Though there is only one main Holi day, there several other festivities which are quite significant to the tales of Lord Krishna. Let’s take a look at the major ones below:

LATHMAR HOLI AT BARSANA AND NANDGAON

Image courtesy: Wikipedia

Celebrated a few days before Holi, Lathmar literally means beating with sticks. The story of this celebration dates back to when Lord Krishna was visiting Radha at her village, Barsana. While there, he teased her friends and her who in turn chased him away by beating him with sticks. Till date, this celebration has kept up and every year, men from Nandgaon travel to Barsana to get beaten up and chased away by the local women. 

The lathmar Holi has become a wide known fete which sees a lot of tourists in attendance. 

  • When to go?

This event takes place about seven days before the main Holi day. The dates differ each year.

  • Where to go?

Barsana and Nandgaon

PHOOLON KI HOLI AT VRINDAVAN

Image courtesy: Patrika

Phoolon ki Holi is a splendid one-day event, celebrated at the Bankey Bihari Temple in Mathura. Unlike the rest of the cities which revel in the Holi colours, this temple sees the celebration in the form volumes of flower petals. Traditionally, the Holi colours where made from flowers and leaves itself, which gave it an altogether organic feel. Mathura, which is known as the land of Lord Krishna’s birth amongst his devotees is a highly revered place. While the rest of the town gears up to celebrate Holi with gulaal, water balloons and pichkaris, the priests and locals commemorate this event with only flowers and petals at the famous Bankey Bihari temple. This event is traditionally observed on Ekadashi, a few days before Holi. 

  • When to go?

Ekadashi, before Holi

  • Where to go?

Bankey Bihari Temple, Vrindavan

WIDOW’S HOLI AT VRINDAVAN

Image courtesy: Medium

A few years ago, widows from the Pagal Baba Widow Ashram in Vridavan decided to shed their inhibitions, break loose and embrace the colours of life. Widows in India have led difficult lives in the past, particularly in smaller towns and villages. They were shunned from entertainment for far too long. A couple of years back, they decided to break the convention. Now, every year a few days before Holi, this ashram is covered by bursts of colours and happy smiles. 

  • When to go?

3/4 days before Holi

  • Where to go?

Pagal Baba Widow Ashram, Vrindavan

HOLI AT BANKEY BIHARI TEMPLE, VRINDAVAN

Image courtesy: Flickr

Believed to be the place where Lord Krishna spent most of his childhood, Bankey Bihari Temple is the hub of all religious and festive happenings in Vrindavan. This temple’s Holi takes place just one day before the main festival day. The temple doors are opened up to all visitors in the morning, to join the lord in playing Holi. Soon, the entire temple complex is taken over by splashes of water and colours. Holy chants reverberate in the air as a mesmerizing wave takes over you. People can be seen drinking the infamous bhang, often prepared by the priests themselves. However, unlike any other Holi events, this one sees mainly men participating. The enthusiasm and bhang often lead the crowd to become unruly and rowdy. Women, if travelling alone or in a female group are advised to stay away from this celebration. 

  • When to go?

One day before Holi

  • Where to go?

Bankey Bihari Temple, Vrindavan

HOLI PROCESSION AT MATHURA

Image courtesy: All Events

The holi festivities and processions in Mathura start in the afternoon, one day before Holi. You will see multiple vehicles decked up in flowers and kids dressed as Radha-Krishna leading this parade. The procession usually starts at the Vishram Ghat and ends at the Holi Gate. Get ready to be splashed with water, smeared with colour while having the time of your life. 

In the evening, after the procession comes to an end, it would be time to witness the Holika dahan or burning of Holika’s effigy. You will find the biggest effigy at the Holi Gate followed by many cultural programs. 

  • When to go?

One day before Holi

  • Where to go?

Mathura

HOLI FESTIVITIES AT MATHURA

Image courtesy: Worthashott | Instagram

On the day of the festival, one of the biggest celebrations in Mathura takes place at the Dwarkadheesh Temple. The festivities in the temple start around 10 am with a long queue outside the main gate. This event sees mainly men and kids participating with local women staying away. However, women who have travelled to witness this festival are often seen taking part in the revelries. 

  • When to go?

Holi day

  • Where to go?

Dwarkadheesh Temple, Mathura

HURANGA AT DAUJI TEMPLE

Image courtesy: IBTimes UK

A day after Holi, devotees look up to Lord Krishna’s brother Balaram to continue the Holi festivities as it is believed that Krishna has returned to Dwarka after playing Holi. Dauji ka Huranga starts with people gathering at the Dauji Maharaj temple around noon. Devotional songs are sung, prayers offered and the festivities are continued. While Lathmar saw women beat up men, Huranga sees men trying to exact revenge by drenching women with coloured water. Women in turn try to save themselves by throwing men in pools of water, tearing their clothes and beating them up. Huranga marks the end of Holi celebrations in the Brijbhoomi. 

  • When to go?

One day after Holi

  • Where to go?

Dauji Temple, 30 kms from Mathura

OTHER PRACTICAL INFORMATION

  • Where to eat?

Vrindavan and Mathura are not short of places with delicious street food. There are multiple local restaurants which serve delectable chat, chole bhature, aloo tikki chaats, jalebis, kachoris and all kinds of sweets. Do visit Hotel Brijwasi Royal for some delicious pocket friendly local delights and Gosai Peda Wala, Mathura’s oldest sweet shop.

  • Where to stay?

While Mathura doesn’t have any luxury hotel chains yet, it does have some simple, well maintained and affordable hotel options. When deciding on where to stay, remember to pick a hotel close to the city center so you won’t have to spend too much time getting around. 

  • Should women attend this festival?

Should women attend this festival? YES! But should they travel there alone? Probably not. There are a few women travelers who have visited and celebrated Holi in Mathura and Vrindavan alone and found it safe. But given the nature of the festival, it’s better to be aware of certain difficulties that may arise. 

It is best advised that you travel in a group, with fellow male travelers so you won’t have to face any discomfort there. 

  • General tips
  1. Get ready to be splashed with colours and drenched with water
  2. Again, since you will be playing with plenty of colours and water, make sure that you carry safety gears for all your camera’s equipment. The last thing you’d want is a damaged expensive lens
  3. Too many colours – dry skin! Pack a moisturizer to ensure you don’t suffer from dry patches
  4. Don’t forget to carry a dry bag to keep your money and essentials
  5. Give your safety a priority, especially women. Local boys often tend to target and eve tease women, travelers especially. So make sure you travel in groups throughout
  6. Attending Holi in Vrindavan and not drinking bhang is almost criminal. Enjoy at least 1 full glass while you’re there
Image courtesy: Photosbymaharshi | Instagram

रंगों का त्योहार है, होली है!

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