People of Barsana and Nandgaon have a unique way of celebrating Holi - with lathis (sticks). It's a centuries old tradition since the time of Lord Krishna and Radha.
The festival of Holi is synonymous with water balloons, pichhkaris or water guns, gulaal, bhang and mithai. Different regions of India celebrate this festival in different styles. Be it Phagwa in Bihar or Hola Mohalla in Punjab, the fun and frolic remains just the same.
Perhaps the most popular and colorful among these various styles is the one played at Barsana near Mathura in the state of Uttar Pradesh. Known as Lath mar Holi, it is played a few days in advance of the actual day of the festival. People flock in thousands to be a part of the traditional festivities.
Legend behind this story
Legend goes that Lord Krishna came to his beloved Radha’s village - Barsana - on this day and teased her and her friends. However, women of the village used lathis (sticks) to drive him away. Since then, men from Krishna's village, Nandgaon, visit Barsana every year to play Holi in the town which also has the distinction of having the only temple dedicated to Radha in India.
Holi with Songs
The compound of Radha Rani Temple is witness to this holy celebration where thousands gather to participate in the merriment. Men at times sing provocative songs to invite women’s attention who in turn beat them up with sticks. Men then try to protect themselves using shields. Those watching over from the sides sing Holi songs and shout Sri Radhey or Sri Krishna. The air is fragrant with the scent of flowers and perfume. Rose petals and gulaal (coloured powder) are showered on the pilgrims as they soak themselves in the festivities.
Another highlight of these festivities is sipping ‘thandai’, a cold drink might be intoxicating bhang has been mixed in it. For a lot of people, bhang and Holi go together. The entire atmosphere is filled with joy, colour and gaiety; it’s almost hysterical.
Lath mar holi is a beautiful blend of singing songs in Brajbhasha, throwing gulaal around, drinking bhang and much more. But above all, it is a deeply enchanting experience that brings one closer to the Divine!