Ten-Second Takeaway

Our resident Holi connoisseur, Himanshu Verma of Red Earth, is telling us why we must visit the happy Holi of Braj. And we are taking a leaf out of his travelogue.

A Fairytale Beginning

In the magical playground of Krishna—the land of Braj, Holi is celebrated with a gusto that is unmatched anywhere else in India. Holi in Braj carries on for more than 10 days, the celebrations centred around the change as the story unfolds between the male {as embodied in Krishna} and the female {as embodied in Radha}.

The celebrations in Braj begin early at Barsana, Radha’s village. Krishna arrives, with the men from Nandgaon. The people of Nandgaon and Barsana play Holi together. The men wear huge turbans decorated with leaves to protect themselves from the colour and “beatings” of the women of Barsana. Lathmar Holi {literally Stick Beating Holi} is played at sunset, when women dressed in beautiful sarees unleash a shower of sticks on the naughty boys of Nandgaon to teach them a lesson for all the broken pots and for teasing the girls of Barsana.

Second to None

IMG_3699 Holi in Braj and Vrindavan: Visit Where It All Began

The next day, the similarly boisterous Holi of Nandgaon lasts all day on the temple premises, with hordes from Barsana coming in to rejoice over clouds of gulaal and samaj gayan {devotional music}.

The third day, Vrindavan, the playground of Krishna, erupts with celebratory colours and all of Braj joins in.

The deity, and the laity, are liberally sprinkled with perfumes, saffron and tesu water, and abir-gulaal. Joyous celebration is accompanied by classical music, poetry and folk songs appropriate for the occasion. Raasleelas abound, entertaining the rasikas and alerting them to the awakenings of Krishna’s life-stories. The Raasleela culminates in the phoolon ki holi, a shower of flowers.

Magical Mela

The night of Holika Dehen, bonfires take over the landscape and the pastoral environment rejoices by offering the first harvest of wheat into the holika. Dhulendi brings a crescendo of colour, but the celebrations carry on for a few more days—notably in the villages of Dauji, Jab, Bathain and Mukharai. Krishna is said to be sad that Holi is over, and extended rituals are devised to console him.

To experience the real magic of Holi in Braj, one has to drop all work, and just play—revel in this fortnight long carnival, or better still—visit the sacred festival every year!

Where: Barsana, Nandgaon, Vrindavan, Mathura

Distance from Delhi: 140 km

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