Lathmaar Holi at Barsana

The crowds are astonishing. People warn you not to enter the crowds for safety reasons. There could be a stampede with this number of people on the streets. It’s no ordinary day.The noise is unbelievable.

Phool holi procession

It’s the first day of Holi , the festival of colors, which kickstarts 10 days earlier at Barsana, the birthplace of Radha, 42 kms from Mathura. According to Hindu mythology, Holi, the festival of colors,  orginated in this region.

the color storm

Lord Krishna and his friends from Nandgaon came to play Holi with Radha and other gopis. In today’s times however Holi here has taken a different interpretation.  The men from Nandgaon come to Barsana, here they play with colors, sing songs, dance and celebrate the festival with vigour.

teasing the women singing songs.
The colored men from Nandgaon!

They tease the women singing songs and in retaliation the women beat them up with sticks. They try to protect themselves with thick armor and pads.This tradition is called the ‘lathmaar’ Holi.

The women all geared up with sticks

After this celebration Holi starts in the entire Braj region. The top highlights of this one day celebration is the Holi celebration at the Radha Rani temple and the actual lathmaar Holi which takes place in the narrow Rangeeli gali of Barsana.

The rangeeli gali

It’s a delight to watch women decked up in their finest attire, faces covered and sticks in hand all geared up to beat the men while the men tease them in jest, but cannot retaliate on this day.

Faces covered, you never know who hits you 😉
The boys from Nandgaon!
The oldest participant in the Lathmaar holi

The next day its the turn of the women of Nandgaon. (The birth place of Krishna ) approx 7 kms from Barsana.

The men of Barsana go to Nandgaon and are greeted with sticks by the women of Nandgaon.

The women in action :

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And now a look at the men :

How much will you hit aunty? ! 🙂
Will I be hit too? aww!

There are processions all day long with people singing holi songs, dancing, throwing gulaal ( pink color).But a word of caution:

People will not ask you before dousing color on you. You wouldn’t know from where a fist full of color would land over your head.So its best to go prepared!

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The Holi celebrations are on the whole day in the temple.

The Lathmaar Holi takes places for an hour. (5pm to 6pm)

While its amazing to witness this festival and capture all the colors,  general precautions should be followed.

1. Protect your camera: Use a rain cover to shield your camera from the colors. In various places, even water is used. Its best to wrap your camera completely in the rain cover.

2. Do Not change lenses: Carry two cameras instead, if need be.

3. It is advisable to carry fully charged batteries and empty memory cards so you don’t have to change these unless absolutely necessary.

4. If you are not familiar with the area, be with a trustworthy local. The area has many thugs and thieves.Do not hesitate to ask the local police for help. You will find plenty of policemen on this day.

5. Extra caution for women photographers. Women are easy targets on this day. Advisable not to enter the crowds alone.

How to reach:

1. Barsana is 114 km from Delhi by road.

2. Take the GT road (Delhi-Mathura road) and turn right from Chata.

3. On this day, cars and buses are not allowed inside the town. From the police barricade , one would have to take a rickshaw or walk down a km till the temple.

I stand over a chair with my face fully covered. Its nearly dusk. I can’t see the photos I have clicked and absolutely can’t wait to get back home to see them. Shooting in such conditions was perhaps the toughest photography assignment I have ever undertaken.

I escape the color attack by a bunch of mischievous kids, run to the car and heave a sigh of relief . And when I skim through the photos in my camera and recollect the bursts of color, vibrance and vigor on the streets, I think it was all worth the pain! 🙂

Leaving you with some colorful portraits taken on this day.

The look!

There was no dearth of colors. Such visual treats for any photographer!

Guess who had the last laugh? 😀

33 thoughts on “Lathmaar Holi at Barsana

  1. I haven’t seen anything like this before… there is a violence of color 🙂

    In south, the Holi celebrations are really a scaled down version I feel 🙂

    Thank you so much for sharing these beautiful images…

    “The color storm” is really a stunning image and I would like to call it a “NatGeo” stuff 🙂

  2. Such wonderful pics and amazing stories behind how Holi is celebrated in Mathura. Am sure you had a lovely trip Divyakshi :D.

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