Holi is the festival of colours. It is celebrated with great gusto, especially in the northern parts of India. Holi has many different legends and traditions attached to it, and one of the most famous forms of Holi is 'Lathmar Holi'.
Translating literally to 'Holi of Sticks', it is celebrated in the twin towns of Barsana and Nandgaon(near Mathura), which are known as the towns of Radha and Lord Krishna. This form of Holi was made famous in the movie Toilet: Ek Prem Katha, where Bhumi Pednekar and her clique of ladies is seen beating their menfolk with sticks as a part of Holi Celebrations.
Lathmar Holi is associated with the story of the divine couple Radha and Krishna. According to the legends, Lord Krishna was residing in Nandgaon. As a child and young adult, he was full of fun and mischief, and wanted to colour Radha and her friends on Holi. So, he and his friends went to Barsana, where Radha lived, only to be greeted by Radha and her friends. They playfully chased away Lord Krishna and his friends from Barsana with sticks and lathis and this tradition is continued even today to honor their memories.
The Celebrations Today
Every year, on the festival of Holi, the men of Nandgaon enter Barsana and are greeted by women with sticks(lathis), who then proceed to playfully beat them and drive them out, while the men must shield themselves, the best they can.
The men are dressed in traditional attire while the women are dressed in colorful saris. The men sing songs in the local dialect and the women respond in songs which describe the teasing of Radha by Lord Krishna.
After the first day, which is known as Laddoo Maar Holi, the men enter Barsana on the second day and try to pour colored water and put colors on the women, who then try to defend themselves with sticks. This is known as Phoolon ki Holi.
When Is Lathmar Holi Celebrated?
Lathmar Holi is usually celebrated around a week before the actual festival of Holi, and the festivities go on a for a week.
In 2023, this festival is expected to be celebrated on 1st March in Barsana and 2nd March in Nandgaon.
Where is Lathmar Holi Celebrated?
Lathmar Holi is celebrated in the towns of Barsana and Nandgaon in Uttar Pradesh. Both are around 50 km from Mathura.
The Safety Aspect
It is generally safe to take part in the celebrations. However, the men must be well padded to guard against any injuries from sticks. It is advisable to protect eyes and skin from color. General caution during celebrations is essential.
Lathmar Holi is one of the unique traditions that still exist in India, and it is unique to region of Braj. The legends of Radha and Krishna are still lived by the people of these villages, and thousands of people throng to this region every year to witness this colorful spectacle.
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