Holi in Brajdham

2nd Mar 2023
Photo of Holi in Brajdham 1/16 by Purabi Chowdhury

Few days back, on 5th March to be precise, we attended a concert of semiclassical and folk music in Nehru Centre situated in Worli. There renowned singers Devaki Pandit and Indrani Mukherjee created a mood of holi through their perfect renditions which reminded me of our experience of holi in Brajdham last year. We were in our Noida residence for a short trip expecting our son to join us. However he could not come. So we decided to visit Mathura and witness the celebration of Holi there.

Mathura, the birth place of lord Krishna along with the adjoining towns and villages like Vrindavan, Gokul, Barsana, Nandagaon and Govardhan are collectively known as Braj or Brij. As the legend goes, as a child, Lord Krishna would cry to his mother about Radha being fair while he had a dark complexion. His mother then advised him to smear colour on Radha, thus giving birth to Braj ki Holi. It is said that every year, Lord Krishna would travel from his village (Nandgaon) to Goddess Radha's (Barsana), where Radha and the gopis would playfully beat him with sticks which is known as Lathamaar or Lathmaar holi. Holi in Braj starts a month before the actual Holi. However, the main celebrations, the Holashtak, happens to be of 8 days at 8 different locations starting with Laddoo Holi or Laddoo Maar Holi at Radha Rani Temple, Barsana.

We started at 7 am on 02.03.2023 and reached Dwarkadheesh temple in Mathura at around 9 am. The temple situated near the Vishram ghat of Yamuna looks majestic with its ornate construction, Rajasthani architecture and stunning ceiling paintings depicting various elements of the Lord's life. There was a huge crowd participating in aarti and it felt very energetic. A priest approached us and we agreed to engage him. He pointed towards a gentleman in the crowd and said he must be a celebrity as people were taking his picture. The face seemed familiar and we realized he is the famous chef Ranveer Brar. At the request of our priest, he readily posed with us which is our first picture with a celebrity as we never approach them for pictures.

Photo of Holi in Brajdham 2/16 by Purabi Chowdhury
Aarti in Dwarkadhees temple
Photo of Holi in Brajdham 3/16 by Purabi Chowdhury
Our first photo with a celebrity

The priest took us to Vishram Ghat and we performed puja there. The whole atmosphere was festive due to holi.

Photo of Holi in Brajdham 4/16 by Purabi Chowdhury
Photo of Holi in Brajdham 5/16 by Purabi Chowdhury
The Vishram ghat

After Puja it was time for pet puja as our stomachs started growling. We went to the shop Brijwasi Sweets and bought some famous pedas of Mathura. Then we went to Shanka Mithai Wala and tucked in their delicious Poori Sabji with halwa. Then we roamed around in the lanes of Mathura for sometime. There we spotted Ranveer again in a shop Oma Pehalwan Kachori Wale, considered best by many for Kachori, busy shooting the process of Kachori preparation there.

Photo of Holi in Brajdham 6/16 by Purabi Chowdhury
The famous Brijwasi Sweets
Photo of Holi in Brajdham 7/16 by Purabi Chowdhury
Shankar Mithai Wala…..
Photo of Holi in Brajdham 8/16 by Purabi Chowdhury
…. and delicious Poori – Sabji there
Photo of Holi in Brajdham 9/16 by Purabi Chowdhury
Ranveer in a shop Oma Pehalwan Kachori Wale

At around 2 pm we started for Gokul and reached Gokul at around 3 pm. First we visited the Nand Yashoda Bhavan and then the Chintaharan ghat.

Photo of Holi in Brajdham 10/16 by Purabi Chowdhury
Nanda Yashoda Bhavan in Gokul

Then we went to famous Banke Bihari temple in Vrindavan. It was not a pleasant experience. It was too crowded and I felt really scared. Abandoning the hope of getting the darshan of the idol, we somehow managed to come out. Then we walked in a loop for quite sometime before being able to locate the shop where we left our footwears. By this time we were exhausted as well as hungry. So we went to a Brijwasi sweets outlet in Brindavan. People warned us to remain alert from monkeys saying they genrally snatches the spectacles and would return only in exchange of juice packs. We witnessed it firsthand as a monkey was holding on to a pair of spectacles refusing to let it go even in exchange of a frooti just opposite to the Brijwasi sweets shop. Finally he let it go when another frooti was offered.

Photo of Holi in Brajdham 11/16 by Purabi Chowdhury
Banke Bihari temple in Vrindavan
Photo of Holi in Brajdham 12/16 by Purabi Chowdhury
Scholarly monkey of Vrindavan

After energizing ourselves with hot samosas we went to Prem Mandir. Spread across 54 acres of land and surrounded by beautifully landscaped gardens, this temple is ornamented with figurines, panels, and pictures depicting various pastimes and deeds of valour of Shri Krishna.

Photo of Holi in Brajdham 13/16 by Purabi Chowdhury
Govardhan parvat recreated in Prem Mandir

Just next to Prem Mandir is the ISKCON temple and we were just in time before the entry was closed for the day. There we participated in another high energy Aarti. The temple premise is luxurious with all amenities in place and very well maintained. We enquired about availability of accommodation there and were told it was fully booked for next few months!

Photo of Holi in Brajdham 14/16 by Purabi Chowdhury
ISKCON temple

We had not booked any hotel as we did not have a fixed plan. After having dinner at a restaurant we looked for a hotel and after searching for sometime checked into Hotel Idhayan Palace which was quite a decent place.

Next morning we checked out from the hotel after a leisurely breakfast. We thought of visiting few places in Vrindavan but realized after some time that all the roads inside Vrindavan were closed for traffic as there was huge flow of people everywhere. The roads seemed like sea of human.

Photo of Holi in Brajdham 15/16 by Purabi Chowdhury
Sea of human

Around noon we returned to Mathura and went to Shri Krishna Janam Bhumi temple. We had to deposit all electronic items at the entrance gate. Shri Krishna Janmabhoomi temple, is centred on the prison cell, called as Garbha Griha, where Lord Krishna's parents, Mata Devaki and Vasudeva, were imprisoned by his uncle Kansa. The temple premise is huge and also houses Keshavdev temple and the Bhagavata Bhavan. After visiting the Garbha Griha we had snacks, sweets and drinks at various outlets. On that day there was an event in the afternoon with cultural programme and playing of lathamaar holi. A huge pandal was erected and cultural troops started gathering. Only women were allowed inside the pandal and men including the VIPs were to seat outside. We sat outside and enjoyed the music and dance performed amidst intermittent sprinkling of coloured water. The atmosphere was totally charged. I wanted to witness lathamaar holi. But it would not start before evening. So reluctantly we left the venue.

Photo of Holi in Brajdham 16/16 by Purabi Chowdhury
Shri Krishna Janam Bhumi temple

Our return journey turned out to be quite difficult as again all roads seemed to be blocked for traffic. Nobody seemed to know which road was open and we kept driving in loops for more than two hours before finally being able to exit Mathura through a circuitous route. By the time night had already fallen. We stopped at a road side dhaba for dinner and reached home at around 10 pm with the colourful memory of holi in Brijdham etched in our hearts.