Riots of Colors

23rd Feb 2015
Photo of Riots of Colors 1/9 by PiNaki GHosh
Evening Prayers - Vishram Ghat, Mathura
Photo of Riots of Colors 2/9 by PiNaki GHosh
Radha Rani Temple, Barsana
Photo of Riots of Colors 3/9 by PiNaki GHosh
Lathmaar Holi, Barsana
Photo of Riots of Colors 4/9 by PiNaki GHosh
In the streets of Vrindvan
Photo of Riots of Colors 5/9 by PiNaki GHosh
Photo of Riots of Colors 6/9 by PiNaki GHosh
Photo of Riots of Colors 7/9 by PiNaki GHosh
The Gulal, Barsana
Photo of Riots of Colors 8/9 by PiNaki GHosh
Wah Taj!!!
Photo of Riots of Colors 9/9 by PiNaki GHosh
The Majestic

Witness Holi (Festival of Colours) in a altogether different atmosphere and crowd. Holi played at Barsana & Nandgaon is unique in the sense that here women chase men away with sticks. Males also sing provocative songs in a bid to invite the attention of women. Women then go on the offensive and use long staves called "lathis" to beat men folk who protect themselves with shields. It was fun, a different experience, lot of walking, stressful, tiring, but at the end of the day its worth it to gather the awesomeness of the place and atmosphere in my camera. I am up for an extra mile for my photographic side.

Starting point of my Trip was Vrindavan (me and 2 guys I met in Vrindavan), a city near Mathura. Lathmaar holi is celebrated in neighbouring villages of Barsana and Nandgaon. We left Vrindavan very early at 04.30 AM towards Barsana, to avoid any barricades and policeman, which stops traffic or diverts them 2-3 kms ahead of the village Barsana. We wanted to save our energy for the main event that happens in Radha Rani Temple, hence skipped our sleep a bit :)

With lots and lots of visitors, not to forget a small amount of photographers, the walk towards Radha Rani temple was fun with people engrossed in singing and dancing, throwing colours in the air making the surrounding more mesmerising. The walk was cramped due to small lanes within the village towards the Radha Rani temple set in the Hill. Young, or Old, there is not bar for the devotees of Radha and Lord Krishna.

With lot of patience we waited for around 2-3 hours to witness the grand festival in the sprawling compound of Radha Rani Temple where Gops from Nandgaon come and sing songs in dedication to Radha and Krishna, in pure Braj language. The rush to get inside the Temple was like anything, if you are not careful you may get stampede. Once inside, it was all about the Gops and color red. Its a photographer's paradise, absolutely loved it. After this ceremony gops then march out of the temple on the Rang Rangeeli Gali where they stop to play holi with the gopis, who stand in groups along the street. 

The second day gops from Barsana go to Nandgaon to play holi with gopis at Nandgaon at Nandgram Temple. The atmosphere was exact same as Barsana, with only difference in the rush, as Nandgram Temple having a larger area to witness the unique tradition. Men & Women dance and sing songs, people are throwing gulal (colored powder) in the air, which kept my day at bay :). Even there were ocassional Fugdi (holding hands and spining around) by womens and Transvestites. Also to be noted are the Transgender devotees who were much happy to pose for photographer crowds and also sing and dance.

At the end of each day, my energy was in a negative value :), it took lot to clean up and check my camera gear. For photographic purpose, I would suggest one body with a 20-70mm lens which will solve the purpose. 

I had an off day in before my Trip to Barsana, during which I went to Agra to capture Taj at sunset and sunrise next morning. I was back to Vrindavan by afternoon to start for Barsana next day. Taj was an amazing experience on the banks of Yamuna with sun setting and clouds creating the magic. Next morning, it was cloudy to my disappointment, but did manage to get a different shot of Taj. Mind you there is a queue to witness the majestic Taj since 5.30 in the morning, so it needs to skip sleep as well :)

4 days of minimal sleep, tiredness, every monring was a struggle to gather self and go out to shoot, but it was a wonderful experience. Being a photographer by love, it was worth every minute. I would recommend every one out there to visit the place during holi, the atmosphere is not what we witness everyday in our working environment.

To witness pics, please visit my page I keep them updating.

Good luck!!!

My starting point. I live, work & plan my trips :) Pune is a place with good access to the Western Ghats. Monsoons are pretty wild, but the Ghats are amazing during that time.
This was my stop over point to to the gateway for amazing Mathura and Vrindavan.
Mathura is a city in the North Indian state of Uttar Pradesh. It is located approximately 50 kilometres north of Agra. Also know as Braj or Brij-bhoomi, the air is different from an IT city like Pune. There was a different aura about the place and the atmosphere. Not so well built roads, street light missing at various places, people live life in their way!!! Travelling to Vrindavan in a 40-45 minutes ride from the Mathura Station was different that any ride in the city. Many temples passed by, smell of Chats and pani puris were different :), it was indeed tempting!!!
10 km away from Mathura, birthplace of Lord Krishna, famous for the Bankey Bihari Mandir and its Pedas, this was my gateway to enjoy festival of colours in and around.
Famous for its Lathmar holi, a ritual which take in neighbouring villages of Barsana and Nandgaon. In the sprawling compound of the Radha Rani temple in Barsana, thousands gather to witness the Lath Mar holi when women beat up men with sticks (laṭh - bamboo sticks) as those on the sidelines become hysterical, sing Holi Songs and shout Sri Radhey or Sri Krishna. The Holi songs of Braj mandal are sung in pure Braj. On the first day of Lath Mar Holi, gops (shepherds) from Nandgaon come to Barsana to play Holi with the gopis (shepherdesses) of Barsana. The festival begins with a ceremony at the Radha Rani temple. After this ceremony gops then march out of the temple on the Rang Rangeeli Gali where they stop to play holi with the gopis, who stand in groups along the street.
Following day Indian Hindu devotees from Barsana travel to Nandagram Temple in Nandgaon. Men sing provocative songs to gain the attention of women, who then "beat" them with lathis, which is quite unique in this part of country. Nandgram Temple full with devotees which includes men and women who are quite happy to ignore photographers, and indulge in dance and songs of Brij.
A stop over, my intention was to photography Taj, during surise and sunset. I was lucky enough to get good sunset and moody clouds, but next day the morning was gloomy, but was lucky enough to get a black n white image of Taj. People flood the gates from 5.30 in the morning and goes till evening, where every day thousands come and visit Taj. I was staying 10 minutes from the West gate and was a decent hotel to stay for a night. Had a warm reception from every hotel staff, happy about it :)