For many of you, Holi means groups of kids from the neighborhood wildly throwing water balloons at you. Or may be mythological legends, stories of victory of goodness over the evil and such that – if this is what your Holi idea is, I invite you to be a part of the craziest Holi celebrations of Barsana, Vrindavan, and Braj in Mathura. Why is Holi in Mathura and Vrindavan so Special?
It is on the ghats of Yamuna in Mathura – the janambhumi (birthplace) of Lord Krishna where you can enjoy the Holi celebration in the wildest, yet colorful and sane revelry. The celebration of Holi in Mathura and Vrindavan with sticks, shields, colors, and canons of water is a must have lifetime experience for those who love Holi.
This year Holi celebration is on Thursday, March 21, throughout the world with Holika Dahan on the night of March 20, 2019.
Why is Holi in Mathura and Vrindavan so Special?
Almost every part of India celebrates Holi with full excitement. However, Holi in Mathura and Vrindavan, to be precise Holi in Braj is especially famous. Holi in Braj is famous for its unique customs and traditions. Braj is a historical region which geographically covers the area of Mathura, Vrindavan and some nearby areas. Holi here attracts tourists and pilgrims from all over the world.
Mathura is famous as Krishna janambhumi (the birthplace of Lord Krishna) and Vrindavan is the place where Lord Krishna grew up through his childhood.
When Krishna was young, he always used to complain to his mother about Radha’s fair complexion. So Krishna use to ask his mother, “Radha Kyun Gori main Kyun Kala?” means why Radha is fair and I am dusky or dark? On this Lord Krishna’s mother, Yashoda suggested him to paint Radha playfully with beautiful colors known as Gulal to equalize their(Radha’s & Krishna’s) skin complexions. Since then, Lord Krishna from his village Nandgaon used to go to Barsana, Radha’s village to color her and her friends (Gopis). To reciprocate and to defend themselves, Radha and her friends used to playfully beat Krishna with sticks.
Hence, the tradition and the festival of colors Holi evolved as a remembrance of platonic flirtations of Radha Krishna.
The chronological order of celebration of Holi in Mathura and Vrindavan:
For ‘the original Holi in Mathura and Vrindavan’ you must land up in Barsana and then visit Nandgaon and Vrindavan. Read below to know the chronological order of celebration of Holi in Mathura and Vrindavan 2019. You can choose to attend a few or simply indulge yourself in the festivity of colors here in Braj; and, experience the most adventurously colorful week of your life.
Holi in Barsana:
“Lathmar Holi” in Barsana starts about a week before the actual date of Holi. The date is March 14, 2019. In this Holi, women beat men with sticks playfully as Radha use to beat Krishna with a stick when he used to color her with Gulal. Every year, the people of Barsana follow the same trend.
Holi in Nandgaon:
The same celebration will take place in Nandgaon on the very next day. The date is March 15, 2019. As per the legends, after Krishna went to Barsana to color Radha and her friends, the next day Radha and her friends (Gopis) came to Nandgaon color Krishna. Therefore, the Holi celebrations shifts from Barsana to Nandgaon.
Holi in Banke Bihari Temple:
The Banke-Bihari Temple in Vrindavan hosts a week-long Holi celebration. Here, Holi starts on March 16, 2019 to March 21, 2019. During these days, the idol of Banke Bihari i.e. Lord Krishna is dressed up in white clothes; and, the idol is brought closer to his devotees to play Holi. The priests of the temple sprinkle shower blessed holy water (colored water) on everyone with buckets and pichkaris (Squirt using Water Gun, etc.). The whole ambiance of the temple becomes more lively with bhajans (devotional songs and hymns) and the dance of the devotees on the music of those bhajans.
In Vrindavan, people play Holi with colored water, Gulal and colorful petals of flowers. Gulal is a form of powdered color made of organic substances such as flowers and Kesar (saffron).
The Gulal-Kund in Braj is another interesting venue to celebrate Holi in Vrindavan. It’s a small lake near the Govardhan hill. Here, local people enact Krishna Leela (drama) and the scenes of Holi for the pilgrims.
Huranga Holi celebration in Dauji temple, Baldeo, Mathura:
While the Lathmar Holi festival celebrated a few days before the main Holi, the Huranga Holi is celebrated at the Dauji Temple near Mathura a day after the main Holi. The date is March 22, 2019. Lathmar Holi is very famous, however, Huranga Holi is less known. The Huranga Holi has a very strange ritual.
Soon after the morning darshan at the Dauji Temple, around 10,000 devotees from Baldeo, a place in Mathura and neighboring villages gather in the temple complex. For the next two hours that follow, you will see the temple compound turning into a battleground. Men pour buckets of saffron-tinged water on women. And, to retaliate, women strip off the clothes of men and thrash them with their own stripped clothes. It’s all done playfully in the right spirit of “Bura Na Mano Holi Hai” (Never Mind, It’s Holi). Though, the men are not permitted to touch the women or remove the Dupatta (veil) from their faces.
Typically, only members from the original family participate in the Huranga Holi. And, others are welcome to witness and take photographs. However, the reality check is that any man caught by the women gets stripped and beaten. So, if you are there just to witness and take pics, Beware !!!
Things To Enjoy During Holi in Mathura and Vrindavan:
- Lathmar Holi (March 14, 2019) in Barasana
- Holi (March 15, 2019) in NandGaon
- Holika Dahan (March 20, 2019) in entire Brij Mandal; priests crossing holy fire in Phalen Village, Kosi, Mathura
- Dhulandi (Main Holi – March 21, 2019) in Brij Mandal and Mathura Vrindavan temples
- Huranga Holi (March 22, 2019) in Dauji temple, Baldeo, Mathura
- Rang Panchami (March 25, 2019) – End of Holi celebrations in Braj Mandal temples
- Widow’s Holi – Holi at Pagal Baba Widow Ashram in Vrindavan is a brave step to shun taboos against the traditional convention that widows in India are not allowed to wear colorful clothes or play with colors.
Major Events to Attend During Holi in Mathura and Vrindavan:
Mainly, there are five major events to attend during Holi in Mathura and Vrindavan. These are
- Lathmar Holi at Barsana,
- Holi at Nandgaon,
- Holika Dahan in Kosi,
- Colorful Holi at Banke Bihari Temple in Vrindavan, and
- Huranga in Dauji Temple, Baldeo, Mathura.
Therefore, plan your trip accordingly. Besides, some local tour and sightseeing in Mathura and Vrindavan– the land of Lord Krishna would always be exciting. Enjoy the super exciting Holi, have a glass or two of Thandai (Bhang, made from cannabis leaves mixed with flavored milk) and dance to the tunes of soulful bhajans. I bet, you would have an experience of a lifetime. At the same time, you will experience the most colorful Holi of your life.