Holi in the sacred land of Radhakrishna
Holi is one of India’s best-known festivals, providing great material for photographers from all over the world. Its marks the beginning of spring and takes place at full moon in the lunar month of Phalgun (February-March).
In some parts of India, this festival of colors is intimately linked to the Hindu god Krishna. This is the case of Vrindavan, Mathura, Barsana and the surrounding villages. There not only Holi lasts up to a month but different Holi are played:
Barsana is famous for ‘Laddou’ and ‘Lathmaar’ Holi. Laddoo Holi celebrates Krishna’s visit to Barsana during Holi. It takes place on the day before Lathmaar Holi. Laddoos are ball-shaped sweets that are very popular in India. At this festival they are thrown from the top of the Radha temple onto the crowd below, who try to catch them. They are regarded as prasad – holy food – and are treated with great respect.
The literal meaning of Lathmaar Holi is “Holi with stick-beating”. Legend has it that when Lord Krishna was living in the neighbouring village of Nandgaon, he used to visit Barsana where his beloved Radha was born. The dark-faced god enjoyed teasing Radha and her gopi friends (gopis are cowherd girls). The girls took offense and chased him out of town with sticks.
To relive the legend, the men of Nandgaon come to Barsana during Holi and are greeted by the women of the village armed with long sticks called lathi. The Nandgaon men chant verses to provoke the women, who set about them with their sticks. The men use shields to protect themselves. The next day the women of Barsana go to Nandgaon and are drenched with coloured water by the men there.
The celebrations start with a Holika bonfire the night before Holi proper. Holi is named after Holika, the sister of the king and demon-deity Hiranyakashipu. To celebrate this legend, great bonfires are built and an effigy representing Holika is placed on top. On the night before Holi the fires are lit and people sing and dance around them. Some take embers home with them, for this fire is a reminder of the symbolic victory of good over evil.
This 12-day photography tour takes you to the sacred land of RadhaKrishna in Uttar Pradesh (Vrindavan, Mathura, Barsana, Gokul, Dauji, Nandgaon) to attend to the craziest and most photogenic Holi of India.