Have you experienced Holi in Mathura?
There's more to Holi than just colour and bhang. Mayank Soni tells Avril-Ann Braganza how this festival is celebrated in Krishna's birthplace
If you thought that your six-year-old neighbour chucking water balloons at unaware passersby was wild, head to the city of Mathura to experience how Holi can really be played and where celebrations last for a week preceding the festive day. On the ghats of Mathura, there are small temples and if you take a stroll around the temples at 8 am, you will get the chance to see bhang being crushed and mixed in milk.
Besides throwing colour, the lathmaar tradition is a favourite amongst women in Barsana and Nandgaon, two villages in Mathura that are associated with Radha and Krishna. Dressed in colourful clothes, the women of Barsana playfully beat men from the neighbouring Nandgaon village with lathis, while the men try to protect themselves with shields. But also watch out for flying ladoos and flowers as you walk around Barsana. Another important ritual, ladoos and flowers are put in plastic bags and thrown at each other, at the temple. At Banke Bihari temple in Vrindavan, the temple priests sprinkle blessed colour and coloured water on the devotees as a kind of prasad.
On the evening of Holika Dahan, approximately 10 vehicles are decorated in which the idols of Radha and Krishna are placed and taken around the city of Mathura in a procession; people throw colour, blast music and kids also dress up as Radha and Krishna. You might not see too many girls participating as it can get quite rowdy at times.
Travel a short distance from Mathura to see another unique tradition, Hurunga, played at the Dauji Temple. Showers, which give out orange coloured water are set up in the temple courtyard. Women tear off the men's shirts, dip it in the water and beat them with their shirts. It is a chance for women to get back at the men for whatever pranks were played on them. These age-old traditions are a peek into our country's history and a photographer's delight!
(Pic courtesy: Mayank Soni)