You might still be waiting for Holi to arrive after a week but in Barsana, Holi has already begun and people are playing the Lathmar Holi (लट्ठमार होली) there. Yes, the famous Lathmar Holi in the neighbouring town of Mathura is celebrated a week ago in Barsana. This year, Holi falls on 24 March 2016 and in Barsana, the tourists and locals are playing the famous lathmar holi today, that is, on 17 March 2016.
If you don’t know what is lathmar, know that ‘Lath’ means a thick stick and ‘Maar’ means to beat someone. So, here, the women of Barsana beat the men of Nandgaon with ‘Laths’ or thick staff.
The story behind Lathmar Holi of Barsana
Barsana is the legendary village of Radha, the beloved of Lord Sri Krishna. It is said that Krishna once visited this village of Radha and playfully started teasing not only Radha but her other friends too. It is then when all these women chased Krishna away by running after him with ‘Laths’ in hand.
Since then, it has become a tradition for men of Nandgaon, the legendary native place of Krishna, to come to Barsana every year a week before Holi and play the festival of colors with the women of Barsana. However, they also have to face the sticks and play the lathmar Holi with the women of Barsana.
How is Lathmar Holi Played in Barsana
Men from Nandgaon start pouring in groups in Barsana seven days before the actual date of Holi. They come in groups along with ‘Dhol and Nagara’. They come to the Shri ji Temple in Barsana where local people welcome them with ‘Bhang and Thandai’, the famous Holi drinks. They are offered sweets. People also play Holi with them using ‘Gulal’ (dry holi color) . This gulal is made with ‘Tesu’ flowers and thus they are natural holi colors that doesn’t harm the skin or clothes of people. You can also make natural Holi colors at Home with various ingredients to keep your Holi safe and eco-friendly.
After this warm welcome, in the evening, Lathmar Holi is played in Barsana where women of this place beat men of Nandgaon with sticks.
Lathmar Holi is played in the sprawling compound of Radha Rani Temple in Barsana. Many people from other places in India and even from abroad come to Barsana to witness this hysterical event when women beat up men with sticks and men try to save themselves. The visitors become hysterical at the sight of women beating men all drenched in colors. They sing Holi songs and devotional songs dedicated to Radha and Krishna.
Gradually people move into the streets out of the temple. The lathmar holi continues even then. The most interesting part of this lathmar holi is that men, even when they are being beaten by women, keep on provocating them by singing certain provocative songs and inviting their attention towards themselves. Women get more aggressive, though playfully, and try to beat them still harder.
When men and women both get tired, they rest for a while and drink bhang and Thandai. These are Holi drinks with intoxicating effects. After having them, they again start playing Holi and sometimes react strangely under the influence of Bhang. Some of them could be seen singing, some dancing, some of them start crying or laughing without any hold. This makes the whole experience of Lathmar holi of Barsana an ecstatic one!
The next day, the men from Barsana go to Nandgaon to play Holi with the women there.
If you have already been to Barsana, there are more places in India where Holi is played in unique ways. Here are some famous Holi places in India!