Friendly fight, flower shower - it’s Lathmar Holi

February 24th, 2010 - 4:33 pm ICT by IANS  

By Brij Khandelwal
Barsana (Uttar Pradesh), Feb 24 (IANS) Barsana, the birthplace of Lord Krishna’s consort Radha, has kept its date with the famous Lathmar Holi, with thousands of pilgrims - among them hordes of NRIs - turning up to watch the spectacle that even saw a flower shower from the skies!

The 40-minute spectacle Tuesday saw women attired in colourful costumes with long ‘ghunghats’ or veils carrying well oiled ‘lathis’ or sticks to beat male participants, who in turn were armed with protective gear called ‘dhals’.

Thousands of pilgrims, including NRIs, congregated at the Sriji Temple complex. Roof-tops overflowed with curious onlookers, as several hundreds of “Huriyars” or men from Nandgaon, Sri Krishna’s village some 10 km away, descended for the final friendly confrontation with the “Huriyarins,” or women, to the accompaniment of loud music and Holi songs.

To add to the festive occasion, a helicopter was pressed into service to shower three rounds of kesar (saffron), rose petals and gulal (coloured powder) before the start of the programme.

Some old timers, however, felt the occasion was getting commercialised.

Pandit Ram Babu Shrotriya told IANS: “Each year the event is attracting more notice from the electronic media, and more people are turning up to watch the festivities, but the old spirit is missing and commercialisation is overtaking convention.”

In the land of Sri Krishna, stretching from Bah in Agra to Kosi bordering Haryana, Holi is a major festival. With the weather changing for the better after a fairly long spell of cold, the mood is set for a fortnight of festivities in Govardhan, Vrindavan, Gokul, Dauji and other places associated with the Krishna-Radha legend.

The famous Bankey Bihari temple of Vrindavan and Mathura’s Dwarkadheesh temple are fully geared for the festival of colours.

“We have lots of water colour made from ‘tesu ka phool’ and quintals of several coloured gulal and ‘abeer’,” said Gopi Ballabh, a priest in Vrindavan.

“Vrindavan is different as there is a lot of singing and dancing, and in the evenings we have the musical programmes and Ras Lilas,” a famous Vrindavan musician Acharya Jaimini told IANS.

“The whole day people play with colours and if you venture into the countryside you will see lots of villagers, both men and women dancing and exchanging abuses (Hori ki gariyan) that no one minds! The tradition dates back to the days of Krishna-Radha, when villagers from one area went to another and smeared colours on each other.”

Apart from colours and gulal, there is a big demand for “thandai”. The Choubeys are famous for making this unique concoction of bhang with almonds, kali mirch, and all kinds of dry fruits.

“Once you’ve had a glass or two, you will either cry or laugh and eat a lot of sweets for which the Mathura halwais have enough stocks,” said Krishn Chaturvedi of Vishram Ghat overlooking the Yamuna veiled by hundreds of decorated boats ready to ferry pilgrims across to Gokul.

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