The festive season is back! And with Holi just ’round the corner, most of us would be looking for ‘DJ parties’ with dance and music, pichkaaris and bhaang. But for travellers who want to witness Holi in its full authenticity, there’s no better place than Mathura-Vrindavan.
Every year, thousands of Krishna devotees visit the holy destination to be part of what can only be described as a week-long adventure. Unlike other parts of the country where Holi is a one-day affair, here, the revelry goes on for 7-8 days and as you’ll see, it is truly unique.
Having been there myself, I suggest you use this guide to make the most of Mathura-Vrindavan Holi.
1. Laddoo Maar Holi at Barsana’s Radha Rani Temple
The festivities kick off at this temple with the crowds gathering up and playing with colours. The priests throw laddoos from the temple premises, which can be consumed as prasad.
When: Feb 23
2. Lath Maar Holi at Barsana
Opt for an overnight stay at one of the dharamshalas or budget guest houses in Barsana, and catch the popular Lath Maar Holi.
It’s exactly what it sounds like — women use laaths (sticks) to beat up men who come from the nearby village of Nandgaon. The men use shields for protection. The tradition takes us back to the folklores of Radha and Krishna, wherein the women of Radha’s village chased away Krishna and his friends when he playfully teased them.
On Feb 25, women visit Nandgaon for the same event. The whole spectacle of hundreds of colourfully-dressed women moving towards Nandgaon is worth watching.
When: Feb 24 & 25
3. Phoolon Wali Holi at Vrindavan
Leave from Barsana early in the morning by a local bus or a private taxi, and you’ll reach Vrindavan in an hour and half. You could book a hotel in Vrindavan or Mathura, roughly 15km away. There are a lot of cheap guest houses available at both the places.
Then, get to the famous Banke Bihari Temple in Vrindavan before 12 noon and find a suitable place to view the beautiful floral Holi, which starts at 1 pm. Spend the rest of the day exploring the temples and the culture of the quaint town.
When: Feb 26
4. Chhadi Maar Holi in Gokul
Located 12km from Vrindavan, the beautiful town of Gokul is the place where Krishna spent most of his childhood. An auto rikshaw ride is the best way to get there.
Here, the kids are dressed as Krishna and Radha, all set to celebrate. Don’t miss the vibrant street procession, while the local women playfully beat up men with chaddis!
You can also spend some time walking the alleys of Gokul, imagining the stories from Krishna’s childhood, and then sit back and relax on the banks of Yamuna. Also, you must try the delicious butter milk sold here.
When: Feb 27
5. Widows’ Holi at Vrindavan
Vrindavan’s widows celebrating Holi at Pagal Baba Ashram is a new addition to the list. The very act of widows playing with colours breaks many stereotypes. The riot of colours with the bright smiles on their faces is something that cannot be missed.
In the evening you can visit Kesi Ghat, enjoy a boat ride in Yamuna and witness the great aarti. Also try out the authentic bhaang mixed with lemon water and spices, but don’t get too high!
When: Feb 28
6. Holika Dahan in Mathura
Reach the Dwarkadheesh Temple near Vishram Ghat before 1 pm to be part of the Holi procession. It’s a fun affair with lots of colour, and people dancing to drum beats.
The procession ends at sunset with the Holika Dahan, where a large bonfire is made resembling the pyre of Holika.
When: Mar 1
7. Holi in Mathura & Vrindavan
Celebrate the final day of Holi in Mathura at the temple where Krishna was born. You could also head to Vrindavan and play Holi with the locals there. Be prepared with lots of gulaal.
In the evening, you could visit the Banke Bihari Temple or take a train back to Delhi on the same day.
When: Mar 2
Taking a train from Delhi is the best way to reach Mathura. Taj Express is the cheapest and the fastest option. All the other places mentioned above are close to Mathura, easily accessible with local transport.
When visiting a crowded place (and most of them will be crowded during Holi), take care of your belongings. At some of the temples, you will have to pay a fee to carry your camera inside. Although, the photo-ops are worth it.
Share this article with your friends to plan the ultimate Holi this year.
Image Credit: Cambyte