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Which festival captures the sheer essence and joi de vivre of the festivals of India? This question led me to go on the Holi trail with my camera — it is amazing how one festival takes on so many connotations and ways of celebrating.

Beginning with sleepy villages, which don’t even register a feeble blimp on radar usually, become hot-beds of activity during Holi.

In the forgotten villages near Mathura and Vrindavan, you will see overcrowded railway stations and bus stops; people crowding on roof tops, policeman valiantly trying to keep some semblance of order, street food of every kind that defies description — and colour, colour and more colour than you can ever imagine.

A few days later, we were at Chandigarh — a complete contrast, with its well-planned roads and detailed urban planning. But, just an hour away at Anandpur Sahib, a sea of humanity is slowly making its way to celebrate an unusual twist to Holi — Holla Mohalla.

An annual Sikh festival held a day after Holi (this year from March 24-26), has the drama, the sweat and the incredible colours that Indian festivals are known for. The Holla Mohalla festival is an impressive traditional display of bravery and valour by the Nihang warriors that is a must see.

FIRST STOP
BARSANA AND NANDGAON
Lathmaar Holi or Holi with sticks, March 17 and 18

It’s a woman’s world after all — and the women of Barsana, a village near Mathura prove it during this time. The women beat up men of the neighbouring village of Nandgaon with sticks! Which is why it’s known as Lathmaar (beating with sticks) Holi.

This is celebrated a week before the day of Holi, so this should be your first pit-stop in Holi celebrations on March 17. The festival begins with a ceremony at the Radha Rani temple in Barsana. The following day, the celebrations move to Nandgaon village, which is a village near Mathura.

Lathmar Holi

SECOND STOP
BANKE BIHARI HOLI March 19

On March 19, Holi celebrations start at Banke Bihari temple in Vrindavan which is a huge attraction and is beautifully decked up for Holi. It’s worth getting to Barsana a couple of days in advance of Lathmaar Holi so that you can also experience Laddoo Holi festivities there. Sweets are thrown around and spiritual songs related to Radha and Krishna are sung. This will take place on March 16 this year.

Holi Celebrations in Banke Bihari Temple

THIRD STOP
MATHURA AND VRINDAVAN Traditional Holi, March 20 to 24

Mathura is where Lord Krishna was born; Vrindavan was where he spent his childhood. The Sri Krishna Janmasthan in Mathura holds an interesting show in the week before Holi. The week-long celebrations at the Banke Bihari temple in Vrindavan are also legendary, and culminate with the throwing of colours on Dhulendi (March 24, 2016).
On the morning of festival (March 24),

a colourful Holi procession starts from Vishram Ghat and finishes near Holi Gate. The best place to catch the
throwing of colours is Dwarkadheesh Temple in Mathura.

Holi Celebration in Vrindavan

Written by : Abhishek Hajela

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