Monday, March 23, 2020

COVID-19 impact: ISKCON Vrindavan limits daily Sewa, sanitized flowers for Lord Krishna

Shree Banke Bihari Ji Temple closed till March 31

Temples of Vrindavan are world-famous; some for their grandeur and some for their antiquity and legends associated with them. Thousands of devotees visit this small town daily from far-flung places of not just India but the world. But, amidst the threat of novel Coronavirus, temples are closed and visitors are few. From Shree Banke Bihari Ji Temple to the ISKCON Temple, all big and small temples have been shut down as a protective measure against the spread of COVID-19.

The deserted front gate of ISKCON Temple, Vrindavan

A priest inside ISKCON Temple amid the shut down

Rare sight of the empty hall inside Shree Banke Bihari Temple, Vrindavan

In an attempt to safeguard the Temple premises against Coronavirus, ISKCON management has cut down the daily offerings to deities. These offering also include grand flower decorations known as Pushpa-Sewa. Management has also minimized the quantities of items that are being procured from outside. Every article before allowing inside the Temple premises is being sanitized first, including flowers.

At ISKCON Temple, daily Sewa and offerings are being observed as usual but on a small scale. Daily flower offerings to deities including Lord Krishna, Shree Radharani, Balarama and Nitai Gaur have been curtailed to 4 Kg whilst in normal days, 60 Kg flowers are offered in different forms. ISKCON management procures flowers for Temple use from cities such as Delhi.

Public Relations Officer of ISKCON, Saurabh Trivikram Das informed that only 4 Kg flowers are being purchased due to Coronavirus threat. He further added that the entry inside the Temple premises is barred for public till March 31. Only 3 priests are exempt and these priests reside 24 hours inside the Temple and perform daily Sewa of Lord Shree Radha-Krishna. In normal days, around 40 devotees offer daily Sewa in the Temple on a daily basis, but in the light of COVID-19 threat, except for 3 priests, no one is allowed inside the Temple.

Sanitized flowers and in-house prepared Naivedyam for Lord Krishna

Temple management sanitizes flowers before allowing them inside the Temple premises. From the supplier’s end, the flowers arrive securely in poly bags. But, before allowing them inside, they are transferred in a sanitized cloth right outside the Temple gates. To avoid any hazard, the poly bags are discarded outside the Temple at a specific place. Following this, flowers are mixed well inside the sanitized cloth to get rid of any potential threat and are then offered to deities.

As per the Temple traditions, Prasad offered to deities are prepared in-house. ISKCON Temple never offers food articles prepared outside to deities as Prasad. Only Temple-authorized cooks prepare Naivedyam inside the Temple kitchen.

Thursday, March 19, 2020

Temples of Vrindavan take protective measures to deal with the COVID-19 threat

The ancient town of Vrindavan is the land of some of the most famous temples in India. Thousands of devotees not just from India but across the globe visit this temple town every day. But in the light of COVID-19 threat, many temples have been shut down as a protective measure against the spread of Coronavirus. Temple authorities have also been quick to take the decision of disinfecting the temple premises on a timely basis. Due to the increasing threat of COVID-19, public places like temples have seen exponential fall of visitors.  

ISKCON Temple Vrindavan closed till March 31 –

After conducting the discussion with the members of the governing body of ISKCON, temple management has decided to completely shut down the temple till March 31. The decision has been taken as a precautionary measure against the increasing threat of COVID-19. It should be noted that the ISKCON temple in Vrindavan is visited by thousands of devotees every day. 
Deserted ISKCON Temple after the shutdown 

Empty market lanes in front of ISKCON Temple, Vrindavan

Earlier, temple management had arranged for the screening of devotees before permitting them inside the premises. Additionally, yearly Krishna-Balrama Ratha Yatra and the famous Boat-Festival scheduled for March 18 and March 19 respectively have also been cancelled by temple authorities. During the shutdown, the daily rituals of the temple will be observed uninterrupted by temple priests.

Disinfecting Banke Bihari Ji Temple –

To protect the visitors from COVID-19, temple authority at the world-famous Banke Bihari Ji temple has made arrangements to disinfecting the temple premises on a timely basis. Moreover, an advisory has been issued for the workers of the temple to ensure safeguarding against contracting the virus. Temple management also distributed medicines to the temple staff.

               Workers disinfecting the main hall of Banke Bihari Ji Temple, Vrindavan 

Brahmotsava celebrations cut short at Rang Ji Temple –

The ongoing Brahmotsava celebrations at the famous Rang Ji temple have been cut short as the precautionary measure against COVID-19. The Chief Executive Officer of the temple Anagha Srinivasan informed that for the safety of the public, the yearly processions of Lord Sri Goda-Rangamannar will not take their usual route but will be carried out within the temple premises. 

Rang Ji Temple decorated with colorful lights on the occasion of Brahmotsava

Earlier, the famous Ratha Yatra which was scheduled for March 18 had been cancelled by the temple authority. It was only the second time in the 171 year history of the Brahmotsava that the Ratha Yatra was cancelled. 

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Ashtyam Leela – A unique way to experience Leelas of Shree Radha-Krishna

An event showcasing the Ashtyam Leela of Shree Radha-Krishna is being held at the Jugal Ghat of River Yamuna at Vrindavan. Devotees from far away corners of the country have arrived in Vrindavan to witness various Leelas of Shree Radha-Krishna that will be showcased during the 10-day event. The event is being held by Shree Radhikavallabha Lal Temple, Vrindavan in collaboration with Ras Bharati Sansthan. 

Ashtyam means eight, and Leela can be understood as pastimes or plays of Shree Radha-Krishna. As is evident, Lord Krishna spent his childhood in Vrindavan and Gokul regions where he performed many Leelas with Shree Radha and Gopas and Gopis of Braj region. Thus, Ashtyam Leela means playtimes of Shree Radha-Krishna during 8 parts (Prahar) of the day.

Nauka Vihar Leela of Shree Radha-Krishna at Jugal Ghat of River Yamuna, Vrindavan

                                           Nauka Vihar Leela 

On the first day of Ashtyam Leela, Greeshma Ritu Kalin or summer season Leelas like Nauka Vihar Leela, Jal Vihar Leela, Shringar Leela and Snan Leela of Lord Krishna were displayed in the morning on March 15. The whole experience was turned surreal with the depiction of each Leela in Padya form in Braj Bhasha. A group of local artists recited the Padya related to the Nauka Vihar Leela as follows –

Manimaya Kal Nuakan Me, Raajat Jugal Kishor
Mann Vinod Bichin Badhin, Tann Chhavi Uthat Hilor
Morakrit Kal Naav Me, HitAli Ju Sang
Raajat Shreehit Swamini, Ang-Ang Chhavinu-Tarang
Hansakrit Nauki Bani, Taamein Raajat Lal
Ras-Salita Mann Mein Badhi, Sang Liyen Lalita Baal
Hod Badi Naukan Mein, Bharikein Kamalani- Punj
Jitai So Jo Pratham Hi, Pahunchai Kamal Nikunj
Mann Mein Badhyou Hulas Ati, Adharani Bhadhyou Haas
Pyari Ke Mukh-Chandra Pai, Kanchan Ki Chhabi Raas
Lalan Dekhi Adbhut Chhata, Bhuli Gaye Sab Khel
Nauka Ki Gati Bhulikain, Nain Rahe Inhi Gail

Thursday, March 12, 2020

10-day Brahmotsav begins at Rangji Temple of Vrindavan

Lord Sri Goda-Rangamannar visits the city in a splendid golden chariot

Ten-day long Brahmotsav began amid grand celebrations at the famous Rangji Temple of Vrindavan on Thursday. The much-awaited festival began with the procession of presiding deity of the temple, Lord Sri Goda-Rangamannar in a golden chariot ‘Sri Poornakothi Vahan’. A large number of devotees took part in the procession. To welcome the procession, devotees and temple priests made beautiful Rangoli on various spots of the Yatra-Marg.

Lord Sri Goda-Rangamannar seated in a golden chariot during the Brahmotsav procession

The festivities of Brahmotsav began with the worshipping of Garuda-Stambha, a gigantic golden pillar situated at the middle of the temple premises, in the morning. Following this, a flag was mounted on Garuda-Stambha signifying the official start of the Brahmotsav. Colloquially, this golden pillar is also called ‘Sone ka Khamba’. Then, Sri Lord Goda-Rangamannar was carried out in a huge procession seated in ‘Sri Poornakothi Vahan’. A huge crowd of devotees from various parts of India gathered on the front door of the temple to welcome the procession. South Indian musical instruments like Nadaswaram and Thavil added a unique charm to the procession which reached the Temple gardens via Chungi Square. A large elephant wearing Ramanuja sect Tilak on his forehead was leading the grand procession. Temple priests or a group of Acharya Ji was chanting Vedic Mantra during the processions. After resting for some time at the Temple Gardens, the procession headed back to the Temple premises. For thousands of devotees of Sri-Goda-Rangamannar, Brahmotsav is one of the most anticipated events of the year.

   Temple priest worshipping Garuda-Stambha during the opening ceremony of Brahmotsav

As per the traditions of the Rangji Temple, one-day before the Brahmotsav, the chief commanding officer of Sri Ranganatha, Vishwaksena visits the Yatra Marg to review the preparations of the Brahmotsav. Thus, Vishwaksen was taken out in a procession on Wednesday to evaluate the arrangements. He was seated in a silver chariot and was accompanied by Temple priests and devotees of Sri Ranganatha.

Commander Vishwaksen in a silver chariot

As per Swami Raghunathji of the Temple, Lord Sri Goda-Rangamannar will be carried out in various golden and silver Vahanas during 10 days of the Brahmotsav. Processions will be conducted during mornings and evenings for all 10 days.

Wednesday, March 11, 2020

Holi in Brij

Hindus across the nation and world celebrated Holi with much fervour and passion on March 10. In Brij, Holi officially starts on Vasant Panchami and culminates with Dauji ka Huranga, the next day of Dhulandi. This 40 days long period is called Faag-Mahotsava in Brij which attracts thousands of people from across India and the world every year. 

Witness the colors of Dhulandi in Brij with these striking photos of the temples and streets of Mathura, Vrindavan, Gokul, Barsana and Nandagaon. 

People enjoying the splash of yellow color during Holi celebrations at a temple

Young women smearing Gulal on their friend on Holi

Two women coloring each other during Holi festivities in Brij

A young boy putting color on the face of an elderly women

Women playing Holi outside their houses


Monday, March 9, 2020

Holika Dahan celebrations in Mathura

People roast green cereals in Holi bonfire and exchange sweets

The ancient city of Mathura where Lord Krishna was born celebrated the festival of Holika Dahan with great fervour. To mark the occasion, huge bonfires along with statues of demoness Holika carrying Prahlada in her lap were placed at all the main squares and marketplaces of Mathura. But, the grandest of the celebrations were conducted at Holi Gate, where a large number of women performed Holika Puja till 4 pm. Holika Dahan was conducted late at 9 pm.  
Holika Puja at Holi Gali
The main event of Holika Dahan was conducted by Holikotsava Samiti at Holi Gate. A large number of women from nearby regions conducted Holika Puja at Holi Gate. Along with traditional items of Puja like whole turmeric, whole rice, Kumkum and Gulal a string of small cow dung cakes was also offered to Holi bonfire. Following the Puja, Parikrama of Holi bonfire was done by women with a cotton thread. The Puja rituals were concluded with Aarti. Thousands of women conducted Holika and Prahlada worship from 10 am to 4 pm. At 7 pm, Karshni Guru Sharanananda worshipped Holika and performed Aarti. Local artists performed various cultural events. A large crowd gathered to witness the celebrations often obstructing the traffic in the region. Other major locations of Mathura including Holi Gali, Rangeshwar temple region and Dampier Nagar square also held Holika Dahan events.  

A group of women worshipping Holika and Prahlada
People buying green cereals for roasting in Holi bonfire
At Holi Gate and Holi Gali, Holika Dahan was performed at 9 pm and 11 pm respectively. A large number of locals along with visitors gathered around the Holi bonfire for the event of Holika Dahan. People took a piece of burning cow dung cake to light the Holi bonfire at home as it is considered auspicious.

                     A local resident sharing her thoughts on Holika Dahan

As the festival of Holi also coincides with the harvesting season in many parts of the country, people also roasted green cereals like wheat and chickpea in the Holi bonfire. Later these roasted cereals were shared with loved ones and neighbours and Holi wishes were exchanged along with traditional sweets like Gujiya and Gulab Jamun. The next day of Holika Dahan is Dhulandi or Rangwali Holi. People across the Brij region will play Holi on March 10.

Chaturved Samaj of Mathura conducts Holi procession

Mathur Chaturved Parishad of Mathura conducted Holi Procession called ‘Holi Ka Dola’ on Monday, March 09. Clad in traditional attire, members of Chaturvedi community in large numbers took part in the procession. As the procession crossed various streets and markets, the whole ambience was covered in colorful hues of yellow, red and green Gulal. Youngsters were dancing on the beats of Holi songs. Shopkeepers closed their shops and welcomed the procession by spreading Abeel-Gulal on the revellers.

                                  Chaturved Samaj Holi Procession
Large number of community members walking with the Holi Procession

Revellers decked in various guises during the Holi Procession

The procession passed from various points of the city like Vishram Ghat, Dwarikadhish temple, Holi Gate, Kotawali Road, Bharatpur Gate, Ghiyamandi, Chowk Bajar and Swami Ghat before ending at the Dwarikadhish temple. Community members were singing Bhajan and Chaupai during the procession. Tableaus of Thakur Dwarikadhish, Keshavdev, Yamuna Maharani, Gopal Peethadhishwar Guru Vitthelesh Maharaj, and Siddha Vinayak Ganesh were also the centre of attraction of the procession. A large number of foreigners also participated in the procession.   

Holika Dahan today, statues of Bhakta Prahlada and Holika placed in decorated pavilions

The first day of the festival of Holi, Holika Dahan will be celebrated today, which is Purnima of Phalguna Shukla Paksha. Holika Pujan and Holika Dahan will be conducted when the Purva Phalguni Nakshatra prevails in Leo. To mark the occasion, huge statues of Holika and Prahlada have been placed at every major marketplace and square in Mathura. Holika Dahan will be done in the evening at the right Muhurat.   

Preparations for Holika Dahan had started from Vasant Panchami with the placing of Holika or a wooden stick at major squares and crossroads in the city. Subsequently, more and more sticks along with cow dung cakes were placed around the Holika to be burnt on Holika Dahan day. As a part of the occasion, big statues of demoness Holika and Prahlada is placed on the Holi bonfire as a symbolic representation of the age-old event. In Mathura, Holika Dahan will be conducted at Chowk Bajar, Bharatpur Gate, Holi Gate, Krishna Nagar, Arya Samaj Road, Vikas Bajar and Masani Chauraha.

Statue of Holika and Prahlada placed in a Pavillion at Holi Gate, Mathura

Artisans start making Holika statues 4 months prior

Local clay artisans called Kumhar started making Holika and Prahlada statues around 4 months before the Holika Dahan festival. As per the local artisans, the process of statue-making involves many steps, first being the preparation of structure with clay and cardboards. The structure is then dried in sunlight followed by painting and highlighting. The last part includes the decoration in which statues are decked in beautiful clothes and ornaments.
Statues of Holika and Prahlada made by local artisans 

Guru Sharanananda Maharaj will inaugurate the main celebrations at Holi Gate

General Secretary of Holikotsav Samiti of Mathura, Madan Mohan Shrivastav told Drik Panchang correspondent that the main event of Holika Dahan will be held at Holi Gate square at around 7 in the evening. Guru Sharanananda Maharaj will preside over the celebrations while various political leaders and people’s representatives will also mark their presence. Local artists will perform in the cultural event for which a huge pavilion has been erected at the square.

Holika Dahan Muhurat

Holika Dahan Muhurta - 06:26 PM to 08:52 PM
Duration - 02 Hours 26 Mins
Bhadra Punchha - 09:37 AM to 10:38 AM
Bhadra Mukha - 10:38 AM to 12:19 PM
Holika Dahan during Pradosh with Udaya Vyapini Purnima
Purnima Tithi Begins - 03:03 AM on Mar 09, 2020
Purnima Tithi Ends - 11:17 PM on Mar 09, 2020

Items needed for Holika Puja

One must sit facing either East or North direction while doing Holika Puja. For Puja, place a water pitcher, flower garland, Kumkum, Akshat, scent, flowers, thread, jaggery, whole turmeric, Moong beans, Batashe, Gulal and coconut in a Thali. Furthermore, also take green cereals to roast in Holika bonfire.

Brij gets a Holi makeover, markets decked up with colorful Pichkari and Rang-Gulal

People throng markets defying the Coronavirus threat; the demand for herbal colors rises

The city of Lord Krishna, Mathura is once again ready to welcome the festival of colors, Holi. But, the current happenings in India and the world have been impacting the market greatly for the last few weeks. Be it the novel Coronavirus or the latest bank crisis, the market is facing blows from all directions. Moreover, ongoing political upheaval is also reflected in the preparations of Holi celebrations. Drik Panchang correspondent visited main markets of Mathura to get a clearer picture of Holi preparations in the city.

Customers buying Pichkari at a local market in Mathura

Firstly, people seemed largely unfazed with the Coronavirus threat and thronged markets in large crowds to make their purchases. With the festival of colors Holi just one day away, markets across Mathura could be seen brimming with enthusiastic customers of all ages. All the main markets were decorated with colourful *Gulal and *Pichkari of different shapes and sizes. PUBG and Doraemon Pichkari were particularly attracting children, while gift boxes of red, pink, yellow and green Gulal were the centre of attraction amongst young people.

Colorful Gulal at display in a local market

The main market areas in Mathura, the Holi Gate, Chhatta Bajar, Chowk Bajar, Bharatpur Gate, Kotawali Road, Arya Samaj Road and Vikas Bajar are the focal points of Holi activities. The enthusiasm with which the people of Brij prepped up for Holi could be experienced in those stuffy markets where ancient and modern India goes hand-in-hand. Pichkaris decorated with modern-day cartoon characters and mobile games were displayed in glass-cabinet to attract children. Then there were Gulal in bright hues of yellow, green, red and orange and traditional headgear of Brij, Pagadi, hooked passersby of every age and group.

Colorful Pagadi for Holi celebrations

Like many festivals, during the Holi festival also, choices of young people and children dictate market trends. As per the local shopkeepers, Pichkaris as costly as ₹ 1,200 were available in the market. Rang and Gulal were available in various sachets, most popular were the sachets of 100 grams available in the price range of ₹ 10-45. The demand for organic color has risen substantially over the years and markets even in small cities like Mathura can be seen catching up with the current trends as organic Gulal finding their place on the shelves.  

Market prices for color and Pichkari

Pichkari – ₹ 10 to Rs 1,200
Chemical Gulal – ₹ 60 for 5 kg
Organic Gulal – ₹ 10-40 for 100 grams
Colorful hats – ₹ 10-60
Pagadi – ₹ 40-60
Beard and Mustache – ₹ 10
Wig – ₹ 50-80
Color spray – ₹ 20-100
Wet color – ₹ 60 for 100 grams

*Pichkari - Water gun
*Gulal - Color powder 

Saturday, March 7, 2020

Holi at Shree Banke Bihari Temple, Vrindavan

After experiencing the unique Lathmar Holi at Barsana and Nandagaon, Holi festivities in the Brij region shifted to the ancient town of Vrindavan. Every Ashram and temple in Vrindavan was packed with visitors who reached there to experience the celebrations where Lord Krishna and Radha Rani once played Holi and performed Maha Raas. Most interestedly, Holi in Vrindavan was played with flower petals, Abeer-Gulal and organic color made from Tesu flowers.

Thousands gathered to play Holi with Shree Banke Bihari Ji in Vrindavan

The Holi celebrations in world-famous Banke Bihari Ji temple were held in the evening of Rangbhari Ekadashi on March 06. The celebrations started with the special Holi Shringar of Shree Banke Bihari Lal by temple priests. Bihari Ji was decked in special white attire for the occasion and his face was beautifully decorated with Rang and Gulal. To play the Holi with his devotees, Thakur Banke Bihari left Garbha Griha and got seated at a platform outside to give his devotees a better glimpse of him.

Devotees offered Abeer-Gulal and flowers to the entrance gate of the temple as a gesture of respect and then proceeded inside the main hall to play the Holi with Thakur Ji. Every corner of the temple reverberated with the chanting of Thakur Ji’s name and traditional Holi songs of Brij region. First, temple priests showered quintals of flowers on the devotees. As per the statistics, around 1.2 tons flowers of marigold and colorful roses were used for the Holi celebrations. Afterwards, when priests began to shot a warm yellow color of Tesu flowers from huge water guns in silver and gold, there was no containment of emotions. The whole ambience turned yellow, the color of spring and joyfulness. These were the 4-hours of their life that no one present in the temple premises will ever forget.

Holi celebration at Shree Banke Bihari Ji temple, Vrindavan

Holi in Brij is unique in many ways, but one thing that makes it unique amongst all is the color of love that people have in their heart for Lord Krishna. Thousands of visitors reached Vrindavan just to play Holi with their beloved Thakur Ji and to get themselves soaked in the colors of Love and Bhakti of Lord Krishna.      

Other temples of Vrindavan including Saptadevalaya Radhavallabha Temple, Radharaman Temple, Radhadamodar Temple, Radhagovinddev Temple, Gokulananda Temple and hundreds of Kunja-Ashram celebrated the Holi with equal fervour.

Thursday, March 5, 2020

Lathmar Holi at Nandagaon

One of the major attractions during the week-long Holi festivities in Brij, the world-famous Lathmar Holi was played in Nandagaon today. To play the Lathmar Holi with the women of Nandagaon, men from Barsana reached the village of Nandagaon in the large crowd.

The celebrations began at around 3:30 pm with a procession in which men from Nandagaon walked with a flag as a symbolic representation of Shree Radha Rani. The procession ended at Yashoda Kunda where men indulged in Bhang-Thandai for some time and prepped up for the celebrations of Lathmar Holi by tying Pagadi on their head. The Pagadi is meant to provide some cushioning against the beating. From Yashoda Kunda, the revellers reached Nanda Bhawan, where Nanda Baba once lived and the event of Lathmar Holi was organized.

At Nanda Bhawan, the environment was already charged up and men were welcomed with shots of water and yellow color made from Tesu flowers. Soon the men started to tease the women with lighthearted remarks and tried to smear their faces with Gulal. Women in an effort to thwart the attempts of men started playfully beating them up with large wooden sticks. Amid all the teasing and beating, folk singers were singing Traditional Holi songs in Brij Bhasha and introduced hundreds of onlookers coming from various parts of the world with the culture of Brij region. The fun of Lathmar Holi continued till the sunset.

Barsana comes alive with the celebrations of Lathmar Holi

Barsana displayed its unique hue of Holi festivities with the world-famous Lathmar Holi on March 04. The celebrations were held at a place called Rangili Gali near Ladliji temple. The whole atmosphere was made alive with colorfully clad men and women and the beats of traditional music. The highlight of the celebrations was the lighthearted teasing of men and the playful retaliation of women by beating the men up with wooden sticks.  

Women beating up men with wooden sticks during the Lathmar holi in Barsana

Men or Gwalas as they are called in Nandagaon reached Barsana in large groups to play the Lathmar Holi with the Gopis of Barsana. Men were decked in traditional attire and headgear called Pagadi and women in Lehanga-Chunari for the occasion. Singing traditional Holi songs and laced with shields, water guns and Gulal the Gwala-Mandali made their way to Ladliji temple. To welcome the party, people of Barsana were ready with a large quantity of color made from Tesu flowers and huge water guns. As soon as the party reached the temple, they were drenched in the beautiful yellow color of Tesu flowers.

The revelries of Lathmar Holi began in Rangili Gali with the playful teasing and lighthearted jokes of men from Nandagaon. Women, ready with wooden sticks, beat them up amid the environment of high-spirited fun and laughter. Furthermore, the traditional Holi songs of Brij and the dancing enthralled everyone with the charm of the ancient land of Lord Krishna and Radha Rani. 

A dancer dancing on the beats of traditional Holi songs of Brij

Amidst all the fun, an age-old tradition of presenting a flag symbolizing Lord Krishna was also observed. As per the traditions, the flag was smeared in Gulal and decked in flower garlands for the ritual. Then, as a symbolic representation of Lord Krishna, it was taken in front of the statue of Shree Radha Rani at the Ladliji temple where the union of Radha-Krishna was performed by the temple priests. Afterwards, folk songs were sung in Brij Bhasha by groups of folk singers from Nandagaon and Barsana.  

Wednesday, March 4, 2020

Thousands play Laddu Holi in Barsana

The town of Barsana in Brij region celebrated its unique Laddu Holi on March 03. The revelries of Laddu Holi began at Shree Radha Rani temple at around 4:30 pm and soon the whole ambience got covered in the red hue. Thousands of visitors who reached Barsana from various parts of the country as well as from abroad threw tons of Gulal on one another. Amid all the fun and frolic, tones and tones of Laddus were thrown on revellers from the temple terrace. Men, women, young and old, all were seen trying to get a hold on just one Laddu. Splashing colour in every direction, Laddus being thrown on and beats of folk music created a super charged atmosphere.  

Laddu Holi celebrations in Barsana

People trying to get Laddu during the celebrations

The Holi of Brij is not a one-day event but a series of unique celebrations that stretch for 40 days known as Faag Mahotsava. Laddu Holi of Barsana is a part of Faag Mahotsava and is organized on the Ashtami Tithi of Phalguna Shukla Paksha. Devotees from faraway places flock this ancient town to witness this extraordinary Holi festivity.  
Dance and Music
Holi celebrations are incomplete without dance and music and how can Laddu Holi miss the most vital part of Holi celebrations. Men and women clad in traditional attire sang beautiful folk songs in Brij Bhasha depicting various Krishna Leelas. They sang Rasiya, a form of folk music in Brij, accompanied with traditional percussion. The whole atmosphere got so charged up that every person present there joined in to groove on the beats of traditional Holi songs like Nandagaon Kau Padau Barsane Aayo Hori Kau Pakwan Bhar-Bhar Jhori Khayau…, Rangili Holi Chalo Shyam Se Barsane Mein Khelege…amongst many others.

The priest and folk singers clad in traditional attire singing Holi songs

Legend behind Laddu Holi
The official priest of Barsana Girdharilal Shrautriya told Drik Panchang that the tradition of playing Laddu Holi finds its significance in one the various Krishna Leelas of Dwapar Yuga. The legend goes like this –
Father of Shree Radha Rani, Vrishbhan once sent a priest to extend his invitation to Nanda Baba inviting Lord Krishna to play Holi at Barsana. After a few days, Nanda Baba sent his priest to deliver the message of his acceptance of the invitation. After hearing that Kanha would come to Barsana to play Holi, everyone, especially Gopis got so excited that they began to smear the priest with Gulal. Being caught completely off guard, the priest threw whatever that was in his hands towards the Gopis. It so happened that at the time of this incident, the priest was having sweets, thus he playfully retaliated by throwing Laddus on Gopis. Since then the tradition of playing Laddu Holi began in Barsana.     

Tuesday, March 3, 2020

The hues of Holi in Brij

The festival of colours, Holi has its own hues in the region of Brij, which comprises the city of Mathura and surrounding places like Vrindavan, Gokul, Barsana, Dauji, Mahavan and Nandagaon. The Holi festivities in Brij begin on Vasant Panchami and conclude with famous Huranga at Dauji temple on the Dwitiya Tithi of Chaitra Krishna Paksha. These 40 days from Vasant Panchami to Dauji Ka Huranga is known as Faag Mahotsava in Brij region.   

This year’s Faag Mahotsava began on January 29 and will conclude on March 11. People from around the world will flock these ancient towns of Brij to revel in the festivities of the world-famous Lathmara Holi and Laddu Holi of Barsana and Huranga at Dauji temple.

Not just these unique ways of playing the Holi, but the use of organic and dry colours also set the Holi of Brij apart from that of other parts in India. Yes, the temples in the Brij region use the organic colour made from Tesu (Palash) flowers to play the Holi with their beloved Thakurji. Additionally, huge quantities of dry colours called Gulal are procured from across the country for the festival. The Holi festivities in Brij are complemented with traditional Holi songs, called Holi Geet and Rasiya and are sung in Brij Bhasha, a regional dialect of Hindi. Songs like Aaj Biraj Mein Hori Re Rasiya, Hori Khelan Aayo Shyam, Phag Khelan Barsane Aaye Hain not just multiply the fervour of Holi but also introduce visitors with the rich ancient culture of Brij region.

With the onset of Faag Mahotsava, temples in the Brij region begin to offer Abeer-Gulal to Thakur Ji during their daily Puja and Aarti. After each Aarti, this Sewit (offered) Gulal is thrown on devotees as Prasad. Mind you, it is one the most anticipated events of the year in Brij, and thousands of Krishna Bhakts arrive in there just to have themselves smeared in the Prasadi Gulal of Thakur Ji.  During Faag Mahotsava, women folks are referred to as Huriyarin while men are called Horiyare in Brij.

Holi Events during Faag Mahotsava

March 03 – Laddu Holi in Barsana

Shree Radha Rani Temple, also known as Ladliji temple, in Barsana will host Laddu Holi on March 03. To mark the occasion, temple priests will adorn the idol of Shree Radha Rani with beautiful attire and ornaments. The official priests who are called Goswami in Brij region will sing Holi Geet in Chhanda form depicting the playfulness of Radha-Krishna during the Holi festival. In the evening around 5-6 pm, the fun of Laddu Holi will commence as the thousands of attendees jamming the temple premises waiting for the event to begin, will start throwing Besan Laddu, Boondi Laddu and Khoya Laddu on one another. Devotees are advised to take Laddu with them for the occasion.

March 04 – Lathmar Holi in Barsana

Lathmar Holi will be played on March 04 in Barsana. Prior to Lathmar Holi, people of Barsana play Rang and Gulal Holi in the morning. Men are often clad in a colourful ensemble of traditional attire which comprises headgear Pagadi, Kurta and Dhoti. Women wear Lahanga-Chunari. After playing Holi with Rang and Gulal, men and women gather to play Lathmar Holi. The celebrations start around 5 in the evening, where women beat men with sticks and men defend themselves with a shield in their hand while singing Holi Rasiya in Brij Bhasha. Lathmar literally translates into beating with sticks, as Latha means stick and Mar means to beat.  

Women beating men with wooden sticks during Lathamar Holi in Barsana

How to reach Barsana

Barsana can be reached via Mathura by train and air. Mathura is well-connected with the rest of India through rail network. Nearest International airport to Mathura is Indira Gandhi International Airport, Delhi while the nearest domestic airport to Mathura is Kheria airport in Agra. Those who want to travel by road have several options. One can reach directly to Nandagaon or Mathura and take local transport for Barsana.  

March 05 – Lathmar Holi in Nandagaon

The event of Lathmar Holi will be held in Nandagaon on March 05. Huriyarin, the local word for women folks during Holi events, from Barsana village will visit Nandagaon to play the famous Lathmar Holi with the men of Nandgaon, locally called as Horiyare. The event will be held at Nanda Baba’s Raj Bhavan and Rangili Chowk in Nandagaon. Everyone will revel in the festivities amid the beats of traditional percussion and Holi songs called Rasiya.

How to reach Nandagaon  

Nandagaon can be reached via Mathura by train and air. Those who want to travel by road will either get a direct bus to Nandagaon or can book a taxi. Another option includes reaching Mathura first and then taking local transport from Mathura for Nandagaon.

March 06 – Holi celebrations at Krishna Janmabhumi, Mathura

Amalaki Ekadashi that falls just before Holika Dahan is commonly known as Rangabhari or Rangbharani Ekadashi in Mathura. One of the major temples dedicated to Lord Krishna, Janmabhumi or Krishna Janmabhumi temple will host grand Holi celebrations on Rangbhari Ekadashi. Various cultural and religious events will be organized to mark the occasion. Mahamandleshwar of the temple will officially begin the celebrations by conducting special Puja and Aarti of Shree Radha-Krishna. Afterwards, local artists will depict Holi of Radha-Krishna through various acts that also include the famous Charkula dance of Brij. In the evening between 5 and 6, people from across Brij region will play the famous Lathmar Holi in the temple premises. Clad in traditional attire, a group of men and women from village Raval, the birthplace of Shree Radha Rani will also reach Janmabhumi temple to participate in the celebrations.   

How to reach Mathura

Mathura, being an important religious destination is well-connected via road and rail network with all the major cities of India. Those who wish to reach Mathura by air will have options like Delhi and Agra airports. Nearest International airport which is in Delhi is 147 km from Mathura while the nearest domestic airport is Agra airport which is 49 km from Mathura.

March 06 – Phulonwali Holi at Banke Bihari temple, Vrindavan

On Amalaki Ekadashi, locally known as Rangbhari Ekadashi, the world-famous temple of Shree Banke Bihari Ji will host Phulonwali Holi. Devotees from across the world will flock the ancient town of Vrindavan to play the Holi with Rang, Gulal and flower petals with Lord Krishna. After the morning rituals and Sewa at the temple, priests will smear devotees with the Prasadi Gulal of Shree Banke Bihari Ji. In the evening, after 4:30 pm, temple priests will shower flower petals and colour made from Tesu flowers from silver water guns on thousands of people gathered for festivities to start.

Phulonwali Holi at Banke Bihari Ji temple, Vrindavan 

March 07 - Widow Holi in Vrindavan

One of the ancient temples in Vrindavan, Shree Radha Gopinath temple will host Holi event for the widows of Vrindavan. It should be noted that there are thousands of widowed and abandoned women reside in the holy town of Vrindavan and lead a life of a social recluse. The event will be organized by Sulabh International Sansthan. This celebration is fast becoming popular and thousands of tourists arrive in Vrindavan just to become part of this special event. The festivities will start with the women offering flowers and Gulal to their beloved Thakur Radha Gopinath. Following this, they will play Holi by showering flower petals and splashing each other with the beautiful yellow colour made from Tesu flowers. The celebrations will also include singing and dancing on traditional Holi songs in Brij and Bengali languages.

*Widow Holi scheduled for March 07 has been cancelled in light of recent coronavirus threat. 

Local administration of Mathura will also host a Holi event for widows of Vrindavan on March 04. This is the first time when such an event will be hosted by a government body. The event Brij Rang Mahotsava will be held at Mahila Ashraya Sadan, Chaitanya Vihar in Vrindavan. The Gulal that will be used to play the Holi has been made by the women residents of the Mahila Ashraya Sadan by using the discarded flowers procured from various temples.

Widows playing Holi in Vrindavan

How to reach Vrindavan

Train travellers can reach Vrindavan via Mathura. People travelling from Delhi by road can reach Vrindavan directly through Yamuna Expressway. Those who will be travelling from Agra can reach Vrindavan via Mathura. Air travellers have two flight options, Delhi and Agra.

March 07 – Chhadimar Holi in Gokul

While Barsana and Nandagaon are famous for Lathmar Holi, the village of Gokul where Lord Krishna spent his childhood has its own flavour of Holi – Chhadimar Holi. The event will be organized at Nanda Chowk in Gokul where local men and women wearing traditional attire will play Chhadimar Holi with one another. As women will try to beat men with Chhadi (stick), men will defend themselves while singing folks songs.

How to reach Gokul

The only option to reach Gokul is via Mathura whether you are travelling by air, road or rail network.

March 09 – Holika Dahan

Like other parts of India, the event of Holika Dahan will be conducted on the Purnima of Phalguna Shukla Paksha. For Holika Dahan, the wooden pyre will be worshipped by women in the morning. The pyre then will be burnt in the evening as a symbolic burning of demoness Holika.

March 10 – Dhulandi

The day following the Holika Dahan is called Dhulandi or Rangwali Holi. On the day of Dhulandi, people will play Holi with each other at their homes, Ashram and temples across the Brij region till noon. In temples, Rangwali Holi will be played with Thakur Ji till Rajbhog Aarti.

March 11 – Dauji Ka Huranga

On the Dwitiya Tithi of Chaitra Krishna Paksha, thousands of people will flock the town of Duaji near Mathura to witness Holi festivities famously known as Dauji Ka Huranga. Local men and women bring bucket and mug from their homes to splash colours on one another. The colour made from Tesu flowers is stocked in huge quantities in gigantic tanks for the occasion. The atmosphere becomes so charged up that women tear up the shirts of men and use them to splash colour on men. During the event, thousands of people throw water and colour on the Holi players from the temple terrace. The event concludes with the Parikrama of Dauji.

Dauji ka Huranga

How to reach Dauji

The only option to reach Dauji is via Mathura whether you are travelling by air, road or rail network.