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.

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