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Lath mar Holi

Lath mar Holi

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'Lath mar Holi takes place well before the actual Holi
Holi
Holi , is a religious spring festival celebrated by Hindus. Holi is also known as festival of Colours. It is primarily observed in India, Nepal, Pakistan, and countries with large Indic diaspora populations following Hinduism, such as Suriname, Malaysia, Guyana, South Africa, Trinidad, United...

 celebration. It takes place at Barsana
Barsana
Barsana or Varsana is a town and a nagar panchayat in the Mathura district of the state of Uttar Pradesh, India.-History:...

 near Mathura in the state of Uttar Pradesh
Uttar Pradesh
Uttar Pradesh abbreviation U.P. , is a state located in the northern part of India. With a population of over 200 million people, it is India's most populous state, as well as the world's most populous sub-national entity...

. People flock to the suburban town of Barsana
Barsana
Barsana or Varsana is a town and a nagar panchayat in the Mathura district of the state of Uttar Pradesh, India.-History:...

 near Mathura to see Lath Mar Holi, a special form of traditional festivity.

Legend has it that Lord Krishna
Krishna
Krishna is a central figure of Hinduism and is traditionally attributed the authorship of the Bhagavad Gita. He is the supreme Being and considered in some monotheistic traditions as an Avatar of Vishnu...

 visited his beloved Radha's village on this day and playfully teased her and her friends. Taking offence at this, the women of Barsana chased him away. Since then, men from Krishna's village, Nandgaon, visit Barsana to play Holi in the town which has the distinction of having the only temple dedicated to Radha in India.

In the sprawling compound of the Radha Rani temple in Barsana, thousands gather to witness the Lath Mar holi when women beat up men with sticks as those on the sidelines become hysterical, sing Holi Songs and shout Sri Radhey or Sri Krishna. The Holi songs of Braj mandal are sung in pure Braj Bhasha.

On the first day of Lath Mar Holi gops ( shepherds ) from Nandgaon
Nandgaon
Nandgaon may refer to:* Nandgaon Khandeshwar, town and a tehsil in Amravati subdivision, Maharashtra, India* Nandgaon, Maharashtra, a town in Nashik district of Maharashtra, India...

 come to Barsana to play Holi with the gopis of Barsana. The festival begins with a ceremony at the Radha Rani temple. After this ceremony gops then march out of the temple on the Rang Rangeeli Gali
Gali
Gali may refer to:* Gali , a town in Abkhazia, Georgia* Gali District, Abkhazia* Gali Municipality, Autonomous Republic of Abkhazia* Gali District, Georgia* Toa Gali, a hero in Lego's Bionicle storyline...

 where they stop to play holi with the gopis, who stand in groups along the street. The second day gops from Barsana go to Nandgaon to play holi with gopis at Nandgaon.

Holi played at Barsana is unique in the sense that here women chase men away with sticks. Males also sing provocative songs in a bid to invite the attention of women. Women then go on the offensive and use long staves called "lathi
Lathi
Lathi means stick and also refers to an Indian martial art based on cane-fighting. The word is used in Hindi, Bengali and various other Indian languages. The lathi typically measures 6 to and may be tipped with metal. It commonly used as a crowd control device by the Indian Police and other South...

s" to beat men folk who protect themselves with shields.

During intervals, participants sip 'thandai
Thandai
Thandai is a cold drink prepared with a mixture of almonds, fennel seeds, magaztari seeds , rose petals, pepper, vetiver seeds, cardamom, saffron, milk and sugar. Could be easily found in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Pakistan - mostly in Peshawar. It is native to India and is often associated with the Holi...

', a cold drink that is sometime intoxicating because it is laced with a paste called bhang
Bhang
Bhang is a preparation from the leaves and flowers of the female cannabis plant, smoked or consumed as a beverage in the Indian subcontinent.- India:...

, made of cannabis
Cannabis
Cannabis is a genus of flowering plants that includes three putative species, Cannabis sativa, Cannabis indica, and Cannabis ruderalis. These three taxa are indigenous to Central Asia, and South Asia. Cannabis has long been used for fibre , for seed and seed oils, for medicinal purposes, and as a...

. Bhang and Holi go together. After drinking bhang, people react in different ways, some crave for sweets, others cry or laugh. It is an ecstatic experience, which is heightened by the revelry. It is a great way to de-stress and bond.

The air is thick with the scent of flowers and perfume. Rose petals and coloured powder rained on the pilgrims as they visited the deity sitting on his throne of flowers.

The women of Barsana start preparing a month in advance. 'The mother-in-laws feed their daughters-in-law rich food so that they show off their prowess on the Holi battle zone. It is a show of love, fun and equality, one that even the gods descend to witness.

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