All of us in India must have celebrated Holi – the very joyful, energetic festival of colour. Holi – Popularly known as “Phagwah” in Assam, “Dol jatra” in West Bengal and “Fagu” in Nepal, the festival is celebrated with different names and traditions across India. What literally translates to a festival of sticks and colours–Lathmar Holi lives up to every bit of its name.
But what if I tell you that there is a village in Mathura district, Barsana where people play Holi with wooden sticks? Yes, this village near Vrindavan is the birthplace of our dear Radha Rani and lies just beside Nand Gaon, our Kanha’s village. Here, men from Nand Gaon come to play Holi with the girls of Barsana and hope of raising their flag over Shri Radhikaji’s temple. But, instead of colours, they are greeted with sticks by the gopis, the womenfolk of Barsana village. Hence, the Holi get its new name here Lathmar Holi. As the name suggests, “Lath” – Stick, “Mar” – To hit, this is Holi played by hitting sticks.
The Mythological Story
The festival is said to be a recreation of a famous Hindu legend, according to which, Lord Krishna (who hailed from the Nandgaon village) visited his beloved Radha’s town, Barsana. If the legend is to be believed, Krishna teased Radha and her friends, who in turn responded by taking offence at his advances and driving him out of Barsana.
Keeping in sync with the legend, the men from Nandgaon visit the town of Barsana every year, only to be greeted by sticks (aka lathis) of the women there. The ladies hurl sticks at the men, who try to shield themselves as much as they can.
The unlucky ones are captured by the enthusiastic women who then, make the men wear female clothing and dance in public. The festivities take place at the sprawling campus of the Radha Rani temple in Barsana, which is said to be the only temple in the country that is dedicated to Radha.
The Lathmar Holi festivities last for over a week, where the participants dance, sing and immerse themselves in colour alongside the occasional consumption of thandai–a traditional drink synonymous with the festival of Holi.