In 360°: Lathmar Holi Celebrations in Uttar Pradesh’s Barsana
Here’s a 360-degree view of the colourful Lathmar Holi celebrations in Uttar Pradesh’s Barsana.
Video Editor: Purnendu Pritam
(This story was first published on 6 March 2020 and has been republished in light of Holi 2021.)
Holi – the festival of colours – is celebrated with great fervour across the country. Several other festivals are marked in the run-up to Holi; one of them is Lathmar Holi.
Lathmar, a unique form of celebration, is marked in villages of Nandgaon and Barsana in Uttar Pradesh, where women beat up men using long wooden sticks called ‘lath’.
Lathmar Holi is celebrated a week before Holi.
Legend has it that Lord Krishna had visited Barsana, Radha’s birthplace, to try and woo her. He, however, was chased out by women wielding sticks. This tradition is still followed. Scores of men dressed as Kanhas visit Barsana, where they sing songs and recreate the legend. The women, then, chase them out with sticks.
While the tradition is followed in good sport, this occasion has also become a breeding ground of molestation and harassment. Over the years, several visitors have reported that they were groped and molested by locals, while they were either covering the event or participating in the celebrations.
Despite these reports, the festival continues to be celebrated with pomp and show.
Ceremonies start at the Radha Rani temple at around 9 am, with the aarti being performed. Thousands from across the country gather to offer prayers. The aarti concludes with people smearing Gulaal on each other. This marks the commencement of the day’s celebrations. The celebrations take place on the lane adjacent to the temple, and go on till 3 in the afternoon, which is when the Kanhas come to Barsana in groups to recreate the legend, marking the start of Lathmar Holi. By 4 pm, women are out on the streets, surrounding the men and beating them with sticks, while the men hold a makeshift shield to protect them.
Throughout the day, devotees throng the temple and participate in the festivities.
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