Lath Mar Holi – Festival of Colours

Holi is an Hindu celebration of the Spring and the end of the winter season on the last full moon day of the lunar month “Phalguna”, which usually falls in the later part of February or March.

One of the greatest things about this celebration is the loosening strictness of social structures, in India normally age, sex, status, and caste. Holi brings Hindus together and closes the wide gaps between social classes of this country. It is very special to see the people enjoying this festivity together, not worrying about stereotypes. the rich and poor, women and men, enjoy each other’s presence during Holi and the atmosphere is filled with excitement and joy.

The one thing that makes Holi unique is the colorful atmosphere created by thousands of joyous participants throwing colored water and powder to each other. In the northern region of Uttar Pradesh, “Lathmar Holi” is celebrated before Holi itself, and while it is a rite of spring there as well, the festival also celebrates another fun tradition  rooted in ancient Hindu mythology. Krishna visited the village of Barsana to disturb his consort Radha. As a response, the women of the town  chased him away. Today women from Barsana “beat” playfully the men from Krishna’s village of Nandgaon with sticks, called lathis,  for singing provocative songs in a bid to invite their attention. With the same purpose, men also throw colored powder on women.

The festival officially begins with a ceremony at Radha’s temple in Barsana and normally lasts for 2 days. On the first day of the festival, “gopis”, wich is the Hindu name for shepherds, from Nandgaon come to Barsana to play Holi with the gopis of Barsana.  On the second day happes exactly the opposite and the celebration takes place in the town of the Lord Krishna.

During Holi, participants drink “thandai”. This libation based on nuts and flowers is sometime intoxicating because it is laced with a paste called “bhang,” made of cannabis. Bhang and Holi have always gone together. After drinking bhang, people react in different ways, some people dance, some jump into the mud, others cry or laugh, but this kinky experience is a good way for the locals to relax and bond.

If you ever visit Uttar Pradesh during Holi, you will breathe the thick air with flower scent and your conception of India and the Hindu culture will radically change.

Holi in North-America:

Photography by Adnan Abidi – Reuters

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