Every year, the people of Braj in Uttar Pradesh, India celebrate the festival of colors Holi in an exotic and totally unique manner. It is true that the entire country celebrates Holi, but unlike the other parts, Braj ki Holi is considered special and unique because the people believe that historically, Holi started in Braj. Braj is the homeland of Lord Krishna and Radha. According to Hindu mythology, Braj comprises regions that hold high significance in the life story of Lord Krishna. Places like Mathura (believed to be the birthplace of the God), Vrindavan (the place where Lord Krishna grew up), Nandgaon (native village of the lord), and Barsana (the village of Radha) are of special note. Also, Braj bhoomi consist of the regions like Gokul and Phalen, which also hold significance in Hindu belief. They are considered to be holy lands where Lord Krishna spent his life.
Holi at Braj starts from the first day of Amasavi in Phalgun month and then the festivities gain a thrust from the day of Ekadashi, which is the 11th day of the waxing phase of the moon in Phalguna month. The official holidays in India for the Holi festival is declared for a day or two, but Braj gets a full eight days off to run the celebration. The Holi festival is celebrated in the land of Braj bhoomi altogether for 50 days. In places like Mathura, Vrindavan, Nandgaon, Barsana, Goverdhan, Dauji and Baldev, the festival starts from the beginning of Basant Panchami. This season is known as Holika-ashtak. During this time, all other activities like weddings and family functions or sale and purchase of new properties etc. are put on hold.
The history of Braj ki Holi goes back to the time of Krishnavatara of Lord Mahavishnu. Braj is believed to be the exact place where Lord Krishna used to play with his friends, Gopis and Gopikas and grazed their cattle. It is assumed as per the myth that it is in this land Krishna first played Holi with Radha and that is how this custom of celebrating Holi started as a festivity of colors. It is the root of Holi festival. The people of Braj believe that the real festival of Holi has originated and is being practiced in the right way only in their region.
Legend Behind Braj Ki Holi
Lord Krishna lived in Vrindavan where he was brought up. The Lord used to graze the cows with his friends. Barsana was the village where Radha lived and Krishna used to visit there. The legend about this custom of Braj ki Holi goes as follows; once Lord Krishna became jealous about the fair complexion of his beautiful ladylove, Radha. So, he came to her village along with a few of his friends and started smearing the colored power named “gulaal” onto Radha and her friends. Thereafter, when the Lord and his friends refused to leave the place, they were playfully beaten up by the Gopis with bamboo sticks and made to run back home.
The people of these villages still believe that they are the progeny of Lord Krishna’s reign and hence, recognize themselves as his people. So they keep this legacy close to their lives and celebrate it to its fullest extent in order to embellish their beliefs.
What a visitor can witness during the festival season is a gamut of different colors sprang on with an air of excitement and happiness all around. The women of the local community adorn themselves as Gopika Radha, assume themselves as Lord Krishna’s girlfriends, and run to beat the men on the streets with long bamboo sticks in their hands. This is specifically called as the Lathmar Holi and it is considered to be the major highlight of the week-long festivities. The photographers who visit this place during this time is sure to get some amazing snaps of exotic colors of Lathmar holi and other charming festivals that takes place in nearby regions of Barsana and Nandgaon etc.
The men of Nandgaon and the women of Barsana usually play Lathmar Holi. They playfully throw colors on each other and run in resistance. The flare of romance and love prevail in Holi celebration as portrayed in the acts of love between Lord Krishna and Radha. In places like Mathura, Vrindavan, and Gokul, Holi festival is a two-week long celebration mostly featuring the play of different colors and singing of the folk songs called ‘Hori’. Also featuring are the different forms of dances that originated from the mythology Raas‑Lila and narration of the different aspects of the divine love between Gopika Radha and Lord Krishna.
The temple complex in Barsana is throng by hundreds of people. They believe Radha Rani invited them there and they cannot leave without taking her blessings. They even wait for hours to get the Darsana and blessings of god.
The rituals of celebrating Braj ki Holi comprises little boys dressed in traditional attire, armed with water guns in their hand and running into the crowd or into the temple in a playful yet challenging manner. The air is filled with the chanting and singing of Holi songs in Braj language. The locals of Barsana village are seen rushing on to the roof of the temple and throwing flowers soaked in water on the crowd below.
The young boys who start the celebration are from the village of Nandgaon, Lord Krishna’s native village. They run this ritual in remembrance of the legend of Lord Krishna’s arrival into Barsana to throw colors on Radha and her friends. After the Lathmar Holi is over, the celebration gets shifted to Banke Bihari temple in Vrindavan and then to Mathura Dwarkadheesh temple. It continues, till the actual day of Holi festival arrives. Again a day after the Holi, Huranga is celebrated in Dauji, and it is now the turn of men to drench their women with colors and women in resistance try to tear the men’s clothes and thrash them with the torn pieces. The pooja for Lord Krishna and the rituals run for several days and this tradition has been in existence for centuries.
Braj ki Holi Recipes
Thandai is a healthy and refreshing drink, which is traditionally associated with many Hindu festivities, especially Holi. The drink is prepared with sugar, almonds, poppy seeds, and Cardamom and watermelon seeds. This is basically used as a welcome drink by the hosts to treat their guests who visit them during Holi.
Lauki Burfi is a popular and delicious sweet in India and a favorite of all. It is made in eye-catchy colors and in different flavors during the time of Holi. The dish is prepared with grated Lauki, milk, khoya, sugar, and cardamom and adorned with food colors like green, yellow, or red. People are seen sharing the sweet with each other.
Sweet rice is prepared with Basmati rice, mild, cardamom, sugar, and ghee. Cashewnuts, grated coconut and food color is also added to make this dish tastier. During Braj ki Holi, the housewives usually prepare this dish to serve their near and dear ones who visit their home during Holi. It is a very delicious serving.
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