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Lathmar Holi (Hindi: लट्ठमार होली, IAST: laṭṭhamār holi, IPA: laʈʰmɑːr hoːliː) is a local celebration of the Hindu festival of Holi. It takes place days before the actual Holi in the neighbouring towns of Barsana and Nandgaon near Mathura in the state of Uttar Pradesh, where thousands of Hindus and tourists congregate, each year. The name means "that Holi in which [people] hit with sticks" (laṭh is a thick traditional staff).
Legend has it that Lord Krishna 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. Keeping in sync with the story, 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.
In the sprawling compound of the Radha Rani temple in Barsana, which is said to be the only temple in the country that is dedicated to Radha. Thousands gather to witness the Lathmar holi when women beat up men with sticks (laṭh or lāṭhī) 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 Lathmar Holi, gops (shepherds) from Nandgaon come to Barsana to play Holi with the gopis (shepherdesses) 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 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.
The next day, it is the turn of men of Barsana. They reciprocate by invading Nandgaon and drench the womenfolk of Nandgaon in colours of kesudo, and palash. This day, women of Nadagow beat the invaders from Barsana. 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 "lathis" to beat men folk who protect themselves with shields.
During intervals, participants sip 'thandai', a cold drink that is sometime intoxicating because it is laced with a paste called bhang, made of cannabis. 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 women of Barsana start preparing a month in advance. The mothers-in-law 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.
- "What is Lathmar Holi? Why is it celebrated?". India Today. 21 March 2016. Retrieved 6 December 2017.
- "Lathmar Holi 2014: 12 Stunning Photos That'll Transport You To India For When It Is Spring". Huffington Post, Canada. 13 March 2013. Retrieved 31 July 2014.
- "नंदगांव में लट्ठमार होली की उमंग". Aaj Tak, Dharma. 15 March 2011. Retrieved 31 July 2014.