While India waits eagerly for the annual spring festival of colours, Holi, the festivities begin in Uttar Pradesh almost a week ahead of Holi with the celebration of Lathmar Holi – Holi with sticks (Lath) and colours.
Lathmar Holi is primarily celebrated in the towns of Nandgaon, in Mathura and Barsana, the town which is of historical significance being the place of birth of Radha, the divine companion and love of Sri Krishna. The festival, which lasts for a week, is celebrated to commemorate an incident associated with the life and times of Sri Krishna and Radha.
The legend goes like this – Sri Krishna and his friends, the gopalas, travelled from Nandgaon to Barsana because Sri Krishna wished to meet Radha. There, Sri Krishna’s friends teased the gopis, who zestfully chased them away with sticks (laths). To recreate this event, every year, men from Nandgaon visit Barsana only to be beaten with sticks by the women there, but all this is done zestfully and not to physically or otherwise hurt anyone. The men try to cover themselves and escape being beaten by sticks. But if they are ‘unlucky’ enough to get caught by the womenfolk, they are made to dress as women and sing and dance. The festival nonetheless, is a much-awaited fun-filled event full of colours, singing, dancing and the usual holi goodies to munch along with the delicious drink of thandai, without which Holi is incomplete. The festivities take place in the Radha Rani temple at Barsana, the only temple dedicated to Radha. The festival is also celebrated in parts of Haryana.
This incident of zestful and fun-filled ‘fights’ between the two sexes narrates the true spirit of Holi, the festival of friendship and camaraderie, signified by the splashing of colours on each other, to draw each other closer and not to hurt. This again is reminiscent of the camaraderie that exists between friends of both sexes that we witness during our student lives as well as later.
The festival of Lathmar Holi is an apt answer to those hardened liberals who associate Holi with vulgarity and an opportunity for men to violate women. If such incidents, unfortunately, do occur, then it is needless to say that the problem is with the perverted mentality of the individuals indulging in such acts and not with the festival of Holi, which signifies the spirit of friendship alone, as has been enunciated above. There is also an inherent tendency amongst the ‘intellectually enlightened’ liberals to associate everything negative with Hindu festivals. Such narratives of theirs need to be busted at the best of opportunities.