Braj ki Holi!- Guide to attaining a colorful Nirvana!

The festival of color and joy is so much more in the land of Krishna! Holi at the auspicious “Braj Bhoomi” is outright divine and mesmerizing! Holi is essentially a festival of colors celebrated in different parts of India and here in Vrindavan, Uttar Pradesh, it hits a different level of enthusiasm!

Inside Banke Bihari Temple when the devotees play Phoolon ki Holi with the lord!

My 10 day long experience partaking the Braj ki Holi has moved me and I found a different side to myself. Chaos has never felt so peaceful!

Here’s a detailed guide to the ones who are planning to attend the Braj ki Holi 2020! You can ping me or comment here in case you need more information about stay, travel, event etc. (I will soon upload a “Things to do in and around Vrindavan” and “My personal experience with a list of Do’s and Don’ts at Braj ki Holi”, so that you can plan your days accordingly)

That positive vibe engulfs entire Braj bhoomi and everyone feels the divine blessings!

4th March 2020(Day 1)- Lathmaar Holi at Barsana-

Barsana is considered the village of Radha and this village celebrates the colorful festival in an exorbitant and peculiar style! Women get dressed in the best of their clothes and the men chase them and tease them, the women in return hit them with lath (stick)! This style of celebration dates back to ages ago, It is believed that Lord Krishna with his friends would come down to barsana to play Holi with Radha and her sakhis, they teased the girls which offended them and the girls in return hit them with lath (sticks) to chase them away. Thus it got coined as Lath-maar holi!

Devotees have come from places near and far to play Holi with Krishna!

Today, it is rather celebrated as an event with a spirit of fun and carrying a quirky tradition forward. It is organized at the Radha temple at Barsana.

Pro tip- You must reach there a few hours before the event begins to get a place to be able to witness this affair.

A woman hitting the man with a lath while the man protects himself with a rubber shield!

5th March 2020 (Day 2)- Lathmaar Holi and Samaaj at Nandgaon

Nandgaon is a few minutes ahead of Barsana and gets all colored up during Holi. Nandgaon sees an elaborate celebration of color today at the Nandji temple. Reach there in the morning to witness troupes of bhakts and enthusiasts as they turn the entire gorgeous temple in a riot of colors while singing holi folk songs and dancing their hearts out! Post this; you can witness a more organized version of lathmar Holi in the Nandgaon village ground.

Holi at the Nandgaon Temple after Samaaj!

Request any local around the ground to let you watch the Lathmaar holi from their balcony or terrace and enjoy the same with a glass of fresh lassi.

Pro tip- Stay well covered and prepared for the Nandgaon temple Holi. It’s going to get wild!

Lathmaar Holi at Nandgaon!
A group of college kids visited to Vrindavan to witness the grandeur of Holi celebrations!

6th Match 2109 (Day 3)- Phoolon ki Holi and Savari

It takes place on the Ekadashi before Holi and the entire Vrindavan town is flooded with pilgrims. The festivity at the Baanke Bihari temple of Vrindavan also kickstarts today and it truly is a sight to behold. The roads are blocked and one ways are created in many areas for the pilgrim crowd who come for the pheri/yatra. Also, you may pay a visit to any other temple like the Radha Govind temple in the morning, followed by Nidhivan Gardens and then join the Savaari. Savaari is like a procession with a “jhaanki” of carts well decorated and people dressed as Radha Krishna, and they move across the small lanes of the town throwing color at people. You must join them for a while and take part in all the folk dancing and fun.

faith has no language! Met this blind baba reading out the Bhagvad Geeta in Braille! Extremely humble and a gem of a person!

The Phoolon ki Holi is a very short event which takes place for only 20 minutes. The priests throw colorful fragrant flowers on the devotees instead of colors and the entire temple is filled with the beautiful aroma of sweet smelling flowers. The gates of the Baanke Bihari temple open at 4 PM and it’s advisable you reach there by 3 and stand in the queue.

Savari emerging out of a colorful smoke!

Pro tip- If you want to carry your camera, prebook your entry on the 1st floor of the Banke Bihari temple during the event by paying 1000 bucks (bargain-able) in the morning. Avoid taking your camera in the maddening crowd if you enter at 4 through the main entrance as it’s going to be extremely stuffy!

The madenning crowd during Phoolon ki Holi celebration inside Banke Bihari celebration!
Radha- Krishna Savari playing coloring away every being on the streets of Vrindavan!

7th March 2020 (Day 4)- Widow Holi

I wasn’t very well aware of this event’s happening, so I missed it, but I urge you to make it a point a visit the Pagal Baba Ashram where the widow’s Holi takes place! It’s truly remarkable, as Vrindavan is home to many widows who have been abandoned by their society and haven’t even gotten a chance to wear colors, let alone play holi! The idea in itself is very uplifting and moving, and attending this beautiful event would definitely be soul stirring.

However, I had gone to Agra on the same day and booked myself a slot for the full moon Taj visit the next day.

Widows as they forget all the pain and celebrate this festival of colors with Krishna!
The Pujaris in the temple play the Geeli wali Holi with the devotees! They are filling their Pichkaris with a shot of organic flower color!

8th March 2020 (Day 5)- Agra Full moon Taj/Local

Agra is less than 2 hours away from Vrindavan. It is almost full moon on the night before Holi and since you have come so far, you might as well visit the mighty Taj Mahal in its full glory at night. It’s a breathtaking experience to witness the exorbitant symbol of love shine bright in the light of the gorgeous moon. You can either choose to visit Taj today or the day after Holi.

A man dressed as Krishna blessing the people on the streets on the Holi day!

You can also choose to enjoy the other festivities in and around Vrindavan today.

I will share more details on how to explore Agra in 2 days in my next post.

The beautiful and fresh smelling color is made by boiling a yellow colored flower known as “Tesu” which is seasonal and blooms during Holi only.

9th March 2020 (Day 6)- Holi Procession and Holika Dahan at Mathura

Wake up for a gorgeous sunrise at Kesari ghat, Vrindavan and just roam around the streets for a Holi feel. You might visit the Radha Vallabh and other temples at Vrindavan where Holi is celebrated. Leave for Mathura in the afternoon and find a place where you can join the procession. The procession starts at Vishram ghat generally at around 2 PM. Around 20-25 odd vehicles are beautifully decorated with “jhaanki” of mythological characters and they take a round of the old Mathura town with a number of people playing Holi with everyone else on the street!

Morning at Kesari Ghat!

The shops are closed and the Procession begins with loud music and fun with a mix of folk, local and bollywood songs. Resisting your temptation to join the lot is of no use as this madness must be experienced once in life. Be ready to get drenched, colored, out of breath cause all the dancing and maybe even a little teased (verbally) by people around.

The crazily colorful Savari/procession at Mathura

Head to the Vishram Ghat after the procession to witness the extravagant Yamuna Aarti of Mathura, post which you can go to Holi gate to witness a cultural program and Holika Dahan (burning of effigy of Holika). Find a local who can guide you and share interesting stories related to Holika Dahan.

Witnessing the beautiful Jamuna Aarti at Vishram Ghat!

We were invited by our Ashram owner to attend the Holika Dahan at the Gurukul (Gaudiya Ashram) behind it. It was a low key but an extremely fulfilling experience.

Pro Tip- Keep yourself, your camera and gears well packed before the procession. You can expect crazy madness!

Local Raas performances at Mathura in the evening!
Burning the effigy at our guest house where the kids danced around the fire and made merry!

10th March 2020 (Day 7)- Holi at Mathura Dwaarkadheesh temple

On the main Holi day, make sure you wake up early and head to Vishram Ghat and catch priests live as they make Bhaang by the river Yamuna. Try some bhaang (maybe a glass or lesser) and get prepared for a crazy yet divine riot of colors. The Dwarkadheesh temple gates open at 10 AM and it’s extremely crowded with a lot of women folk as well, unlike the other events. Everyone is playing Holi with anyone who even dares to come to the roads. There will be a lot of water color splashing and gulaal in the air. The atmosphere gets all vibrant and gorgeous as you dance to the tunes of the Dhols played by the priests inside the temple.

This old man asked me to click him as I was sitting at the Vishram Ghat! Just look at his intensity and the mysterious rings he is wearing!

Pro tip- Since everyone is busy playing Holi, it’s pretty difficult finding food joints open. The advice would be to store up your lunch or just save some “puri-sabzi” from your breakfast to eat at lunch. Treat yourself to some more bhaang and go off to sleep after a crazy week of events!

Met the famous Instagram Traveler Jonnathan Kubben at Mathura Holi
You can’t come to UP for Holi and not have Bhaang!

11th March 2020 (Day 8)- Dau ji ka Hurunga

This one’s an extremely fun and lesser known event which takes place at the dau ji temple around 30 KMs from Vrindavan. Dating back to over 500 years, this event was started by the family who built the Krishna temple here. Today, over 3000 families participate in this outrageous celebration and people come down from across the world. The women tear the clothes of the men and beat them with the same on the tunes of bollywood and folk music. Later, it gets all colorful and is open to the general public to come and join in the fun. The entire temple compound turns wild with colors and this is definitely an event you can’t afford to miss as a part of Braj ki Holi celebration.

Pro Tip- I almost lost my phone to the crowd, please be careful with your belongings when here.

Crazy pool of colors

12th  March 2020 (Day 9)- Radha Kund Hurunga

Although officially the Holi trip would end here and many would leave today, you might want to extend your trip to visit amazing beautiful places around without which your Vrindavan trip doesn’t stand completed. It is a weekend after all! Go on a Braj bhoomi exploration today as you bid adieu to an experience of lifetime! Take a Govardhan parikrama(in a hired vehicle), visit the mesmerizing Kusum Sarovar and a number of local temples around. Post this, move to Radha Kund by late afternoon and book your stay at the local dharamshala/guest house here! Visit the beautiful twin Ponds (Kunds) and stay there at night to attend the typical local Holi Hurunga festival.

The serene and peaceful Radha Kund! There is another Kund attached to it named Shyam Kund. It is believed Radha and Krishna made these Kunds when they were kids.

Pro tip- Avoid coming back to Vrindavan at night as the strech from Radha Kund to Vrindavan isn’t safe at night, so it is advisable to either return before sunset or stay back at night and indulge in local folk traditions!

The beautiful Kusum Sarovar!

13th  March 2020 (Day 10)- Local places sight seeing-

If you still have a day left , you can visit Raman Reti, Gokul and other temples of Mathura if you haven’t visited the already during the festivities.

You may also go on a day trip to Bharatpur Bird sanctuary and Deeg. Deeg is a beautiful town almost an hour away from Vrindavan and is mostly ignored by the regular tourists. Find some self time by the Deeg palace and click those glorious shots at the Bhartpur bird sanctuary!

It would definitely be a tough goodbye after 10 days of extraordinary zeal for life! You will develop a love-hate feeling for this area and the people! While you will be appalled at how wild things can turn and find yourself a little unsafe at times, you would be mesmerized by the divine feel and the crazy fun atmosphere! A little closer to attaining Nirvana, Braj ki Holi will leave you with bitter sweet memories forever!

Vrindavan will leave you colored and tainted for life! Tainted with beautiful memories!

Handy Tips-

  1. I am a solo traveler and I would request my fellow female solo travelers to avoid going here alone! You might like a company, you may join any group through Facebook or find some other solo partners for this Event. I understand you’re bold an amazing, yet it’s better safe than sorry!
  2. Street Food is bliss! Don’t look out for fancy restaurants, street foods are generally hygienic and drool worthy. You can both save money and enjoy the local taste. You must try the “Malai Milk” you get in the lanes of Banke Bihari temple.
  3.  You are going to be splashed with water and color, dress accordingly (carry old clothes, you don’t mind discarding) and keep a dry pack for belongings like Phone, cash, camera etc.
  4. Cover your hair with funky Pagdis, wigs etc as people generally don’t remove them to color your hair. Also avoid lenses and use sunglasses to protect your eyes.
  5.  Dress modest. Wear kurtis or loose pants and Tshirts to avoid getting eve teased and molested. Yes, you might get teased and molested in the crowd and can’t help it, that’s the reason I strictly advise to not go solo!
  6. Explore! You will have enough time before and after the events each day. Vrindavan and Mathura have a lot to explore. Amazing history, beautiful temples, lovely ghats, great food etc. Just wear comfortable shoes, ask a local to help you and go on a mission to explore the local!
  7. Carry water. You may or may not find water everywhere but it is extremely important. Not just to drink but also to wash face/eyes if hit by color!
  8. Enjoy local folk songs and traditions, dance on the beats of dhol and sing the tunes of “Aaj Braj mein Hori re rasiya” with the ones who do!

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