Holi In Braja
Posted March 2, 2006
Just for your information, Holi in Vrindavan is celebrated for about a week before Gaura Purnima. Last year some bhaktins from came South Africa for the first time to Vrindavan during this time and ended up spending most of their time in their guesthouse room afraid to come outside. They had taken breaks from their jobs and only had so much time for their yatra. Needless to say they were a little disappointed.
Holi will start on Mar. 8th (Naumi) in Varsana, something worth experiencing once in a lifetime. But be warned, if you stick around for the grand finale, you may spend two hours getting out of the parking lot after it is over. Although colors are being thrown all day, the real festivities start in the afternoon around 3 pm when the brahmanas from Nandagram come charging into the Varsana Temple carrying the flag of Nanda-lala. After running all around the temple they sit in the courtyard, which is an ocean of colored water, facing all the brahmanas from Varsana and sing ancient Holi songs back and forth. People are throwing colored powder from all the four corners of the singing groups and there is a nice breeze on the hill of Varsana so you will see a red cloud cutting across a yellow cloud. A blue cloud cutting across a pink one. Green one cutting across red one. It all blows in the air and the scene looks like something from Goloka Vrindavan. From the balcony they are shooting big brass syringes (pichkaris) of yellow water made from a special dried flower. The singers become completely black and blue from the mixture.
Then around 4:30 pm, the brahmanas from Nandagram go downstairs with big turbans on their heads and carrying brightly colored rhinocerous-skin shields. There in the street below, Rangili Gulli, the brahmanis of Varsana are waiting for them with big thick long bamboo poles. The Nandagram brahmanas hurl insults at the girls and squat down with their shields over their turbans and 4-5 brightly dressed girls wack them with all their might with their dandas. This is the famous Latmar Holi of Varsana.
Then next day Mar 9th (dasami) the same thing happens in Nandagram with all the Varsana brahmanas coming with turbans and shields and Radharani's flag. But somehow there are more Nandagram brahmanis than Varsana brahmanas, so you will see 6-7 of these girls letting these guys really have it! And the difference is that is after it is over in Nandagram, you can easily get in your car and drive away. There is not so much rush, but you essential can experience the same thing that happened the previous day in Varsana.
From the Ekadasi, Holi starts in Vrindavan, so watch out. Wherever you go, you will be pelted with color and water. Except surprisingly, the main festival is at Banke Bihari Ekadasi morning up till noon, where they only throw dry colors and it is quite nicely done. There is no targetting of a particular gender or color, but everyone is throwing color in the air and shouting, "Banke Bihari Lala Ki Jaya!! I was very surprised how pleasantly it was done. Outside on the streets coming and going, though, there is a bit of hooliganism with targetting of a particular gender and especially color.
This goes on until sundown every day and after dark it is safe to go to different temples for darshan or to Loi Bazaar for shopping.
This all goes on up till the Purnima, with everyone being fair game. Purnima is the heaviest day. And then suddenly at noon on Purnima it all stops. There is actually a law that it must stop at noon. And believe it or not, it is practically the only law strictly followed in all of India. By 1 PM it is all over. Everyone comes to 4:30 darshan with brand new white cloth or else the marvelously colored cloth they wore all week and there is no more color throwing!
In a few small villages around, they have their own day for Holi even after this also. Like in Gokula, they celebrate on the Pancami after Gaura Purnima (20th March). But most places it is all over.
So if you want to join in the fun, please be informed. Or if you want to avoid, you have now been duly warned.
In service of Sri Sri Krishna Balaram,
Deena Bandhu dasa