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My Experience of Holi at Barsana and Nandgaon

Updated: Feb 23


Nandgaon and Barsana are two villages in Mathura; the birthplaces of Krishna and Radha respectively.

Holi of Barsana and Nandgaon is very famous and a multiple-day phenomenon. As per the folklore, Lord Krishna from Nandgaon village desired to play Holi with Radha of Barsana. So, he went to her village to play Holi.


After reaching there, he and his friends (Gwalas) began teasing Radha and her friends (Gopiyas). Radha and the Gopiyas then took 'laths' or sticks and began chasing those Gwalas out of the village. All this happened in jest and fun of Holi, and thus is called Lathmar Holi.

So after listening to the praises of these events, I was very enthusiastic about witnessing the Holi of those places. I wanted to experience it first hand and click pictures that depict the joy of that place.


However, I was constantly listening to stuff like unsafe for girls, not suitable for girls, risky for females’ etcetera, etcetera even before reaching there.


"Ladkiyon ke liye bahut risky jagah hai" was the only suggestion I was met with. Keeping this suggestion in mind, I decided to visit this festival with a group of friends for my safety. I was excited, scared, and expected to get some decent shots of this festival.

I had prepared for the festival mentally as well as physically. I was in a group of male friends, dressed in three layers of outfit (full-sleeved kurtas, mask, and a thick jacket) to avoid unnecessary groping and teasing. I had also kept my bag on my front. It wasn't a war preparation, yet it felt like one. Everything I did was somehow necessary for my own safety at such a crowded place. The shoot for the festival lasted for three days, and all three of these days were filled with different kinds of experiences for me. Trust me, you will be baffled after listening about the happenings.

So, let's dive into the festival without further ado.



Day 1 – Laddu Maar Holi in Barsana


Our festive experience began at the Radha Rani Temple, Barsana. All around us the chanting of 'Radhe, Radhe' was creating a lively thunder of thousands of voices. The surrounding was filled with so much energy and vibrance that everyone felt connected and excited to capture the moments and lose themselves in them. The expressions, the emotions, the fervor with which the people participated, all of it made me feel giddy with excitement and super focused on each passing moment. I wanted to capture it all, every second of it was filled with so much vibrancy that I didn't want to miss even a single shot. the adrenaline pumping was so high that I was super conscious and clicking away at my camera without stopping.


But before you get too lost in the chanting’s and surroundings, be careful about the crowd around you. The place is usually super crowded with people from all over the world gathered for relishing this unique event. The crowd makes teasing and commenting common, especially when they witness a girl.


While shooting inside the Radha Rani temple, the guys purposely threw a lot of water and color towards our eyes and cameras. All the camera people were targeted, especially our eyes and the camera. I went back towards the edge and away from the crowd to protect my gear. Still, they continued to target my eyes and cameras until I didn't leave the place completely. The aftermath of this attack was color inside my lenses and swollen eyes due to continuous irritation by colors.


Despite this being an international event, the crowd becomes so chaotic that it is difficult to manage the miscreants from eve-teasing and commenting. I will recommend you remain with your group and not stray too far away while shooting.


Day 2 - Lathmar Holi in Barsana


Lathmar Holi is the specialty of Barsana. It is a special kind of Holi related to Radha and Krishna's Holi playing. It is believed that Krishna and his friends used to go to Barsana to play Holi with several Gopiyas. While playing they began teasing them, so Radha and other Gopis used 'laathi' or sticks to chase them away. Lathmar Holi is based on this.


This was a fascinating moment for me. I had always wanted to witness this cultural event which I cannot attend elsewhere in India. However, the experience of Lathmar Holi was not that great for me. I had to face a scary situation amidst all the happenings. I will share one of the incidents that happened there while shooting.


So, what happens in Lathmar Holi is that Nandgaon guys (the Gwalas of Krishna) come to house doors where girls are waiting with the 'lath' or the sticks for them. When the guys arrive, they start singing songs which has some abusive words in it too.

So, while all this was happening,

I was standing at the door of one of the houses. I was unaware of this tradition and suddenly some of these boys started coming towards me and tried to touch my legs and started singing. I was terrified and then I panicked. I ran inside the house without losing any moment. I requested the family to help me by letting me stay there. They helped me and closed the door.It was unexpected and super scary. After a while, my nerves calmed down, and I came out of the house. There I found the people from my group. I joined them quickly and tried not to stray away from them while shooting.


Overall, my personal experience of Lathmar Holi was not that great. Despite that, I got some magnificent shots. After this incident, I strayed to a corner and tried to cover the event from places where there were lots of women. Being surrounded by women, I covered this part of my event. There were a lot of capturing moments but not all of them were safe for a female photographer. It is a great event without a doubt, but it is not safe for a solo female traveler to be clicking pictures. I would recommend you travel in a group of 7 to 8 people for your safety: the more, the merrier.



Day 3 - Main Water and Color Holi at Nandgaon


After arriving at Nandgaon, you need to walk for about a mile to reach the temple where the main event occurs. While you walk to reach the temple, people all around you throw water balloons, spray colored water from pichkaris, water guns at the travelers. It is supposed to be a fun walk of dousing the crowd in the colored water and getting drowned in the joy of Holi. Another incident happened to me here.




I was walking with my group and clicking pictures. There were a lot of local guys ready with pichkaris and water balloons filled with colored water. The guys around the area seemed to have their aims targeted at any woman that crossed that path. Even though I was surrounded by my friends (all of them male), I was the only one who was thoroughly drenched in colored water due to water balloons and pichkari attacks. To my utter surprise, they targeted the female at specific place with their water pichkaris and water balloons instead of other men around me.


Even after all this, we continued to head towards the temple. To get those good Holi shots, you need to be amidst the crowd on the ground so that you can observe and click properly. In that crowd too, the boys start groping the females around them, making everyone around them uncomfortable. Despite reaching the venue, I had to stay back beside the police officers for my own safety. I managed to go out and click 3 to 4 shots, but for rest of the day, I sat back with the police officers due to all that harassment.


And this, my friend, was how the three days in Barsana and Nandgaon went like.



My thoughts on the three-day event



To sum it up, I would say that my first Holi experience in Barsana and Nandgaon was a mixture of equal part excitement and nightmare. Even though the best part of a journey is the journey itself, the best part for me was the result that came out of all this. The photos I clicked there were satisfactory, and I was thrilled after watching them turn out so good after facing such adverse conditions. The smile those photographs bring upon my face somehow reduced the fear and harassment I experienced there. Despite the odds stacked against me, I love the fact that I conquered it all and brought out such good results. I am proud of myself, and this self-appreciation is a must-have trait for every individual in every aspect of their life every day.


We appreciate a photograph and compliment a photographer, but rarely do we know the challenges of a photographer. The challenges are not limited to just finding the right angle or the perfect shot. They go beyond the frame-finding work, and the hardships seem to increase if the photographer is a woman.


Eve teasing, pointing fingers, harassing comments, groping, and much more, despite being surrounded by male friends, and yet people fail to understand the need for women's safety and security. Saying that I really want to thank my group for always having my back, keeping an eye on me, and saving me from those harassers. However, the trip was not filled with only bad moments; there were many good memories. All the good things pushed my passion for photography.


Safety First :)



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9 commentaires


Very nice article with exceptionally beautiful pics. Interesting aspects are depiction of varies styles of Holi in a single city of Mathura.

J'aime

Yes, ma'am. I'm from Mathura and have been playing Holi in Barsana. It's not safe for women, as a lot of boys actually come to do shameful activities in the name of Holi and behind the crowd. I would only recommend that girls either visit the temple during the off-season only. It's really shameful; a lot of girls don't return home happily I have seen crying face.

J'aime

U are amazing photographer rosh...♥️Hats off to your struggle for bringing out the best contents for us....Thank U ❣️🖤

J'aime

Hats off to you and the accompany u had..u have taken life risks to capture and share to the world the beauty of this festival and tradition..as well really shame on the people who make it a worst experience and create a unsafe environment for all ladies to come n enjoy these moments..if these continues there will less tourist to these places and they will suffer too ...worst part they are not respecting the word woman who they idolise as their mother sister daughter..i wont say wife..as i doubt how they will letting their wives having any freedom...roshani once again hats off to you and take care..lots of well

J'aime

Mam veer yatra (red festival) in all photos click by you and you're team plz post them..🙏🏻🚩🚩 #veeryatrafestival2022💝

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