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Old 19th March 2022, 02:40   #1
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Default A Holi for All : Barsana & Nandgaon (a.k.a. 'Braj ki Holi')

A Holi for All : Barsana & Nandgaon (a.k.a. 'Braj ki Holi')-img_9761.jpg

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Happy Holi everyone!

I have been nervous about doing this travelogue for the sheer intensity of it all packed in a 2-day trip. It is intimidating to try and put all of those colours in a few words in black & white here. Nonetheless, this travel story deserves to be recorded - no matter how limited it would be compared to the actual experience. I will try to speak as less as possible and let the photos do the talking.

So, especially this being the month when we celebrate International Women’s Day, as well as today being Holi, I am going to bring to you a flavour of the diversity & inclusion that I eye-witnessed at Mathura’s Holi.

First things first
  1. Where we went: Barsana (the birthplace of Radha) & Nandagaon (the birthplace of Krishna)
  2. When we went: March 2020, about a week before Holi, and about 2 weeks before 23 March when India went into lockdown
  3. The group: Led by Rajiv Solanki (an ace professional photographer and a friend I have known for a decade now), we were a group of 2 women and 11 men or so!
  4. The team also had folks from Olympus who was marketing their new waterproof, mirrorless gear and we were allowed to try out the gear along with Rajiv

A quick run through the schedule of the two days (4th-5th March)

Day 1 (4th March 2020)
  1. 6 am - Assembled at Nehru Enclave Metro (Magenta Line), New Delhi
  2. Brief session and start to Direct Barsana (at Main Temple , where rituals happens)
  3. Stopped en route for a brief breakfast
  4. Around 11 am reached Barsana
  5. By noon we were in the streets of Barsana
  6. Main program of the day - Lathmaar
  7. By 5PM we assembled again at the spot of parking
  8. Stayed the night at Hotel Wingston, Goverdhan

Day 2 (5th March 2020)
  1. Breakfast by 9 AM
  2. Headed towards Nandgaon
  3. Enroute we got our cameras ready
  4. Spent the day in the Nandgaon temple
  5. Main function in the evening called Samaj
  6. Got into the streets again for a finale of the lathmaar
  7. Packup and back (and passed out on the shoulder of my roommate)

Gear and protective gear for the gear
  1. Recommended was a DSLR Camera with zoom lens (variable focal length), an 18-70mm focal length lens on a full-frame body. I had my Canon 60D with a kit lens of 18-135mm and a wide Sigma 10-20mm (that I did not get to change to!).
  2. If possible, carry a battery grip and a larger capacity (fast) memory card because during the shoot it is impossible to change batteries or cards on the go.
  3. Plastic rain cover for the camera/lens which I picked up from Amazon
  4. A bag with a bottle of water, few plastic sheets, a few pieces of cloth for camera cleaning, a blower.
  5. Traveler's instinct

Clothing
  • I was in my gym pants as they were quick-drying, and had a face cover (that came off from the colour-attack in no time)!
  • In Nandgaon I had donned some local attire and that was fun. I think loose-fitting clothes are much better and draw a lot less attention (ladies, call me names now for saying that, but thank me later!)
  • Slippers or crocs are a must that can be taken off and slipped back into bags, as when it is needed to be taken off in temple premises
  • No valuables (there are highly professional pickpockets as we were told).
  • Carry change of clothes for the evening
  • This was before COVID really broke out, so we were not so cautious about masks or public contact or those sanitisers. Not that they would have helped today either!

A Holi for All : Barsana & Nandgaon (a.k.a. 'Braj ki Holi')-87574275_10156606546626557_1631946147796877312_n.jpg

Last edited by DogNDamsel12 : 19th March 2022 at 12:46.
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Old 19th March 2022, 03:13   #2
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Default Re: A Holi for All : Barsana & Nandgaon (a.k.a. 'Braj ki Holi')

THE REAL EXPERIENCE - LET MY CLOTHES TESTIFY

There is adoration for women amongst those who know you as if you are the daughter of the house. Strangers, however, do target women a lot more. If you are a woman and right in the middle of the action and about to take a shot, be sure that a spray of colours is going to hit you right in the eyes blinding you completely and no offence can be taken to that as “bura na mano holi hai.” But they didn’t try to touch us.

In a crowd of people, I was more guarded, but that’s perhaps true for anywhere in India. I stayed close to one or the other of the male companions, and I was okay.

A glimpse of what we went in as, and what became of us, with me sleeping in the last one!

N.B - most of these photos were taken by group members.

The group, with T-shirts and sling carry bags courtesy, Go-Pro.

I did not know anyone in this group barring Rajiv prior to travelling with them, but that's what travelling together does ... makes fantastic friends out of total strangers!

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In the traveller on the way to Nandgaon -
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At the hotel for a team meal -
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"My eyes, my eyes! Not the eyes please!..damn you"
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Pretty much drenched in the first hour itself, standing with Rajiv. Notice that his camera doesn't have a rain cover. And to our wit's end these cameras were rinsed with water at the end of the two days -

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ZZZzzzzzz.... That's me, blatantly, listlessly dosed off on my roommate's shoulders on the way back. Picture (un)courtesy - Rajiv Solanki!

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Last edited by DogNDamsel12 : 19th March 2022 at 12:08.
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Old 19th March 2022, 03:34   #3
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Default Re: A Holi for All : Barsana & Nandgaon (a.k.a. 'Braj ki Holi')

BARSANA GOT TO ME AND HOW!

We climbed up to the temple through the streets and reached the main hall where offerings of colours was going on to the main deity. There was a crowd, but nothing compared to what I was in for soon!

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At 2:30, they drove the crowd out through one of the exists, and said that the festival would restart once the temple reopens at 4. I thought there was sufficient time to get out and then get back all the way. But soon crowds began to be pushed out onto the inclined stairway that exits the temple and I had a million people push down on me in what felt like short of a stampede. I found a very small escape corner and clung onto the siderails like my life depended on it, as the crowd kept oozing out next to me onto each other. Heebeegeebees!
The picture is taken right before that, harmless as it looks

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The tradition is that the men come in from Nandgaon (land of Krishna) to tease the women of Barsana (land of Radha) and the women ward them off with a whack of the “lath” (heavy staffs that can give you some serious injuries by the way!)

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The bullying and teasing was all a friendly match filled with innuendos. And it was not just the men but the women were equally competitive in bullying. When those staffs fell the crowd was all helter skelter. And there were loud peals of laughter amongst the crowd. This played out infront of household after household of Barsana.

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I found it impossible in this commotion to find my way back to the temple, and I found it impossible to shoot much of the action, as at 5 feet the world mostly towers over me. One of the guys from the gang kept me company. Each time we tried to go back into the crowd it was so exhausting, that we gave up and came back to one of the lassi shops and washed down a couple of glasses!

By the end of it all, I was exhausted to the hilt! It was raining and we had to scuttle a mile back through fields and slush to the main road and then took a rickshaw back to where our Traveller was parked.

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Old 19th March 2022, 03:57   #4
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Default Re: A Holi for All : Barsana & Nandgaon (a.k.a. 'Braj ki Holi')

NANDGAON IS A HUB FOR FUN AND FAITH

As soon as I entered the streets of Nandgaon, I was attacked with colours from all directions. My photographer friends (or fiends) did not come to my aid. They were rather standing around grinning and taking photographs of the moment!

We ascended up to the temple through the narrow lanes of the town. Today was more under control, as it was neither as crowded nor closed in nor aggressive as Barsana had been. I was much less with my male friends today.

Ladies, it is best to be watchful! My humble recommendation is not to engage in conversation with strangers because that can quickly take a certain unsolicited direction.

I was already exhausted with how much colour was on me - paint and powder. But the fun was infectious!

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Old 19th March 2022, 04:17   #5
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Default Re: A Holi for All : Barsana & Nandgaon (a.k.a. 'Braj ki Holi')

SAMAAJ AT NANDGAON

At Nandgaon, it is time for the menfolk from Barsana to come in and take over the main temple. There is a chant of "Radhe Radhe" everywhere.

There is gathering and negotiation and colours. There are people praying to the temple, and there are sadhus resplendent with colours and flowing beards dancing in their own glory!

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The Frolic and Frenzy

Nandgaon has a vantage point from the balcony that looks onto the open courtyard, as you will see from the pictures, from where people watched all the celebrations. But it was more fun downstairs, so I stayed put and enjoyed all the action. Here was an entire world in motion, in colors, vivacious and dancing to the tune of love that has transcended through aeons!

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The Sadhus at the Temple

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Old 19th March 2022, 04:41   #6
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Default Re: A Holi for All : Barsana & Nandgaon (a.k.a. 'Braj ki Holi')

The moment of truth - gender diversity in practice!

Talking of love. Crossing over some shallow sniggers, what I realised is that Holi in Radha Krishna’s land is an open, candid, boundless expression of love and connection emancipated from genders. While I was cautioned that Mathura Holi was not safe to venture for women, what I found out was that our culture has been deeply cognizant of amory between same genders, transgenders, and of course of the opposite genders.

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The LGBTQ rules the roost here. They danced to the crowd, showing off their moves to a cheering crowd who participated with equal fervour.

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Found a gay couple in Barsana who had just been married - one of the grooms coyly declared so, and then went on to display his mehendi'd hands.

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Personally, I believe in acceptance of all genders and all forms of relationships - to each his or her own.

But to see that this degree of gender inclusiveness exists right in the ancestral fabric of our culture, and that we still do not understand this yet fully or truly accept same-sex relationships, was quite… surprising!

And boy, they danced!
They danced, swayed, grooved, and spun around ecstatically like there is no tomorrow. The drum rolls, the clapping, and the literal rolling on the floor were infectious!


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Last edited by DogNDamsel12 : 19th March 2022 at 11:47.
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Old 19th March 2022, 04:53   #7
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Default Re: A Holi for All : Barsana & Nandgaon (a.k.a. 'Braj ki Holi')

A final note

This Holi was 2 years ago, before COVID caught us all unaware, and cut us off from each other.

Two years gone, the streets of Barsana and Nandgaon, its lovely people with their warmth and a queer sense of humour, keep calling me back to a mad world where people mingled fearlessly, extended a hug, and celebrated love with colours and cheers!

The Nandgaon temple from a distance -
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Dance till you drop, on the streets and everywhere -

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A little Krishna in everyone -

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A Radha's lathmaar for any misbehaviour -
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Guardians of a benevolent religion, a faith that doesn't discriminate, a universal love that can never be criminalized, no matter what your gender or belief!

A Holi for All : Barsana & Nandgaon (a.k.a. 'Braj ki Holi')-img_9786.jpg

HAPPPPPY HOLI!

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Old 19th March 2022, 18:39   #8
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Default Re: A Holi for All : Barsana & Nandgaon (a.k.a. 'Braj ki Holi')

Mod note: Thread moved to Travelogues. Thanks for sharing.
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Old 19th March 2022, 19:40   #9
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Default Re: A Holi for All : Barsana & Nandgaon (a.k.a. 'Braj ki Holi')

What a colorful travelogue! Each and every frame has been artistically composed. The write-up beautifully portrays the whole story. Rated 5*.

The first time I saw pictures from Barsana & Nandgaon was from a photography club (Kolkata photographers club aka KPC) in Kolkata.
I was spellbound to see the colors and the way it's celebrated.
Hats off to all the photographers who dare to click pics in this mad rush. I will never dare to enter here, taking out my DSLR and clicking is out of question!
It always feels good to see travelogues on such places which I may not venture in my life, but I can virtually travel by reading such stuffs!

Last edited by Samba : 19th March 2022 at 20:10.
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Old 20th March 2022, 00:36   #10
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Default Re: A Holi for All : Barsana & Nandgaon (a.k.a. 'Braj ki Holi')

This seems to have been an experience of a lifetime and your rich, vibrant photos made me feel I was right there!

Very pleasantly surprised about the openness regarding the LGBT communities and acceptance of same gender love. Our country is incredible India for a reason.

Great travelogue and thoroughly enjoyed reading it. Thanks for sharing!
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Old 20th March 2022, 01:41   #11
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Default Re: A Holi for All : Barsana & Nandgaon (a.k.a. 'Braj ki Holi')

Thanks for sharing this with us S! The rush, the noise, the cacophony..... It's all so alive in your prose and pictures! Thank you!
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Old 20th March 2022, 06:50   #12
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Default Re: A Holi for All : Barsana & Nandgaon (a.k.a. 'Braj ki Holi')

Wow. Beautiful, vibrant pictures.

Have heard a lot about Barsane ki Holi. But this is my first hand experience. Thanks for sharing.
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Old 20th March 2022, 09:29   #13
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Default Re: A Holi for All : Barsana & Nandgaon (a.k.a. 'Braj ki Holi')

Wow! Looks so lively! I’d love to be there sometime!
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Old 20th March 2022, 18:31   #14
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Default Re: A Holi for All : Barsana & Nandgaon (a.k.a. 'Braj ki Holi')

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Originally Posted by Samba View Post
What a colorful travelogue! Each and every frame has been artistically composed. The write-up beautifully portrays the whole story. Rated 5*.

The first time I saw pictures from Barsana & Nandgaon was from a photography club (Kolkata photographers club aka KPC) in Kolkata.
Glad you liked it and thanks for the pains to rate it. Yes, KPC was the first time I saw some photos of Barsana and Nandgaon too. And usually this stuff goes into my list of things. I was spellbound with the event as well and in hindsight perhaps festivals as this are what puts India on the world tourism and culture map all the time!

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Originally Posted by Neversaygbye View Post
Very pleasantly surprised about the openness regarding the LGBT communities and acceptance of same gender love. Our country is incredible India for a reason.
Yes indeed incredible India is for a reason. Only if we learned from it and nurtured the diversity instead of being divided on the basis of differences!

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Originally Posted by digitalnirvana View Post
Thanks for sharing this with us S! The rush, the noise, the cacophony..... It's all so alive in your prose and pictures! Thank you!
I am so glad that it came out well. Like I mentioned I was nervous about this travelogue for sure

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Originally Posted by BoneCollector View Post
Wow. Beautiful, vibrant pictures.

Have heard a lot about Barsane ki Holi. But this is my first hand experience. Thanks for sharing.
Strongly recommend visiting this once. In fact I looked up Team BHP and was surprised to see no prior post of Barsane ki Holi. This is a photographer's pilgrim too! I hope people post more of their images and experiences. I am sure I am not the first BHPian or the first woman photographer from this forum who would have gone there.

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Originally Posted by pandey.jai View Post
Wow! Looks so lively! I’d love to be there sometime!
Absolutely recommend it! And do feel free to let me know if you decide to visit, will be able to help with local connects. Cheers!
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Old 21st March 2022, 10:00   #15
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Default Re: A Holi for All : Barsana & Nandgaon (a.k.a. 'Braj ki Holi')

Absolutely Amazing! So many lovely and colorful pictures.
Our country never stops surprising me. I never knew Holi is celebrated in such an amazing manner so close to Delhi/NCR and I have been living here for the last 18 years but I know now
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