Updated: May 6, 2020
India is a unique country that not only offers us a range of gorgeous landscapes but also a plethora of festivals and celebrations to use as backdrops for our stories - whether we tell it in words or through pictures. Holi, the festival of colours is one such magnificent opportunity. Holi is a photographer’s dream festival! The riot of colours, the happy faces, the fun vibe, music and dance in the air - capturing this vibrance on camera is definitely on any photographer’s bucket list. And capturing all this at the quintessential Holi towns of Mathura-Vrindavan, is like ticking off the top box in the ultimate wish-list.
With the onset of spring, northern India dives into the festive mood of Holi. This festival is also a celebration of good harvests and land fertility. The festival symbolises the eternal love of Radha and Krishna as well. Hence, it is celebrated for an entire week in a grand fashion in Mathura and Vrindavan.
Before we get into the must-dos and things to look forward to during Holi, let me tell you a little bit about this vibrant town and its mythological significance. Located in the western part of Uttar Pradesh, Mathura is a maze of never-ending lanes teeming with people and colourful bazaars. The city is known for its beautiful temples, most of them dedicated to Lord Krishna, the city’s presiding deity and its first citizen.
How to get here?
Airways: Nearest International Airport is I.G.I.A. (Indira Gandhi International Airport) at a distance of 178 KM. Kheria Airport in Agra is at a distance of 62 KM from Mathura. Chartered flights operate from there only in daytime.
Railways: Visitors can book their seat to Mathura railway junction, located 1 km away from the city. The trains run linked to Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, Lucknow, and Varanasi.
Roadways: Mathura is well connected by buses to major cities like Agra, Delhi, Lucknow, and Varanasi. Buses are available from any of the major cities to directly arrive at Mathura.
Photography gear to carry:
Travel light and don't carry a lot of gears. You will not be able to change the lenses once you are on the spot. A long range zoom lens (18-105mm or 24-140mm) which has a good wide end as well as a long tele range along with a rain cover and a polariser will get you best of the shots, while still protecting your camera.
You can also carry an action camera (GoPro, Osmo Action etc.) to get amazing photos and videos while being a part of the celebrations yourself.
For drones, make sure you have registered your drone and have the required permission for the same.
Things to do in Mathura-Vrindavan during Holi:
Mathura Holi Procession
If you are attending Holi in Mathura-Vrindavan, you cannot miss this procession; it starts at VishramGhat and ends at Holi Gate. Decorated vehicles with kids dressed as Radha and Krishna are paraded across the city. The procession is at its peak around 3 PM. Be prepared to be drenched in water and colours.
Many places around here celebrate a special kind of Holi called the Lathmar Holi. It is believed that when Lord Krishna was young, he once went to his mother, Yashoda Maa, and complained about him being dusky while Radha being fair. Yashoda Maa advised him to apply colour on Radha and the other gopis and make everyone's complexion the same.
When he did that, Radha and the other gopis playfully started beating up Lord Krishna with their lathis. That’s how the tradition of Lathmar Holi started.
The custom of playing Holi with flowers is a specialty of Vrindavan. Along with traditional colours, colourful flower petals are also showered during the celebration and it is a sight to behold.
Traditionally, widows in North India are not allowed to play with colours. Lathmar at Pagal Baba Widow Ashram in Vrindavan defies the convention that widows in India are not allowed to wear colorful clothes or play with colours and brings colour and joy on this auspicious day.
In Brijmandal, Holika Dahan is observed by priests crossing a holy fire in the village of Phalen in Kosi, Mathura. Apart from that, effigies denoting all evils are also burned in the Holi Ghat.
Rang Panchami marks the end of the Holi festival. It is celebrated in a grand way in the temples of Braj Mandal.
This is just a teaser to what awaits you if you decide to go to Mathura-Vrindavan for Holi and get a taste of the authentic and much talked about celebrations. Apart from the above popular events, you can always take a few extra days and explore the land of Krishna. Stroll through the many villages and their busy bylanes, gulp down glass or two of thandai and experience the chaos and soulfulness of these towns.
Holi 2020: Mark Your Calendars!
1.Barsana Holi : 3 March 2020, Tuesday : Barsana Laddu Holi in Sri ji Temple
2. Barsana Holi ( Main ) : 4 March 2020, Wednesday : Barsana Lathmar Holi ( Main Holi Barsana )
3. Nandgaon Holi : 5 March 2020, Thursday : Lathmar Holi in Nand Bhawan
4. Mathura Vrindavan Holi : 6 March 2020, Friday : Rangbharni Ekadashi Bankey Bihari Temple Holi