Colors of Mathura

EM1 MarkII + 45mm f/1.2 Pro, 1/800, ISO 200, -1 EV

The most awaited festival of colors, Holi as celebrated in Braj, the birth place of Lord Krishna.

This is a travelogue of my trip and the colorful photographs are taken using Olympus gear.


The back story is that the men from Nandgaon, where Lord Krishna spent his notorious time with his friends, come to visit Barsana. As a ritual, the women of Barsana greet the men from Nandgaon with Lathis (a bamboo stick). Thus the term Lathmar Holi, which is one of the main attractions of this festival. The next day the men from Barsana visit Nandgaon. On this day, Holi is played with liquid colors made from flowers (called kesudo). It is now the turn of the women from Nandgaon to chase the men of Barsana with lathis.

A few Images of Lathmar Ritual in the streets of Barsana where the womenfolk of village get ready like a bride in traditional attire and come out with lathis. The men volunteer to play the role of the men from Nandgaon. Later when they are done with the play-acting ritual, they touch the feet of the women as a sign of respect.


Barsana

The birthplace of Radha, Barsana, is a village situated around 42 kilometers away from Mathura. Once you reach the temple, you can see devotees and visitors from all over the world celebrating and rejoicing to chants of Radha Rani ki jai. There are a lot of activities one can indulge in including dancing. Some transgenders play the role of Radhika and dance. This event is usually held inside the temple under closed roof.

These photos were taken on the walk to the main temple in Barsana. These images were taken with Olympus EM1 Mark II and Olympus M.Zuiko 45mm f/1.2 Pro Lens.

Considering that the Olympus gear we used were weather sealed, we were hardly worried about being splashed with water or dust.

Once you reach the temple, you can see devotees and visitors from all over the world celebrating and rejoicing to chants of Radha Rani ki jai. There are a lot of activities one can indulge in including dancing. Some transgenders play the role of Radhika and dance. This event is usually held inside the temple under closed roof.

The crowd is so enthralled in their dance and other activities that you might get stuck and be unable to even move out of the crowd. Be careful.  Since I was inexperienced, I waited for a long time to enter the main temple to see and photograph the final procession of the day. I was unable to find a good spot and the gates of the temple opened, I was pushed away along with the crowd. Thankfully, my gear was light and easily managed in this melee. Imagine the trouble I would have gone through if I had a heavier camera and lens.


My friend who had made his way inside the temple got some fantastic pictures from inside the temple. I made up mind not to miss the event next time. Later when one of the experienced team mate from group came out of the main function I was in shock to miss that event seeing those images. Color clouds in entire temple just the sun peaking through the windows from balcony was emitting the light into the entire temple and nothing was at visible situation and believe me when I saw his images I made up my mind that I would visit next year for not skipping this moment.


Nandgaon

Visiting Nandgaon was a mind blowing experience. As mentioned earlier, this time around the men from Barsana visit Nandgaon and the women chase them with Lathis. The Samaj (ritualistic synchronized singing by men) at the temple is a sight to see and hear.

The temple atmosphere in Nandgaon is much more dramatic than Barsana. For one, the temple has an open roof. And then you have holi being played in various sections with a lot of variety. As you enter the temple, water (colored and non) are thrown by kids and teenagers from a gallery. Once you cross the threshold, you enter the main courtyard where Holi is played. Many photographers took to the upper balcony to play safe and avoid getting their gear dirty, or worse ruined.


And in the evening when the menfolk assemble for the Samaj, colors and colored water is thrown on them along with flowers.

Here are some pictures from Nandgaon

This is the best ever experience I have had in my life. I have been visiting the place for last two years.


The first year I was afraid of ruining my camera and I have wrapped it safely. Eventually I realized that the rigid construction of the camera and lenses by Olympus is awesome. It so well built that I really do not need additional protection. The next year for I was taking pictures without the fear of water or dust.


I have tons of pictures, but I don’t want to overwhelm you with all of them. I hope this gives you an idea of how Holi is played in Barsana and Nandgaon. Holi is the most colorful festival in India. 

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