Holi is around the corner and people in India must have started planning their trips. But when it comes to the most unique ones, my first thought is celebrating Holi in Mathura. The most popular festivity in the area is Lathmar Holi, which is played in Mathura and Vrindavan.

Unlike Holi in the other parts of the country, the Holi celebrations of Mathura and Vrindavan are globally acclaimed, and travellers from different parts of the world come to celebrate the various aspects of this festival of colours!

Barsana, India - February 28, 2015: Villagers of barsana celebrating holi festival full of water colours with foreign tourists at village barsana, Uttar Pradesh, India.
Barsana, India: Villagers celebrating Holi, the festival of colours with foreign tourists.

What’s So Special About Holi in Mathura?

Mentioned below are a few reasons why Holi in Mathura is so remarkable!

  • Mathura is the birthplace of the Hindu deity, Lord Krishna.
  • Holi in Mathura is celebrated traditionally, with lots of enthusiasm, like there is no tomorrow.
  • It is also especially special here because it is said to have been the favourite festival of Lord Krishna.
  • And finally, it’s all because of the fun and madness that playing in Mathura has, which no other place in India is like.

If you plan to go then you must also witness it all at the beautiful ghats of Mathura!

Is There Any Particular Theme For Lathmar Holi?

In this event, the crowd plays Holi with sticks and shields. The women playfully beat men with sticks and the men try to shield themselves.

The Story Behind Lathmar Holi

The story comes from Indian mythology where once upon a time, Krishna complained to his mother about his dark complexion. He also asked her why Radha (the head of the milkmaids) was so fair, and he was not. His mother told him to go and smear colours on Radha so that her complexion would not be not visible.

Taking this advice Krishna starts from Nandagaon and goes to Barsana, where Radha stayed with other Gopis (cowherds or milkmaids) and colours them all.

After this, all the Gopis (including Radha) get angry at Krishna and retaliate. And so we get the festival where all the women beat men with sticks.

Any guides on how to plan and celebrate?

So, if you are planning to visit Mathura and Vrindavan, here are some quick pointers in advance, from the types of events that occur during Holi to the exact dates and venues of happenings. Also, learn about the prayers at the festival and what is so special about it all!

For starters, if you are coming all the way to India to celebrate Holi in Mathura, we recommended that you come as early as possible to visit some of the big events before the main day. To ease your travel, I have included the biggest events of the festival.

However, there are more Holi celebrations which are not included.

Lathmar Holi at Barsana (15th March) and Nandagaon (16th March)

Lathmar Holi is an interesting part of the Holi Festival where Man from the nearby village are being beated by the Woman of Barsana as a part of the Traditional Mythology of Hindu culture.
Lathmar Holi is an interesting part of the Holi Festival where Men from the nearby village are beaten by the woman

As previously mentioned, according to Hindu mythology, Krishna visited Barsana to meet Radha and the Gopis for Holi. As suggested by his mother, he put colour on her and her friends. The offended ladies decided to teach Krishna a lesson and beat him with sticks.

Since then, men from Krishna’s village of Nandgaon visit Barsana and get beaten up and chased by the women here. It’s a massive event and attracts thousands of tourists who come to enjoy the festival of beatings.

When and Where?

  • Dates: 15th-16th March 2019 
  • This event takes place about seven days before Holi. If you are in Delhi, you can quickly hire a cab, go to the event and come back in the evening. If not, you can first reach Delhi and then grab a cab. (Barsana is about 115 kilometres from Delhi).

However, before starting from Delhi you can try these famous street foods in the city.

Phoolon Vali Holi

Phoolon vali Holi OR The Flowers Holi.
Phoolon vali Holi OR The Flowers Holi.

On the day of Ekadashi just before Holi, the Banke Bihari temple at Vrindavan witnesses a unique Holi which is celebrated with flowers; hence the name Phoolon wali Holi (Flower Holi).

When and Where?

  • Dates: 17th March  2019
  • The gates of the temple open by 4 pm and Flower Holi starts right after that.
  • However, unlike other Holi festivities, this is an affair of just 15-20 minutes, during which flowers are thrown at the devotees by the priests of the temple.
  • It happens at the Banke Bihari temple in Vrindavan

Widow’s Holi, Vrindavan

Vrindavan, Uttar Pradesh, India - Vrindavan in four-day Holi celebrations that began on February 24th.. Woman dancing on the tunes of Radhe Radhe during Holi celebrations in Vrindavan
Vrindavan’s four-day Holi celebrations. Woman dancing on the tunes of Radhe Radhe during Holi celebrations in Vrindavan

Widows in early India were deprived of a lot of things and often faced isolation. They wore only colourless clothes and never played Holi. Now, a few years ago the widows of the Pagal Baba Widow Ashram, Vrindavan broke this convention and celebrated the festival with colours.

When and Where?

  • Dates: 18th March 2019
  • The event takes place a few days before Holi in the Gopinath temple Vrindavan around noon.

Holi at Banke Bihari Temple, Vrindavan

Revelers throw colored powder and spray each other with water at Banke Bihari Temple in Vrindavan, northern India. Banke Bihari is famous for its extravagant multi-day Holi celebrations, attracting thousands of pilgrims and spectators from the rest of the country.
Revellers throw coloured powder and spray each other with water at Banke Bihari Temple in Vrindavan, northern India.

The event starts just a day before the main Holi festival. The temple priests open up its doors to all the visitors and tourists to come and play Holi with the idol of Lord Krishna himself.

When and Where?

  • Dates: 20th March 2019
  • Happens at Bake Bihari temple. The temple doors open by 9 am and shuts down by 1.30 pm.

Holi Procession in Mathura

Holi In Barsana Mathura.
Holi In Mathura.

After the festivities in the temple finish, 3 pm is a good time to go to Vishram Ghat at Mathura. Everyone plays with everyone else and it’s impossible to resist. Get covered in colours first and chances are that you will be left to enjoy (or take photographs) by yourself after that.

Evening Event: Holika Dahan

There is a beautiful story behind this event. Once upon a time, there was a boy name Prahlad who was a devotee of Lord Vishnu (of whom Krishna is said to be an Avatar). But his father King Hiranyakashipu was against Vishnu. So he tried to kill his son multiple times and constantly failed. One day the King’s sister Holika said that she would wear a blanket and take the boy into the fire so that he would be killed while she was spared.

But as soon as Holika sat down in a fire with the boy, she was killed and with the grace of Lord Narasimha (another avatar of Vishnu), Prahlad was saved again.

This event is depicted as the triumph of good over evil!

image of firework during holika festival
Fire during Holika festival

Hence people burn the effigy of Holika on this day. The biggest such effigy is burnt at the Holi Gate and there are many cultural programs as well.

When and Where?

  • Dates: 20th March, Mathura
  • A day before Holi; 2 pm to 6 pm

Holi Festivities in Mathura

People praying and celebrating Holi near the Mathura temple.
People praying and celebrating Holi near the Mathura temple.

The big Holi festival takes place at the historical Dwarkadheesh Temple in Mathura. It is recommended to start your day at 7 am.

The ensures that you can reach the Vishram Ghat and catch the priests making bhang (an edible liquid preparation of cannabis). The gates of the temple open at 10 am, by which time there will already a big group of visitors outside the gates.

The atmosphere inside the temple grounds is usually vibrant and colourful. The scale of Holi is smaller than many other venues, and the place is much friendlier. The priests play the drums and you can even join the dancing. Many women also play Holi inside the temple itself.

When and Where?

  • Dates: 21st March
  • On the Holi day 10 pm to 1:30 pm

Is There Anything Else Post-Holi?

Surprisingly, yes!

On the day after Holi, there are festivities at the Dauji Temple which is located about 30 km outside Mathura.

Women from the family that had originally established the temple, come out to strip the men and playfully beat them up near the courtyard of the temple.

When and Where?

  • Dates: 22nd March
  • Daoji Temple, Baldeo, 30 km from Mathura (If you are in Mathura, take a cab or an auto-rickshaw to the village).

Some Basic Tips For Holi in Mathura

  • Holi can often get quite crazy, so be prepared to be drenched in colours, water etc.
  • Carry good protection for your camera and other electronic items.
  • Wear simple clothes and carry something to change into and relax once you come back to your hotel.
  • Be prepared for some unexpected things like your clothes being torn.
  • Women, please be extra careful during Holi here and be wary of mild harassment
  • Wear a cap, to save your hair and apply oil on skin and scalp to save yourself from chemicals. (To know more about protecting your skin, do read about taking care of your skin while you travel.)
  • And finally, do celebrate, dance, and have a glass of bhang; don’t just be a cameraman. 😉

Holi in Mathura is best enjoyed by not just being a tourist, but by forgetting everything and mixing with its various colours of culture, food and festivity.

So now, if you think you are participating in this Holi adventure, don’t miss the Holi celebrations in Udaipur.

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