A few colleagues jokingly asked me if I was mentally all ok. Holi is at least a week away. Where the hell do you plan to click Holi, they asked? They were very sure, I would come back disappointed until I showed them all the homework I had done and glimpses of what I was heading to witness. The places under consideration to visit were Vrindavan, Mathura, Govardhan, Barsana, and Nandgaon.
The last time I crossed these places was some 3 yrs back when I was driving from Delhi to Bharatpur. There might be hardly any Indian who has not read or heard about Krishna. These names immediately took me to the stories I heard from my grandfather. I dwelled upon those stories for long. On return, I started searching for and reading all the information that was available in the public domain about these villages. This is when I realized that the famous Braj ki Holi is celebrated here. I added this festival to my wish list.
The fever of travel and photography was slowly picking up and so was my wish list of places to visit and events to witness growing. With Landscape Photography being my first love, Braj ki Holi took second priority. But then a few photographs showcasing the festival intrigued me. The vibrant colours, the traditional dresses, the intense actions, my fascination with the mythological stories of Krishna and my urge to explore different Indian cultures finally put this event on my top priority for 2019.
While trying to look for the schedule of the celebrations, I stumbled upon an interesting fact. Holi in this region is celebrated for almost 40 days and the celebrations begin from Vasant Panchami. I booked my flights to Delhi and then I reached Vrindavan in the morning. The next three days revealed some interesting facts you must know about if you decide to visit these places for Holi
There is a mad rush. There will be times when the only emotion you will have is fear of a stampede. Just go with the flow and believe your luck. The other option is DO NOT VISIT
People dance to the tunes of the loud drums and bhajans from 5am till 8pm. There is absolutely no item number played any where through the day. That was very encouraging.
Three gunny bags per person is the amount of dry colour that is thrown in the air. Anyone with Asthma or respiratory disorders and allergies should stay away from this celebration.
People are very warm and welcoming
They don’t mind them being photographed at all. They don’t ask for anything in return. Rather are eager to pose in front of the camera
You will only get vegetarian food here
The moment you say, I would like to go to Agra to see Taj Mahal, people (hotel owner to cab driver) will try and persuade you to visit Mathura, Govardhan.
Tourism is a major source of revenue, but then the locals do not understand the potential of the historical monuments, the Yamuna river and the amount of revenue they can fetch for them.
The villages still have open gutters, so be very careful when you walk through the narrow bi-lanes
If you visit during Holi, just go with the flow. Do not try and resist or argue and keep chanting Radhe Radhe 🙂
The number of photographers visiting during holi is insane. I think 30% of the total number of people out there were compulsive photographers.
The floors get wet and slippery so walk very carefully
You will get nothing to eat or drink the whole day. There are very few public toilets available and with easily a million people visiting in a span of 7 to 8 hrs the entire system collapses.
If you think ardent Indian photographers are rude and do not respect personal space, pause, look at Chinese and Korean photographers. Your respect for Indians will double.
The best events to witness are at Barsana and Nandgaon. This is called the Lathmar (Laddumar) Holi. The woman beating up the men with sticks and the men protecting themselves with shields is funny to watch. This happens after the pooja is performed at the temples. The events happen between 4 and 6 pm on consecutive days at the temple of Barsana and then Nandgaon.
Tip for photographers: There are approximately 5000 photographers who scramble, push, pull to get one image of the core event. You can be a part of that mad rush or chose to enjoy the colours and not get yourself almost killed.
Tip for organisers: Not sure if this will reach them, but then they can cordon off the core zone and make a rule to keep photographers at 10 arms distance from the core event. If this is not done, as per Darvins theory of evolution, soon you will have 5000 photographers at the centre and the event will be performed by 100 people around them.
Food Tips: If you are not used to street food, rely on fruits, packed food, bottled water.
Accommodation & Travel tips: Stay at Vrindavan and use local transport or cabs to visit other places. Group of 3 to 4 will help reduce costs significantly.