How is Holi celebrated in Vrindavan?

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Holi gatherings in the holy city of Vrindavan, like in Mathura and Benares, are attended by thousands of people from the interior of the country and cultural explorers from all over. The celebration at Braj Bhumi is not limited to a single day but is marked by multiple events spread over a week.

Photo: Times Now Digital

HIGHLIGHTS

  • Phoolon Wali Holi is a style of celebration that originated in Vrindavan and exclusively involves playing with flowers.
  • The city’s widows gather and smear each other’s faces in color for a special celebration that symbolizes the departure from tradition.
  • During Dhulandi, revelers traditionally play with gulal but celebrations have come to include water guns and devotional music.

Festivals, celebrations and special occasions abound in India, but holi is a former popular Festival which has come to represent the traditions of Hindu heritage.

Popularly known as the “Festival of colorsHoli finds its earliest references dating back to the 4th century AD. Although there are many stories about the origins of the holiday, the ritual of playing with colors is based on the legend of Krishna.

A young Krishna was embarrassed by the blue color of his face while his love, Radha, was fair-skinned. When he asked his adoptive mother, Yashoda, why his face had a dark complexion, she suggested that Krishna paint Radha’s face so that the dichotomy was irrelevant.

According to legends, Krishna was born in Mathura and raised in Vrindavan, both cities are in today’s Uttar Pradesh. He went to Radha’s birthplace barsan and so, as is believed, began the tradition of coloring your loved ones.

Braj is a region of Uttar Pradesh that is home to all these towns and is considered the origin of this tradition.

Holi in Vrindavan

Holi gatherings in Vrindavan, like in Mathura and Benares, are attended by thousands of people from the interior of the country and cultural explorers from all over. The celebration at Braj Bhumi is not limited to a single day but is marked by multiple events spread over a week.

Phoolon wali Holi

Phoolon wali Holi is a unique celebration originated and unique to Vrindavan which falls on the Ekadashi before Holi. The whole town takes part in this one-day party that consists exclusively of playing with flowers. Krishna’s idol Banke Bihari temple is dressed in white colored clothes, as is customary, and brought together with devotees who are covered with flower petals in a ritual that also involves Goswamis or the priests.

Devotees dance and celebrate inside Banke Bihari Temple as flower petals rain down on it Image courtesy Ashit Desai
Devotees dance and celebrate inside Banke Bihari Temple as flower petals rain down on them | Image Courtesy: Ashit Desai

Widows Holi

This unique celebration symbolizes the renunciation of old traditions. Widows have historically been ostracized by society and banished to ashrams. The convention prohibited them from seeking any pleasure in life, but primarily love or friendship and vanity.

Today, the widows of the Pagal Baba Ashram gather in a spirit of defiance and mark the celebrations by donning colorful clothes and participating in one of the most spectacular events in Vrindavan.

Women slathered in color powder dance and throw flower petals Image courtesy Anindito MukherjeeReuters
Women brushed with colored powder dance and throw flower petals | Image courtesy: Anindito Mukherjee/Reuters

The colors have significant symbolism as Indian widows were only allowed to wear white, which was considered colorless.

Dhulandi

Dhulandi, or the Holi of Colors, is the style of celebration that transcends all regional, national and cultural boundaries and is hugely popular within and beyond the boundaries of Brij Bhumi. Different parts of India have embraced the festival regardless of culture and faith.

A priest sprays colored water on the revelers with a huge water gun Stock Image iStock
A priest sprays colored water on revelers with a huge water gun | Image: iStock

The revelers traditionally defile gulal in each other’s faces and throw it around. The celebration has come to include water mixed with color that is splashed on everyone and devotional music or Bhajans set the tone for the festivities.

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