Much as the story of Bhakt Prahlad and Holika is famously associated with the festival of Holi, the fun-filled next day of ‘dhuleti’ holds its origin to the transcendental pastimes of Lord Krishna with Radha Rani and Gopis of Braj Bhumi (a cluster of places- Vrindavan, Nandgaon, Barsana and Mathura in Uttar Pradesh).
Folklore goes that Lord Krishna one day complains to his mother Yashoda about him being of dark complexion. He asks his mother why Radha Rani has fair complexion.
Yashoda on observing sadness on her beloved child’s face playfully suggests Lord Krishna to smear color on Radha Rani’s face and change her complexion to any color he wants. Fascinated by the idea, Lord Krishna proceeds to do so.
Lord Krishna not just smears color on the face of Radha Rani but also plays this lovable prank with other Gopis using water jets called ‘Pichkari‘. And this way this small and beautiful incidence dramatized by Lord Krishna and Radha Rani left an impact in hearts of thousands of Braj-vasis.
Till this date, use of colors and pichkari is rampant on Holi.
This joyful festival is celebrated with much pomp and gaiety in Braj Bhumi and attracts tourists from across the world. The festivities take place in temples of Uttar Pradesh and locals observe the festival with great devotion and enthusiasm.
Every place has its unique style of celebration, like in Mathura – Bhang is crushed and mixed with milk. Similarly, Barsana and Nandgaon have collaborative tradition named as Lathmaar Holi; wherein, men are dressed in colorful clothes, women of Barsana playfully beat laathi to men coming from the neighboring village, Nandgaon, while the men try to protect themselves with the shield.
Also, in the Barsana temples, ladoos and flowers are put in plastic bags and thrown at each other. In Vrindavan at Banke Bihari temple, priests sprinkle blessed color and watercolor made from Kesuda flower on the devotees as a kind of prasad.
Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, many restrictions will be applied for everyone’s safety and people encouraged to celebrate Holi at home this year. Most of the Holi events from the temples of Vrindavan and Mathura are expected to be live-streamed online for devotees.
Traditionally the festivities begin a week ahead in Uttar Pradesh . The entire festival is called “Braj Ki Holi.”
In some states of India, there is also a tradition to place the idols of Radha and Krishna in a decorated palanquin, which is then carried along the main streets of the city. All this while, devotees chant Krishna’s name, sing devotional hymns and dance in the name of the lord.