Five…Six…Pick up sticks (and some coloured powders)

Please know that the violence at Lathmar Holi is all sanctioned by tradition, and is all a bit of fun, really. 

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Holi is a muck up festival like no other. The order of the day is, quite literally, pandemonium. Anything goes, even a bit of assault and battery — meted out, mind you, by the chicks, on (not) unsuspecting blokes. 

Yup, the women rain sticks on men’s heads. The poor victims cower in fear as they protect themselves with shields, and the entire village watches. 

Before you move on from this page in horror, please know that the violence is all sanctioned by tradition, and is all a bit of fun, really. 

So, this is Lathmar Holi, (‘Lath’ meaning stick, and ‘maar’ meaning beat), a unique form of Holi that has been celebrated in Barsana and Nandgaon villages in Uttar Pradesh, for centuries. 

Legend has it that Lord Krishna (a Nandgaon resident), visited his love interest Radha (a Barsana resident) for a bit of Holi play. As he smeared her in colour, her girl gang ( ‘gopis‘ or milkmaids) came out in protection brandishing their sticks, and drove poor Krishna out of town. Lathmar Holi is an annual recreation of this episode. Men from Nandgaon visit Barsana, and the lathi-bearing women beat them and chase them out. 

They don’t just beat them black and blue… but every other hue! 

Our question is, can we bring Lathmar Holi to Australia — a mela near us, perhaps? 

While we wait, here are some pics from Barsana this year, courtesy news photographer Pallav Paliwal. 

Bracing for bruise…
Beating around the bush
Hue and cry
Lathmar Holi
Assault and battery
Lathmar Holi
Crushing on Krishna
Whack up plan
Lathmar Holi
It’s raining sticks!
Lathmar Holi
Flogged and flustered…
Lathmar Holi
Avengers endgame?

Surely, this violence is (Holi)er than thou!

Read More: AHIA Holi celebration 2023

Torsha Sen
Torsha Sen
A seasoned journalist who observes passage of time and uses tenses that contain simple past, continuous present, and a future perfect to weave stories.

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