Lathmar Holi, which literally translates to mean a festival of sticks and colours, is celebrated in the towns of Barsana and Nandgaon, near the Mathura (in Uttar Pradesh), before the festival of Holi (usually in February or March).
These towns are associated with the legend of Lord Krishna and the festival is said to have begun when Krishna visited Barsana, Radha’s village on one occasion. He had playfully teased Radha and her friends – and the women, in turn, chased him away by brandishing lathis or sticks.
In line with this story, the men from Nandgoan visit the Radha temple in Barsana, only to be chased away by the women of Barsana, who beat them with sticks. The men try to shield themselves from the attack. Those who are ‘captured’ by the women are made to wear women’s clothes and make-up and perform a dance for their female captors. The next day, the women of Barsana visit Nandgoan, where the men take their ‘revenge’ by drenching the women with coloured powder and water. Songs regaling the games of Krishna and Radha are commonly sung, and the festivities last a full week