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Lathmar Holi: When women charge men with sticks and make them wear girl's clothes

Two villages in Uttar Pradesh play Holi in style.

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Lathmar Holi is celebrated in the towns of Barsana and Nandgaon in Uttar Pradesh, just 115 km from New Delhi. Women hit men with lathis or wooden sticks as part of the festival.

According to the legend, Lord Krishna (who hailed from the Nandgaon village) used to visit Radha’s town, Barsana, during the festival of Holi. Krishna teased Radha and her friends by rubbing colour on their faces. In response, he was playfully chased away from the village by Radha and her friends.

More from IBTimes India: Holi 2017: Vastu tips to keep in mind while playing with colours this festive occasion

Following the tradition, men from Nandgaon village still visit Barsana and women wait for them with lathis or sticks to beat them. Men are only allowed to daub colour on women. They even make men wear female clothes and dance in public.

The celebrations take place in the Radha Rani temple compound in Barsana village, which is said to be the only Indian temple dedicated to Radha. Holi is celebrated for more than a week here. Residents of Barsana and Nandgaon are keeping the tradition alive by celebrating Lathmar Holi year after year.

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Holi Hai!

Holi is the festival of color, joy, and the bringing of the spring season. The colors of Holi also bring along the spirit of joy, naughtiness, passion and enthusiasm of Sri Lord Krishna. 

Young Krishna was very playful and mischievous. The story goes that as a child, Krishna was both curious and jealous of Radha’s fair complexion since he himself was very dark. One day, Krishna asked his mother Yashoda why Radha was so fair and he so dark. Yashoda told little Sri Krishna that skin color means nothing; in fact, go and color Radha’s face in whichever shade you want! In a mischievous mood, naughty Krishna heeded the advice of mother Yashoda and applied color right on his beloved Radha’s face; making her one like himself. This erupted into a play-fight with colors all over the village. 

The bright powders of Holi diminish all the discrimination of caste and creed in society. Anyone and everyone is fair game, friend or stranger, rich or poor, black or white, man or woman, children and elders. Through Radha and Krishna’s loving union, we are taught playfulness, acceptance and light spirit. So, break out your pichkaris, water balloons and stashes of powders and let spring begin!

George Harrison at the Apple launch party for the Radha Krsna Temple’s “Hare Krishna Mantra” - produced by George - at The Wood, Sydenham Hill, London, 28 August 1969 (more photos and information here). Photo © The Beatles Book

Q: “Speaking of Delaney and Bonnie, you toured with Delaney and Bonnie and the band’s European ’69 tour and one leg of that tour featured a special guest player, George Harrison. What are your most indelible memories of George?”

Rita Coolidge: “George was such a profoundly gentle man and at the same time so charismatic. It was almost like a religious leader in a sense.
He had such a magnetic kind of energy around him. But he was so soft spoken. To me, he was like a holy man, just his energy, his aura, everything about him was more beautiful man than probably anybody else I had ever met.”

Q: “And at that time with his mustache and long beard he looked a holy man.”

Rita Coolidge: “Yeah, he totally did. There were a lot of people that had long hair and beards at that time but with George (laughs) it really was effective but it went so much deeper than that with him. I always felt like I was in the presence of greatness when I was around him. He was so very humble and sweet.”

Q: “Didn’t he have a special song he sang for you?”

Rita Coolidge: “Yes, he would sing Lovely Rita by The Beatles (sings “Lovely Rita, meter maid”). (laughs) Every time I got on the bus. (laughs) It was like he would wait for me to get on the bus and sing it to me. It was so fabulous.” - Q&A with Rita Coolidge, Rock Cellar Magazine, 8 July 2016

George Harrison at the Apple launch party for the Radha Krsna Temple’s “Hare Krishna Mantra” - produced by George - at The Wood, Sydenham Hill, London, 28 August 1969 (Photo: Getty Images)

“Radha Krishna Temple (London): ‘Hare Krishna Mantra’ (Apple) In case these label credits present something of a mystery to you, let me explain that this is George Harrison’s attempt to do a Plastic Ono [Band]. And knowing George, you won’t be surprised this has an Eastern flavour.
Best described as Indian Gospel, if I may mix my religions! Consists of little more than the title being chanted over and over ('Hare’ is pronounced 'Harry’), to a backing of hand-claps and Indian instrumentation. By it’s insistent repetition, it has the same insidious hypnotism as 'Give Peace A Chance’.” - Derek Johnson, NME, 6 September 1969

* * *

“Through Hinduism, I feel a better person. I just get happier and happier. I now feel for a fact that I am unlimited, and I am more in control of my own physical body. The thing is, you go to an ordinary church and it’s a nice feeling. They all tell you about God, but they don’t show you the way. They don’t show you how to become Christ-conscious yourself. Hinduism is different.” - George Harrison

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George Harrison with members of the Radha Krishna Temple at the Apple launch party for the Radha Krsna Temple’s “Hare Krishna Mantra” - produced by George - at The Wood, Sydenham Hill, London, 28 August 1969

Photos: The Beatles Book

“[George told The Beatles Book] that he was becoming more involved in devotional songs - songs which have some meaning. Not that he is deserting pop. ‘Far from it,’ he assured us. ‘I don’t prefer one to the other - they’re both different fields.’
Commenting on the temple’s record, George told us that it was basically a devotional chant. ‘While the words don’t alter, the turn it is sung to doesn’t matter. You could sing it to Coming Round The Mountain if you wanted. All I’ve done on this is shorten it. The actual meaning of the words is not important, although there are various forms of addressing the spiritual Lord - God, if you like. They are more a sort of magical vibration to bring about a spiritual awareness.
‘God has many names, and, while I’ve always believed in the existence of a God, I never knew what to call him. This is just another way of finding spiritual communion.’
Asked if he would join the sect, George looked a bit dubious. ‘No, I’m not putting these people forward as being the only right ones in the world. I’m just bringing them to the attention of the public. If they like them, well and good; if not, it’s not for me to say they’re wrong.
‘Anyway,’ he added, wryly, ‘they are not allowed to touch stimulants, and though I don’t take spirits or wine, I drink coffee and smoke.’
George also believes that if everyone attempted to become more spiritually conscious there would be more chance of having a peaceful world, but he says that it’s up to the individual to find his own way of achieving this awareness. 
And does this mean that George has forsaken the Maharishi?
‘No, we’re still great friends,’ he replied. ‘I’m not forsaking him at all. This is just another way of reaching God. I don’t think it matters that it’s not the same way. Each person must decide for himself the way that best suits him.’
[…] For a final comment on the temple, [George was asked] what the rest of the Beatles thought of them.
‘Oh, they love them,’ he laughed.” - The Beatles Book, October 1969