The perfect idea of Holi is, throwing colours at random strangers, drinking bhang and dancing about with people you have never really met before! Only, this idea of Holi remained just in my mind! Until March 6, 2015, that is…
For years and years, I have been playing Holi in my locality, with the same old people! It took me 25 years of growing up to realise, Holi is much better when played like a true HOBO!
So, with just a week remaining for the big day, I began pounding on my keyboard to find a place that could provide an epic experience of the festival of colours. Soon enough, I stumbled upon this thread created by this amazing photographer, Kristin Speed. And, then on, as it usually happens with matters of Solo-Travelling, things went zoom-zoom!
IRCTC (railway booking): check!
Mental preparation: umm…check! (This is, perhaps, the hardest stage of a Solo-Travel.)
Then, after an overnight journey by train, I reached Mathura, on March 5th. Got into one of the hundreds of cycle rickshaws…and about fifteen minutes later, disembarked at Holi Gate. Not a safe journey, though. There were processions on the lane beside the Holi Gate. Hundreds of revellers drenched in colours and stupefied by bhang threw gulaal on me.
My cycle rickshaw driver (above pic), showed me couple of hotels for accommodation. I weighed in hygiene and price and finally, settled for “Hotel Krishna Palace”, a stone’s throw away from Holi Gate.
That evening went by on foot. I waded through waterbomb after waterbomb, while trying to explore the Holy city. The lanes are narrow and there was a mood of jubilation in the air. There were Pilgrims and Travellers, intermingling. A rare occasion where Religion and Spirituality converged.
By night time, around 10:30pm, the place was, more or less, settled; number of people dwindled and the waterbombs abruptly seized.
Undoubtedly, it was the lull before the storm; the storm that is Holika!
Holika? Well, as is the case with any Indian festivals, there are thousands of legends creating a buzz around it. In the case of Holi, we can narrow down to two main legends.
1) One of the legends goes this way. One devil king, Hiranyakashyap, wanted everybody in his kingdom to worship him, and him alone. But his rebel son said No-no! Hiranyakashyap commanded his sister, Holika, to enter a blazing fire with Prahlad in her lap (illogical?). You see, pretty woman, Holika, had a boon whereby she could enter fire without hurting herself. However, she was not aware that the boon worked only when she enters the fire alone. As a result she paid a price for her sinister desires, while Prahlad was saved by the grace of the God for his extreme devotion. The festival, therefore, celebrates the victory of good over evil. (By burning the pyre on the eve of Holi)
But, how did colours come into picture?
2) Well, it is believed that Krishna was jealous of Radha because she was fairer than him. He pestered his mother Yashoda about Radha’s fair complexion so much that she asked him to put colour on Radha’s face and change her complexion. Then on, there was no looking back. Hindu Mythology says that Lord Krishna along with his friends visited Barsana, Radha’s village, to tease her and other gopis by throwing coloured water on them. And, they would chase him and his friends with sticks. (That is how the sub-tradition of lathmar holi originate in Barsana.)
I went back to my room and saw that I had a message from Kristin. She invited me to join them in Vrindavan. Vrindavan is about 14kms from Mathura. So, I had to get to sleep
Here’s a decent article on the type of food that one can expect in Mathura: flavours of mathura.
To be continued…