The legendary Holi celebrations of Nandgaon and Barsana are internationally famous events now. Travellers, tourists, devotees and photographers descend on these locations in hordes to capture every moment of the festival of colours. With gulal (perfumed powder used during the celebration) filling the air with colour and joy, and showers of flowers, accompanied by happy cries of Holi Hai (It’s Holi’), it becomes a memorable experience for anyone. Meet Gazal Mandelia – blogger and photographer, who travelled to Nandgaon and Barsana during Holi in 2016, and brought back with her memories and stories in the form of a travel tale. Here is her first person account of her ‘Colour Trip’ as she calls it.
COLOUR TRIP TO MATHURA-NANDGAON-VRINDAVAN!
“Jai Shree Krishna”
Move around the lanes of Nandgaon and you will find locals greeting passers-by with these two greeting lines. It feels so spiritual right?
18th March, 2016.
53 kms away from Vrindavan is a village which itself means ‘the land of Lord Krishna’, Nandgaon; a place where kids celebrate a 4-day long vacation in their schools, a place where kids actually go to school.
More than just roaming the lanes of Nandgaon, I devoted myself to soaking in the atmosphere around. Every passing lane unfurled a different story. And the best part about these lanes were the simplicity of the houses, the families living in them and the chaos of the festive extravaganza. The better than the best part; people loved to share their lives with the travellers, they engrossed themselves in telling people what Nandgaon is and how is it so welcoming.
How did I turn up there?
Good question. So I was accompanied by 40-some other travellers who got connected through a collaborated platform; Streets of India and zdventure.com. They have this real cool arrangement for those who wish to experience the fun and frolic of budgeted and adventurous travelling. And NO, tourists won’t really appreciate such trips. Mind you, a tourist is different from a traveller.
Why Nandgaon in this hotchpotch?
WARNING! It’s dangerous for a woman to be here. Because of the cases of eve-teasing, etc. But mingle yourself amongst the locals, travel with them and you’re all safe. If you ask me, I was accompanied by a fellow traveller-friend from my trip, Umang Thebaria. And WHOA! He has a good knack for mingling with the locals. I was sorted 😉
I just walked… and walked… and walked…
Until when people started to call us…
“Didi, hamari ek photo lo na” (Madam, please click our photograph)
That really stunned me. I was more than happy to do so.
“Didi, Ghar aao, chai pio aur kuch khaana bhi khaalo. Holi hai. Milke manayenge” (Madam, come over for tea, have a meal with us. Celebrate Holi with us)
And it went on…
“Unlimited cups of tea, a full-fledged home meal, and many conversations, ladies showing off their houses and discussing their livelihood problems.”
On asking one of those ladies what’s special about Holi here, she says
“We celebrate Holi with a combination of colours, flowers and food. The entire village gathers together to celebrate Holi. The enjoyment and apnapan (feeling of being close and familiar) it is played with, makes this festival a lifetime memory.”
Kids greeted us in English. Who says India’s literacy rate isn’t improving?
The locals were so glad to speak to me that they ended up asking me “Ye photo newspaper me print hoga na?” (Will these pictures get published in the newspaper?)
Nandgaon is famous for Lathmaar Holi, where ‘lath’ means a stick and ‘maar’ means ‘to hit/beat’. Traditionally, this type of Holi is played towards the fun side.
It is said that Lord Krishna came from his town, Barsana to meet his beloved, Radha, at Nandgaon and he, along with his friends, were beaten by her friends, telling them to leave. This was done on a fun side to tease Radha and Krishna, and since then, with their eternal love story, the tradition followed, where men from Barsana come during Lathmaar Holi and ladies gather with sticks to hit them, and they would protect themselves with shields on their head. Lathmaar Holi is accompanied by splashes of water, tonnes of colours and infinite laughs.
This festival continues for hours, and is a delight for photographers and on-lookers. Lathmaar Holi, originated from here, continues to narrate the stories of love and affection, as the Radha-Krishna bond unfurls and is repeated in the voice of the locals.
Not to forget, curb your sugar cravings with jalebis, gulab jamun and imarti, and quench your thirst with some jaljeera and sugarcane juice. Holi in Nandgaon is tiring, but worth a lifetime experience. And surely, you’ll come back home with thousands of photographs of smiling faces and festive fun.
Gazal says, ‘I believe in creating a set of memories through my photographs. So when I shoot a person or an event, my purpose of shooting is to make them go through those pictures again and again and become nostalgic about the good old times.’
Surely, her photo trip on Holi will be added to her golden chapter of memorable moments! For any photographer, this is one challenging event to capture. The pushing crowds, the dangers of the colour or water getting to your lens, can make for a nervous outing. And, frankly, being a woman doubles that challenge because one has to look out for oneself in that situation.
On behalf of Team The Uncommon Box, we thank her for sharing her blog post with us and wish her many such trips!
About the writer:
Gazal Mandelia, is presently an MBA student from International School of Business and Media, Pune. Apart from this, she is a freelance blogger, having written blogs for several brands and start-ups and taken up brand endorsement projects. She an active interest in photography and travel and also loves cooking continental dishes and desserts, along with playing guitar and indulging in social media.
You may follow Gazal on these links:
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