There is anticipation in the air, tinged with just a smidgeon of trepidation. The men of Barsana and Nandgaon know that they're in for their annual beating at the hands of the local women.
Legend has it that a young Lord Krishna, who lived in Nandgaon, would visit his childhood friend and then beloved Radha in her native village, Barsana. He'd tease her and her friends (gopis) mercilessly, only for them to chase him and his mates (gops) away using lathis, or sticks. This legend has over the years become a Holi tradition in the twin villages of Barsana and Nandgaon, where the festival is celebrated not just with colours, song and dance, but a thorough walloping for the men.
On the first day of festivities, men from Nandgaon come to Barsana dressed as gops to play Lathmar Holi with the women of Barsana. The next day, it's the turn of the men of Barsana to head on down to Nandgaon, birth place of Krishna. Such is the significance of this festival that people from both villages start preparing months in advance to put on the best show possible.
As the evening sets in, the men start dressing up as gops, covering their heads with elaborate turbans which are filled with cotton to protect their heads. From the elderly to the youngest, every man participates with enthusiasm. The men often fortify themselves with food and drink before they submit themselves, shields (called dhals) in hand, to the will of the women eagerly awaiting their arrival, along with thousands of tourists and villagers watching from the lanes. Loud music runs in the background with religious songs to keep these men motivated to take the beatings. Armed with flowers, colours and shields they set off to an epic battle where every participant emerges victorious and a lot more colourful than when they set off!
These are behind-the-scenes photographs of the men preparing themselves for the 'fight.'
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