Vrindavan, 2019.02.11 (VT): The spring festival was celebrated in temples in Braj and across North India on 10th February 2019, marking the end of the winter season and the beginning of spring. Each temple celebrated in its own unique style, but yellow and orange were the most common colour schemes.
In Radharaman temple, the celebrations got underway with a touch of yellow powdered colour, to signify both the beginning of spring and the beginning of Holi celebrations. The yellow powder beautifully adorned Shriji’s face; and lucky visitors had their foreheads anointed with the prasadi colour.
In Radha Vallabh, pink coloured powder was chosen to celebrate the beginning of spring and the start of Holi festivities. The coloured powder was kept on a plate on the altar and, meanwhile, the pujaris started throwing colour down into the gallery, covering the visitors.
Crowds flocked to Banke Bihari temple where Holi colours were thrown liberally from the altar amid shouts of ‘Banke Bihari ki jai!’.
Banke Bihari temple made good use of the orange marigold flowers that bloom in this spring season by stringing them together to make flower-chandeliers that hung from the ceiling and made for an enchanting atmosphere.
Vasant Panchami is also celebrated with great splendor in Radha Shyamsundar. The temple celebrates the ‘vivah’ (marriage) of Radha and Krishna on this day and the occasion also marks the anniversary of the temple’s inauguration.
One of the main attractions of Vasant Panchami in Braj is the ‘Vasant Kamra’ of the historical Shahji temple, near Nidhivan. This room and its decorations, which are 140 years old, contains a gold-plated throne for ‘Chote Radharamanji’ situated under a dazzling array of chandeliers. The room only opens twice a year, when the flowers and greenery of Braj are at their high points – Vasant Panchami and Hariyali Teej.
Many of those who went out for Darshan wore yellow outfits and, so many people’s efforts to get into the spirit of the festival helped to spread joy through the atmosphere. The sun shone brightly for the occasion, which began to seem like even more of a blessing the next day when the sky became overcast, and once again had a wintry feel.
As Vasant Panchami fell on Sunday this year, schools were faced with a dilemma as the day is observed as ‘Saraswati Pooja’ in most educational institutes. While some schools conducted prayer ceremonies on Saturday for the Goddess of learning, others, including the Vaishishtyam school at Vastalyagram, gave Saturday as a holiday in lieu of Sunday and opened the school on Sunday.
The organization’s founder, Sadhvi Ritambhara Didima, was in Lucknow giving Bhaghavata Katha, so the ceremony was presided over by the senior members of the organization, including Trust secretary, Shri Sanjay Gupta and Didi Ma’s disciple, Suhriday Giri. The teachers of the three schools on the Vatsayagram campus all took part in the worship of Saraswati Ma, and the children of the Special school were provided with transport to the program as well as a feast and gift packs.
The principal of Vaishishtyam school, Minakshi Agarwal, said, “Our children all have some handicap, so they have to make extra efforts to get ahead in studies. Saraswati Ma is the presiding Deity of schools, so all the teachers contributed and we organized the ceremony.”
Preparation for Holi events
While Vasant Panchami is celebrated about 40 days before ‘Badi Holi’, the biggest and final day of Holi celebrations, Braj temples begin throwing dry colour from this day. In the lead up to Holi, many temples and organizations around Braj hold functions and cultural programs. Nowadays, government authorities also lend a hand in organizing and publicizing Holi programs in Braj.
In 2018, the Chief Minister of State, Shri Yogi Adityanath, attended Braj Holi celebrations and promised to return every year. The presence of the CM and other dignitaries let more people know about the different varieties of Holi celebrations in Braj.
In particular, the ancient tradition of Lathmar Holi in Barsana and Nandagaon captured people’s imagination. Villagers, whose families have carried out this tradition for centuries were suddenly cast into the spotlight. Many of those who saw the coverage, previously had no idea that the tradition of using sticks to play Holi has continued since the time when the gopis chased the naughty Krishna who had been teasing Radha and her sakhis.
The plans for expanding the Holi celebrations even further this year were finalized at a joint meeting of the Braj Tirtha Vikas Parishad (BTVP) and the Tourism Department on 9th January. The officials discussed plans to attract more visitors to the Holi celebrations at Mathura’s temples and ghats, saying that the locations which missed out on the limelight last year will be promoted.
This year, the government sponsored program promises to run for a week and cover Lathmar Holi in Barsana, Nandagaon and Rawal as well as ‘Chadimar Holi’ in Gokul; Laddumar Holi in Barsana; Holi at Mathura’s Shri Krishna Janmasthan and Dwarkadish’s garden; Holi celebrations organized by the Chaturvedi society in Mathura; Holi in Vrindavan’s Banke Bihari temple; Huranga Holi at Baldev; the Charakula dance in Mukharai Village and the Fire-walking Ceremony at Kosi Kalan.
Last year, during the three day official program, government officials, including CM Yogi, attended the Fire-walking ceremony at Kosi Kalan. The actual leap through the flames, which attracts huge crowds, only takes a few seconds, but, the preparations for this feat start a month before. In order to purify himself, the village priest who will do the fire-walk undergoes severe austerities including remaining constantly within the temple premises and sleeping only on the floor.
This year, the Charukula dance is a welcome addition to the official program. The women of Mukhurai village do the Charukula dance in memory of Radha Rani’s grandmother, who is said to have picked up a chariot wheel and danced in joy when she heard of Radha Rani’s birth. In this unique art-form, the dancer moves gracefully while, balancing a multi-tiered structure covered with ghee lamps on her head.