Lord Krishna's land dances to Holi

Lord Krishna's land dances to Holi

Along the Yamuna river banks, groups of Hindu priests huddled together singing Holi songs and dancing after drinking 'thandai' - a preparation that contains the intoxicant 'bhang'.

Adit Choubey, one of them, said, "Without bhang, Holi celebrations are incomplete, but there is an elaborate procedure and processing of the heady concoction."

In view of intelligence inputs in the past few days about a possible terrorist strike, strict vigil was being maintained at Sri Krishna Janam Bhoomi and Dwarkadheesh temple. In Govardhan, hundreds of devotees walked the 21 km around the sacred hill on the full moon night on Sunday.

In Barsana and Nandgaon, the main functions were held two days ago, but the Radha Rani temple atop the hill was overflowing with pilgrims from all parts of India as well as NRIs on Monday morning.

In Baldev, the shrine of Dauji, Sri Krishna's elder brother, a 20-year-old youth drowned in the holy Ksheer Sagar pond close to the main temple. This led to some tension on Sunday evening.

Early Sunday, thousands waited with anxiously for the ritual of a 'panda' or Hindu priest walking through the embers of a bonfire. Once again Santosh Panda of Fulel village carried out the ritual.

"The annual act is conducted to remind people of the Prahlad and his aunt Holika's story," said a panda. Santosh had to go through a rigorous regime for a whole month before going through the ordeal.

At around nine, he took a dip and rushed through the fire, as thousands of pilgrims looked with amazement, the hysteria reached a crescendo and within seconds Santosh was safe at the other end of the fire, unscathed.

Monday morning, Vrindavan was enveloped in a thick cover of gulal, or coloured powder. At the famous Bankey Bihari temple, arrangement had been made for sprinkling coloured water made from 'tesu' flowers.

The enthusiasm was hard for security forces to contain, but the faithful did not complain of lack of facilities or inconveniences, said musician Acharya Jaimini.

"The whole town of Vrindavan is reverberating with Holi songs. This time we have Braj and Bhojpuri folk songs blaring on the loudspeakers. The atmosphere is truly infectious. The guesthouses are packed to capacity," Jaimini said.

In Agra, the celebrations have moved from streets to banquet halls and auditoriums. In Kamla Nagar colony, the residents enacted the Ras Lila of Braj. Women and men divided into two big gangs and played Holi on the streets with flower petals, scented waters, followed by snacks, according to organising committee member Pramendra Jain.

Holi, says Braj Mandal Heritage Conservation Society president Surendra Sharma, is essentially a Braj festival with Sri Krishna and Radha being the focal point. "Besides colours, it is the singing and dancing that add the real flavour to celebrations. Long ago, Holi celebrations used to go on for almost a month after Basant Panchmi. But now it's packed into just 24 hours. The Mughal rulers were great patrons of Hindu festivals. They played Holi with the Rajput women," Sharma said.

This Holi saw the invasion of the Chinese dragon in myriad forms in the form of 'pichkaris', or water guns. "Thanks to the Chinese, our festivals have become affordable to the common man, be it Diwali lights or Holi pichkaris. And look at the variety and affordability," said Raju Gupta of Vidhyarthi Stores in Agra.

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