Lathmar Holi at Barsana and Nandgaon 2015

Lathmar Holi at Barsana and Nandgaon

Holi doesn’t really need an introduction anymore. The festival of colors, celebrated to mark the transition of seasons from Winter to Spring, is now played around the world. However, in villages near Mathura - namely Barsana and Nandgaon - it is played in its own unique way, a week before the actual Holi. Here, women, adorning the role of gopis, beat up men, who dress as gops, with sticks (lath); therefore the name: Lathmar Holi.

Lathmar Holi Barsana Nandgaon Indian women beating men with sticks  near Mathura 2015
A man getting beaten up :)

The celebrations happen over two days: On the first day, men from the village of Nandgaon visit Barsana; they dress up traditionally with turbans and shields, pay their tributes at the Radha Rani temple and then gather in the streets to be beaten by the the women (on their shields). Their is so much energy around, perhaps even catalyzed by the bhang-laced ‘thandai’.  Meanwhile, the senior citizens of both the villages sit inside the temple facing each other, singing ballads, in what is called the ‘Samaj’ ceremony. The atmosphere is enthralling; a visual treat. Everything is red: the air, the floor, the people. And of course, it is a jackpot for every photographer.

Lathmar Holi Barsana Nandgaon near Mathura 2015 colors Indian man lying on floor
A praying man on the floor..
Lathmar Holi Barsana Nandgaon near Mathura 2015 Indian women beating men with sticks
Women beating up another man with lath
Lathmar Holi Barsana Nandgaon near Mathura 2015
Hare Krishna!
Young indian men males boys in streets Lathmar Holi Barsana Nandgaon near Mathura 2015
Young lads on the streets...

Some practical tips

Photography isn’t a cake-walk in such conditions. You can’t just step back as a mere spectator and expect no one to bother you with the colors. Oh, you will be drenched, my friend. So just get lost in the celebrations and go with the flow. However, try not to disturb the celebrations just to get the ‘shot’. Have some patience, and you will be rewarded with some really amazing shots.

Portrait old Indian man colors colorful faces Lathmar Holi Barsana Nandgaon near Mathura 2015
An old man smeared with colors..
Keep your camera safe, but don’t let its safety bother you so much that you end up sacrificing some great photographic moments. A good rain cover should ensure that. If not that, put a large polythene over your camera and tape it around your lens-hood. Carry extra UV filters, since color will inevitably end up on your lens.


Achal Mishra is Delhi based friend and photographer who attended this fabulous event, which I unfortunately missed. He provided the images as well as the text for this post and I am very thankful to him for the same. Achal is just 18, but already fabulous with his art of taking pictures. In due course, he wants to make films and I am sure he would do a great job that that!

So if you are in Delhi and need a passionate freelance photographer, do reach out to him :) 

Old men singing holi songs Lathmar Holi Barsana Nandgaon near Mathura 2015
Men singing traditional Holi songs...


  1. so well captured Sid ,we get to see what is happening in every nook and corner of the country through your blogs,and u get wonderful experiences in the process . wish we could do the same ,

  2. It looks gorgeous! Good work Achal and thanks Siddhartha for sharing this with us :)

  3. Absolutely gorgeous images… love the effect of saturating the colors to make them so much more dramatic. That picture of that man's face belongs to a cover of a travel magazine.

  4. What happens on the second day?
    Do the men of Barsana visit Nandgaon to get beaten up?


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