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Rang Barse in Barsana

Originally associated with religious events, Holi today is a festival of riotous color and festivity that is celebrated with much enthusiasm in the month of Phalgun, which usually corresponds to March on the Julian Calendar. Holi marks the arrival of spring and the bright colors represent energy, life, and joy. The festival is also associated with the immortal love of Krishna and Radha. In Barsana, the birthplace of Radha and Nandgaon, Krishna's native village, and Mathura, the Lord's birthplace, this auspicious day is celebrated with a special puja and an even greater exuberance. Barsana, interestingly, has the custom of Lathmaar Holi where the festivities get unusually boisterous. Legend has it that the men of Nandgaon come to play with Barsana’s gopikas, Krishna's cowherd girlfriends, and are greeted with the irate women’s sticks instead of colours. Though the courting men wear protective padding to soften the blows, some unlucky ones often get the wrong end of the stick. Photojournalist JITENDRA SINGH brings us these captivating images from Barsana, Nandgaon and Mathura.