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Holi or the festival of colors is celebrated about ten days after the spring festival. A delightful visual, this festival combines the gaiety of a carnival and the devotional flavour of a religious festival with the singing of amorous songs as unbridled expressions of youth. This is the time when both feelings and colours run riot. Braj seems to be the only place where one comes across a variety of forms in which the festival of Holi is celebrated. The following account records in brief some of the most colourful and ecstatic forms of Holi in Braj.The seat of Shri Radha has all the touch of romanticism. The songs sung by people recall the pranks of Radha and Krishna and their love for each other and the gopis. The visitors move around in large and small groups singing, dancing and applying colours, intoxicated with the thoughts of Radha and Krishna leela. The climax of the festivities is in the afternoon when the gops of Nandgaon come to Barsana to play Holi with the local gopis.

The women play Holi by hitting the men hard with a 2- ½ metre long bamboo staff. The men (gops) protect themselves with shields. The violence of the attack is mellowed down by the singing of folk songs specially composed for the occasion which express, in a variety of ways, how the Holi festival had enraptured the belles of Barsana. The following day the entire scene is re-enacted at Nandgaon. The gops of Barsana are invited to play Holi with the village belles of Nandgaon. The elaborate procedure includes carrying the flag. of the temple of Shriji. The flag is received by the gops of Barsana with devotional singing, and is carried on foot to Nandgaon where all attempts to capture it are foiled by the visiting group. The rest of the festivities at Nandgaon mark devotional singing in the temple, folk singing on the streets followed by the women emerging in a group to play Holi with bamboo staffs.

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- By Saci Gaurasundara Dasa

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