Even if one used a microscope to look for a story that combines the display of women power (keeping International Women’s day in mind) and the colours of fun that mark Holi (coming up in a couple of days) it would be impossible to top the thoroughly entertaining and wildly amusing Lath mar holi.
If you thought the festival which gives you free reins to vent childlike joy with colours (or just water-filled balloons) for a couple of hours couldn’t get more innovative, you really should take inspiration from the good folks of Barsana and Nandgaon, neighbouring towns near Mathura, Uttar Pradesh.
Here is what they do to commemorate holi:
Men (gops or shepherds) from Nandgaon visit Barsana and playfully tease the women there in jest, who, in turn, pretend to take offence and chase these men away with sticks or lathis. Yes. Can you imagine the sort of catharsis a woman would get if she could – in real life, and with the consent of her entire community – get an opportunity to beat the hell out of a man who harasses her? This exuberating practice is given an added dose of frenzy with onlookers loudly chanting Sri Radhey or Sri Krishna.
The same routine is executed in Nandgaon the next, only in reverse – the men from Barsana make a trip to Nandgaon, tease the women and put colour on them, and justifiably get chased away by women from the other town as well. Preach!
Like most incredulous practices in the world, this tradition too has its roots in a story taken from a religion-laced legend. Apparently, Krishna had visited Radha’s village on this occasion and her female companions and her, who retaliated by chasing him away from their hood.
While this tradition is played out in fun and frolic (the visiting men are armed with shields to protect themselves, btw) there is a very important lesson to be leant here: harassing women should not be tolerated, even if it is playfully perpetrated by a god.
by Zaiceka Ahmed