This year I had a chance to celebrate Holi in one of the most vibrant and sought-after regions of the state of Uttar Pradesh, Braj bhoomi, which encompasses the region of Mathura, Vrindavan, Govardhan, Gokul, Phalen, Nandgaon and Barsana. The region is popular with Lord Krishna devotees throughout the year but is especially known for its local celebrations of Holi and Janamastami. Tourists as well as photographers often come to this place for the famous and colorful Lathmar Holi. The seasoned travelers say that when it comes to Braj ki holi, there is nothing like it. The rituals, the playfulness, the beliefs are practiced, influenced from the mythological story of Shri Krishna, Radhi ji and the Gopis (friends). Also, Holi is not a one or two day affair here but it sets in from Basant Panchmi and continues for 40 days up to Holika Dahan and Dhulhandi day. The variety, action, length and colour is to be seen to be believed. Tourists from all over the world come for Barsana’s Lathmar Holi, Ladoo Holi, Dauji Ka Huranga, etc.
I always wanted to celebrate the festival of Holi in Krishna’s Land and this year, I actually did. I stayed at Shri Radha Brij Vasundhara Resort and Spa in Govardhan on the opportune day of Choti Holi (Holika Dahan) and Dhulendi (Holi). I had heard about this place from my friends and knew it for being situated at the feet of divine Goverdhan Parvat (mountain which was lifted by Lord Krishna to offer shelter to villagers from heavy rain), and offering a blend of luxury & spirituality. Having experienced it myself, I would totally recommend it if you are traveling with a family. This doesn’t feel like a hotel or a resort but your own house, away from the din of the city, in the lap of nature, with a view of the Govardhan hillock.
I couldn’t be there for the Lathmaar Holi because it was already over (takes place 5 days before Holi in Barsana) but the last two days were also fun. The local energy and enthusiasm along with the in-house celebrations of the resort kept me thoroughly entertained. My aim was to experience and enjoy the festive vibes of the place and it began right from the moment I crossed Haryana border and stepped into Uttar Pradesh. On the way I saw the preparations for Holika Dahan in full swing. The locals were busy setting up the bonfire for the evening gathering and it seemed as if the whole city was prepping up to re-enact the Holika and Prehlaad story.
When I reached the resort, I was warmly welcomed with Thandai (special drink associated with Holi) and Gujia (popular sweet of the festival).
The front garden area was decorated in Holi theme and the reception area captured the festival fervor with a beautiful Rangoli. I had a smooth and quick check-in and while I was being transferred to my cottage, I could see a lots of guests, already in. Though I had traveled alone as my husband could not fly down from Mumbai, I was happy that the resort was buzzing with guests and I would have company for the festival of Holi. I had a cottage to myself. The rooms and the restroom were neat and clean. The front room served the purpose of drawing room/living room and it was followed by a bed room. Each room was equipped with a television. Overall, it was spacious and minimally done. There was some more gujjiya in the room and also some gulaal packets for Holi. I settled in quickly, grabbed some lunch and rested for a while.
I wanted to go out for the Choti Holi celebrations in the nearby village but the resort had also arranged for some dance performances and thus I stayed back. The evening was well-spent over regional folk dances like Charkula and Kalbelia along with dinner buffet. Some Chinese photographers who were also staying in the resort danced their heart out and entertained everybody. Later, other guests from different parts of India also joined the fun.
Next day I woke up to the sound of chirping of the birds. The weather was breezy, perfect for a morning walk. I explored the resort, clicked some pictures and interacted with the local staff.
While I was taking a walk, I also interacted with one of the staff members and learned quite a bit. The resort is spread in an area of 26 acres and comprises of 50 luxury cottages. The shape is very unique and is laid out in the form of a tree with the pathway making a tree with 10 clusters of 24 cottages each as the branches. Each cluster is named after an Indian river. Though the cottages are equipped with modern facilities and there is indoor swimming pool, Jacuzzi, spa facilities available for modern day travellers, the overall theme of this resort lays more emphasis enjoying luxury with spirituality in the lap of nature. It also follows environment conservation measures to keep up with it. Vehicles have restricted entry inside the property; guest transportation is mainly via battery-operated club cars. There are cycles in resort for guests to ride. The entire guest stationary is made up of recycled brown paper. All the horticulture waste (dry leaves) is used to produce manure on site. There is no procurement from outside. A Sewage Treatment plant is installed to treat water which is then used for horticulture. Rainwater harvesting is in practice. Organic products are being used in spa for treatments (chemical free).
Since I had woken up very early, I returned to the room to sleep again. Next time, I woke up to the sounds of the Dhol beats. This was like a wake up call for the Holi party. The breakfast buffet was spread out in the garden. Some of the guests were eating, while others were decked up in white kurtas and colourful caps. The kids were already playing with the water guns and sprinklers. I grabbed a quick bite but before I could finish, I got my first splash of colours. And once it had begun, there was no ending. Most of the guests had come down with their friends and family and they were already busy in running after each other. Some were dancing
on the Holi songs that were playing, some were clicking pictures, while some were teaching their kids the importance of the festival. The whole ambiance was festive and addictive.
On my request, I was also driven along the streets of Govardhan to get a glimpse of the events on the streets. I dint open the car window or step out of it but I did manage to get a local feel along with some pictures. On the auspicious day, I also visited two important and popular temples of Govardhan, Daan-Ghati and Punchari Ka Lautha Baba Temple along with Surdasji’s house (samadhi). You must check out these places whenever you are around the Braj region. The festival day was a perfect occasion to see Lord Krishna, smeared in colors. The devotees had not left a single corner of the temple, untouched. There was Gulaal all around. Everything and everyone conveyed festive gesture. I got some pictures for my keep-sake. Hope you enjoy them. Back at the resort, I ate lunch and slept like a log. Though the city was still in the cheerful and high-spirited mood, I returned back home on the next day.
How to Reach Shri Radha Brij Vasundhara, The Resort & Spa, Govardhan, Mathura?
Mathura station is the closest railway station. From there, a half an hour drive through the city. Most of the temples are also within a reach of half an hour. In case you prefer to do a road trip, it is about three hours distance from Delhi and hardly 2 hours, 15 minutes from Faridabad.