At the birthplace of Krishna during Holi Festival

Trip Start Feb 03, 2014
Trip End Apr 29, 2014

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Flag of India  , Uttar Pradesh,
Sunday, March 16, 2014

About an hour and a half from Agra, Mathura is the birthplace of Krishna and the Holi festival is in honour of Krishna, as he envied the fair completion of another god and mischievously coloured their skin. Holi has become a festival of colour and Mathura one of the best places to celebrate it.

We arrive the night before it starts and there's already bags of paint powder for sale, as well as water pistols and 'snow' sprays. One man smears paint on my forehead and says 'happy holi' and I do the same back.

When I wake up on the day of the festival and lookout over the hotel balcony, Indian people are already hugging each other in the street. At breakfast another traveller tells us that Virindavan (where Krishna grew up) was very lively the day before. As it's only 12k away we get a tuk tuk across to the town. On the way there are already 'sniper' water pistols that attempt to hit us and a bucket of water covers Adam (who I'm travelling with). The driver's face is also already covered in paint. On arrival the streets are packed and we buy some paint powder and walk around the buzzing streets. Everyone's really happy, strangers are continually hugging each other as they pass saying 'happy holi' or 'Hari Krishna'. There're groups of kids with water pistols and buckets of water and I jog past a group of teenagers with water pistols. Adam isn't so lucky and they bombard him with the water and he's drenched to the bone. Everyone has different colours of paint and they either throw it in the air, at someone or smear it over a strangers face. By mistake paint gets throws directly into an indian girls eyes and she starts screaming at the top of her voice and holding her face. A man with a drum is walking the street and a group of about twenty people are following singing and dancing. Everyone is completely covered in water and paint and the floor is pink everywhere.

As we approach the temple the crowd gets denser and rowdier. I have to throw my flip-flops on a huge pile to enter barefoot. There is a priest at the front and people clap for him. The place is completely packed everyone is pushing past each other and it's quite like a rock concert. Paint is continuously thrown in the air. People are cheering and putting their hands up in the air. Outside men are drinking 'bang lassi' a cannabis yogurt drink.

Drenched, we sit in the sun and non-stop, people keep wishing us 'happy holi' and hugging us.

We go to another temple and there is a group of people sitting besides a drum and some of the older indian women are singing the loudest. As it's close to midday light is coming directly into the temple and all the particles in the air are visible. A cow wonders inside.

When we continue walking someone grabs my sunglasses and takes them away. I ask all the people around but some tells me they're stolen. They were cheap and had fallen off a theme park ride, a few days before so it was no great loss.

We walk down an alley and I slowly creep past an outpost that could instigate a water attack. Five men hold buckets of water. Once I get safely through I look round and all five are tipping water over Adam who's running and shouting.

Later a group of kids chase us down the street. They have something that they're trying to throw at us. I have no idea what it is but I don't want to find out.

On the way back we jump on a shared tuk-tuk with three Indians. After a couple of miles it becomes apparent that they all seem pretty wasted (including the driver who starts to swerve around a little). The guy sitting at the front produced a baseball bat and starts gently tapping the other tuk-tuks as we pass. The guy at the back start pestering me for a job in England. He says he can do anything and he's well qualified. When I tell him I can't get him anything, he keeps pleading 'please get me a job, please. His English isn't great. Half way through the journey we stop early and escape.

Later someone tells me that his sunglasses were stolen by a monkey who traded it for peanuts at a local stall. He had to pay for the peanuts to get the glasses back.

In the evening everything has quietened down and we head over to Holi gate. An indian man invites us briefly into his home and he had a shrine and paintings in the walls. He names all the Hindu gods that are depicted and gives me some cakes insisting I eat them all. He says life is like a dream. When Adam says he's not working he says 'that's not right' and asks him his 'aim' in life and when Adam can't answer say 'that's not right'. After we leave we go to the Krishna temple which is quite empty and a local takes us to a place where's there's loud music and at one point a Krishna dance.

The next day we go sightseeing around the temples. The previous chaos had died down. We go to the Krishna Balaram temple which houses the tomb of the founder of the Hare Krishna movement. On the wall at one point it says 'if one mistreats a cow and does not take care of her properly then by her anger that person becomes destroyed.' They light up another temple in the evening and there is a fountain show with coloured lights for thirty minutes. On the way back the largish auto-rickshaw (which is still smaller than a car) manages to cram in 17 people for the 12k return journey.

Before I leave we go to the Vishram Ghat in the morning and all the locals are washing themselves in the holy river. We have a boat ride and then head over to Kesava Deo Temple that's claimed to be the birthplace of Krishna and the slab of rock where he was born can be viewed.
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