“The last time I came to India, it was 22 years ago and I had to leave just before Holi, however, I promised myself that I will come back to India and experience the festival of colours at least once in my life,” said Llyod Martin (55), a theatre tour manager from the UK. He is visiting the famous Bankey Bihari temple in Vrindavan.
Martin, daubed in colors, tries to catch every moment in his camera. He wanted to enjoy the festival to the fullest and this is what brought him to Vrindavan. He has taken a break from work for two months and has come to ‘Braj’, popularly known as ‘Brajbhoomi’ – the land culturally demarcated around Mathura, Vrindavan in Uttar Pradesh.
“I must say that this is the best featured festivals in the world,” Martin says.
Sabrina Nicolazzi, a 35-year-old physiotherapist from Italy, landed at Brajbhoomi to celebrate the festival. However, she falls short of words to describe her first ever experience as she walks the lanes of Vrindavan splashed with gulaal, abeer and tesu.
She arrived to witness the celebrations of the famous latthmar Holi, Huranga, phoolon ki Holi among other types of rituals lasting for nearly 40 days in different villages spread across Mathura and Vrindavan. The celebrations in this region start with Basant Panchami, which signifies arrival of the spring season.
“I am visiting Barsana, Nandgaon and Baldev among other places in Braj to experience every moment. The feeling is euphoric,” she says.
Besides the first time visitors, the Brajbhoomi is also flooded with foreign travelers who cannot get enough of the festival.
“This is my fifteenth Holi here. It is not just a festival for me. It is a divine experience, which cannot be explained in words. I love playing phoolon ki Holi,” says 70-year-old Andrew Logan, a sculptor from England.
The local traders also find the occasion a bustling business opportunity. The town houses temples and ashrams beelined with vendors selling colour and delicacies like pedha, paan and jalebi among others. “The Rajasthani ‘pagdi’ is famous with the local as well as foreign tourists,” said Kamal Gupta, a local trader.
The officials of the city administration said the state government last year constituted a Braj Planning board. “The region also got a grant from the World Bank last year for Vrindavan and Mathura. This will help us develop facilities for tourists. The state tourism department has also approved the concept of tourists’ police,” said Vijay Kumar, city magistrate at Mathura.