In 2020, we decided to celebrate Holi in India’s most famous places to celebrate Holi, in Mathura and Vrindavan. Mathura is the birthplace of Lord Krishna and one of the places considered by Hindus all over the world. Vrindavan, the neighbouring town, is where he grew up.
While planning for this trip, we thought of all the times we had considered a trip to Mathura for Holi in the past, and one thing kept coming back to our minds – people who had been there before told us only two things when it comes to Holi and Mathura/Vrindavan
- There is nothing like experiencing Holi in Mathura, and
- Women will be molested, and therefore go in groups.
You can find this in a lot of blogs as well when it comes to women safety etc. Now that we have celebrated Holi in Mathura let us tell you about our experience.
Travelling to Mathura
Where to stay in Mathura?
Centrally located, we liked our stay in Hotel Brijwasi Royal, Mathura. There are few more Brijwasi Group Hotels which are also good places to stay. We definitely loved the food in Brijwasi Royal.
Holi In Mathura
We landed three days before Holi (on 07th March and Holi was on 10th March 2020), and we already felt left out from all the celebrations that had begun from 03rd March. Below is the itinerary of the Holi festival in 2020. We assume a similar Holi festival celebration schedule will be followed in Mathura and Vrindavan in subsequent years. Please keep in mind that every year dates change, but the program is more or less the same.
Itinerary of Holi 2020 in Mathura
- Laddoo Wali Holi – Barsana (3rd Mar)
- Radha-Rani Temple in Barsana (04th Mar)
- Lathmar Holi – Sirji Temple in Nandagoan (05th Mar)
- Phool Wali Holi – Banke Bihari Temple (Ekadashi before Holi) in Vrindavan (06th Mar)
- Gokul (07th Mar)
- Widow Holi – Gopinath Temple in Vrindavan (08th Mar)
- Holika Dahan – Holi Gate in Mathura
- Main Holi – Mathura aka Braj (Shri Dwarkadheesh Temple and the entire street) or Vrindavan or anywhere near Mathura
As mentioned above, the dates are different every year. There is quite a bit of history behind all these celebrations. We couldn’t make it to the Lathmar, Widow and Phool Wali Holi (uncertainty due to COVID-19 scare as well). However, we made the best of the colourful celebration that the Holi festival is known for, in Mathura and Vrindavan.
Day One – Exploring Mathura
We checked into our hotel at about 4 pm, relaxed a bit and visited the Krishna Janmabhoomi Temple.
Lord Krishna is said to have been born in a jail cell at this location, converted into a temple now. Once we spent our time there, we left for Shri Dwarkadheesh Temple. Beautiful and colourful in and out, we went here every day to enjoy our Holi. You do not require guides for both these places.
I was eager to visit the famous ghat in Mathura, the Vishram Ghat.
A man outside Shri Dwarkadheesh Temple came out of nowhere and started talking and told us that he will explain the ghat’s importance. When we failed to push him away, he took us to all the temples, explained the significance behind them. If you are not really into all the stories, you can ignore the guide here as well. I liked Vishram Ghat for two reasons: the peacefulness this place offered (amidst all the chaos) and the beautiful evening Aarti, which starts at 7 pm every day.
Day Two – Gokul, Vrindavan and Mathura
Places to visit in Gokul
We began our day, starting with Gokul, where Lord Krishna was brought up by his foster parents Nanda and Yashoda. Please do not even ask for a guide as you definitely do not need one. You can quickly visit the important places here and be on your way in less than 2 hours. That’s all the time required.
We took an auto, and the autowala made us take a guide despite us saying we don’t need one. These guys are persistent, so please walk away. We did not like both the autowala and the guide; I guess it was not the best of days.
The places to visit in Gokul are
- Gokul Dham
- Langoti Kund (and a tree which stands strong right from the days of Krishna)
- Nanda-Yashoda Bhawan
- Stroll the olden day alleys of Gokul
- Balram temple and Birthplace of Balram
- Raman Reti
- Brahmanand Ghat, etc.
Holi in Vrindavan
People choose to stay either in Vrindavan or Mathura. Because we decided we will stay in Mathura, we visited Vrindavan only for one evening. There are so many temples to visit there, and many travel companies make Vrindavan their place of stay during Holi. We wanted a more relaxed one and chose Mathura as our place of stay.
We visited the Prem Mandir, ISKON and Banke Bihari temple.
The first two are just to marvel at the construction or how they celebrate Lord Krishna with songs and dance, while Banke Bihari is another experience altogether.
Every main celebration of Holi happens in this temple and which makes this the most crowded place. However, the experience here matches none. We went there for one evening, walked in with no colours and came back unrecognizable. The celebration here is a different high, and it completely makes up for the crowd you encounter. Don’t miss the heavy cream lassi as you walk towards or from the temple – they were amazing.
Day Three – Govardhan and Mathura
We started our day in Shri Dwarkadheesh Temple and got into the groove of Holi. After playing with strangers inside the temple, we headed to Vishram Ghat as I wanted to go boating. You can definitely skip this unless you wanted to see how the ghat looks from the Yamuna river itself.
Places to visit in Govardhan
As per stories passed on to us across generations, Govardhan is a hill held by Lord Krishna with his tiny finger saving the people from drought and rain. I wanted to visit Govardhan for two things, to see this hillock and the Kusum Sarovar. Many people walk around as a holy walk (parikrama) around Govardhan. We just visited the possible temples in the electric auto, visited Kusum Sarovar and returned to Mathura.
We returned quite late from Govardhan and missed the colourful Holi procession that starts from Vishram Ghat. People who witnessed and described the procession sure got us jealous of missing it. We only hope there is a next time for us 🙂
Day Four in Mathura
We suggest you enjoy the days pre-holi in Vrindavan, Barsana and Nandgaon and the day of Holi in Shri Dwarkadheesh Temple and the roads leading to it in Mathura. I still remember how I got hit by balloons, pichkaris, mugs and buckets of water, how people with wide smiles apply colour powder (also called gulal) on your face and celebrate Holi.
All this happened with pure joy, and I did not feel insecure at any time. Also, at all times, I had my backpack in the front and my big bouncer, a.k.a Narayanan, behind me (he is surely a blessing ;)).
We are so glad we chose to celebrate Holi Festival in Mathura!
Things to keep in mind while celebrating Holi festival in Mathura and Vrindavan
- Check with the locals when a temple opens or closes.
- Check with the locals on the dates of when each celebration is scheduled. They get WhatsApp messages on the itinerary which should be of help.
- Do bargain and take the second or the third auto aka tuk-tuk that comes your way. This will give you a sense of the cost.
- Electric vehicles charge the same as locals when you don’t ask for the cost. We guess they assume you know the local rate, so you can try it after the first trip.
- Crowd or no crowd, safety needs to be given utmost priority. Be vigilant at all times and you should be fine.
- Bhaang takes time to hit you, so more than two could put you to sleep and you may end up waking up after all the celebrations are over 😉
- Peda is the most famous sweet here and do taste or buy for people back home. We did so from Brijwasi.
- Sweet flavoured Lassi or chai at any time will recharge you for all those long walks.
Narayanan and I were so glad we took this trip as it was relaxed and pure fun – all in one 🙂 Ping us if you have any questions, and we will gladly reply.