Lath Mar Holi: An Indian Festival Where Women Beat Men With Sticks

Lath Mar Holi is a Hindu festival celebrated in Mathura, India | © Alexander Mazurkevich/Shutterstock
Lath Mar Holi is a Hindu festival celebrated in Mathura, India | © Alexander Mazurkevich/Shutterstock
Photo of Aditi Mukherjee
28 February 2018

India is culturally diverse and many festivals of different religions are celebrated in the country. When it comes to religious festivities, Indians are probably the most ebullient and faithful. What else could explain a century-old, locally celebrated Hindu festival called Lath Mar Holi where women beat men with sticks? Here’s all about the festival – the celebration and why it’s performed.

What does Lath Mar Holi mean?

Lath (stick) mar (beat) Holi (the Hindu festival of colour). Together, the phrase means the festival of Holi where sticks are used to beat.

Women usually cover their face with sarees but here they lift them up to pose | © CRS PHOTO/Shutterstock

How Lath Mar Holi is celebrated today

Thousands of men from all parts of Mathura district in Uttar Pradesh come to Radha Rani temple in a village called Barsana. After a small ritual ceremony, everyone gathers in the temple compound and in the famous narrow lane in front of it called ‘Rang Rangeeli gali’ (the colourful lane).

The celebration starts with women smearing colour on men and they make sure no one’s left out. Villagers sing folk songs and women dance for their audience. Sweet shops overflow with a cold drink called thandai which is prepared with an edible form of cannabis called bhang. On the next day, men arrive in Barsana again, and this time they try to smear colour on the women in the village. Then, the women take out sticks and try to beat the men who save themselves with shields. While men try to save themselves and each other, the women shout and cheer for their friends and urge them to chase and hit harder. All this is done in jest and everyone gathered participates in the fun.

The mythological story of Lath Mar Holi

Indian mythological stories write about Lord Krishna in different stages of his life. In his days as a young man, he was mischievous and playful. He often visited Barsana, the village where his beloved Radha used to live. Once, days before Holi, the Indian festival of colours, Krishna visited Barsana with his friends and, together, they teased Radha and her companions. Taking offence to this, Radha’s friends chased the men away with sticks. Lath Mar Holi festival is a re-enactment of this legend.

Women stand in queue for their turn to beat men with the sticks | © CRS PHOTO/Shutterstock
Women cheer for their friends and urge them to hit harder | © Alexander Mazurkevich/Shutterstock

Where is Lath mar Holi celebrated?

Since the legend of Lath Mar Holi began with Krishna, the festival is celebrated in the Mathura district, where it is believed he was born. Krishna is one of the most popular and widely revered Hindu deities in India.

On the first day, men and women play with colours in Barsana | © Alexander Mazurkevich/Shutterstock
Lathmar Holi is a unique festival where women chase and beat men with sticks | © CRS PHOTO / Shutterstock
The festival is a time when men and women have fun together | © Alexander Mazurkevich/Shutterstock
Women dance to folk songs all the time during the festival | © Alexander Mazurkevich/Shutterstock
Lath Mar Holi is a Hindu festival celebrated in Mathura, India | © Alexander Mazurkevich/Shutterstock

Cookies Policy

We and our partners use cookies to better understand your needs, improve performance and provide you with personalised content and advertisements. To allow us to provide a better and more tailored experience please click "OK"