Lathmar Holi
Hindu devotees throw coloured powder at a temple during "Lathmar Holi" at the village of Barsana in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh March 21, 2013.Reuters

The festival of colours has started in India - from 22 March with "Lathmar Holi". Hundreds of people from across the country gathered at Barsana, a small village in Mathura district of Uttar Pradesh, to play Lathmar Holi.

Lathmar Holi takes places five or six days before the actual Holi in Uttar Pradesh. The festival marks the end of winter and beginning of spring. During Lathmar Holi, men from the neighbouring village of Nandgoan come to Barsana to play Lathmar Holi on the compound of Radha Rani temple.

According to Hindu mythology, Lord Krishna would go to Barsana, Radha's village, to playfully tease her and other gopis by throwing coloured water on them. In retaliation, Radha and Gopis would chase Krishna and his friends to beat him up with sticks.

It is said that when Krishna was small he was jealous of Radha because she was fair. He pestered his mother Yashoda about his dark complexion so much that she suggested him to put colour on Radha's face and change her complexion.

Till today, the ritual is followed and men soaked in coloured water arrive in Barsana and sing provocative songs to attract the attention of the local women. The women then beat them with wooden sticks called lathis while the men use shields to protect themselves.

The festival of colours is celebrated for 16 days in Vrindavan and Mathura, where lord Krishna was born and grew up. During the festival the places like Mathura, Vrindavan, Nandagaon and Barsana attract lots of tourists.

It is most celebrated in Braj, a region around Mathura-Vrindavan in Uttar Pradesh.

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This year, the main Holi day falls on 27 March.

Have a look at the Lathmar Holi celebrations in Photos here: 

Hindu devotees throw coloured powder at a temple during
Hindu devotees throw coloured powder at a temple during "Lathmar Holi" at the village of Barsana in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh March 21, 2013.
A group of women beat a man holding a shield over his head with sticks during
A group of women beat a man holding a shield over his head with sticks during "Lathmar Holi" at the village of Barsana in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh March 21, 2013. (Reuters)
A group of women beat a man holding a shield over his head with sticks during
A group of women beat a man holding a shield over his head with sticks during "Lathmar Holi" at the village of Barsana in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh March 21, 2013. (Reuters)
A group of women beat a man holding a shield over his head with sticks during
A group of women beat a man holding a shield over his head with sticks during "Lathmar Holi" at the village of Barsana in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh March 21, 2013. (Reuters)
A man holds a shield over his head as a group of women beat him with sticks during
A man holds a shield over his head as a group of women beat him with sticks during "Lathmar Holi" at the village of Barsana in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh March 21, 2013. (Reuters)
Hindu devotees throw coloured water at each other at a temple during
Hindu devotees throw coloured water at each other at a temple during "Lathmar Holi" at the village of Barsana in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh March 21, 2013. (Reuters)
Hindu devotees throw coloured powder at a temple during
Hindu devotees throw coloured powder at a temple during "Lathmar Holi" at the village of Barsana in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh March 21, 2013.
Members of a band stand in a cloud of coloured powder inside a temple during
Members of a band stand in a cloud of coloured powder inside a temple during "Lathmar Holi" at the village of Barsana in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh March 21, 2013.
A Hindu devotee pours coloured water on people entering a temple during
A Hindu devotee pours coloured water on people entering a temple during "Lathmar Holi" at the village of Barsana in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh March 21, 2013. (Reuters)
Hindu devotees throw coloured powder at a temple during
Hindu devotees throw coloured powder at a temple during "Lathmar Holi" at the village of Barsana in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh March 21, 2013. (Reuters)
A Hindu devotee plays a drum in a cloud of coloured powder inside a temple during
A Hindu devotee plays a drum in a cloud of coloured powder inside a temple during "Lathmar Holi" at the village of Barsana in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh March 21, 2013. (Reuters)
Hindu devoteess covered in coloured powder and water sit at a temple during
Hindu devoteess covered in coloured powder and water sit at a temple during "Lathmar Holi" at the village of Barsana in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh March 21, 2013. (Reuters)
Members of a band stand in a cloud of coloured powder inside a temple during
Members of a band stand in a cloud of coloured powder inside a temple during "Lathmar Holi" at the village of Barsana in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh March 21, 2013. (Reuters)
A hindu devotee stands in a beam of sunlight amid a cloud of coloured powder at a temple during
A hindu devotee stands in a beam of sunlight amid a cloud of coloured powder at a temple during "Lathmar Holi" at the village of Barsana in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh March 21, 2013. (Reuters
)
A Hindu devotee looks on in a cloud of coloured powder inside a temple during
A Hindu devotee looks on in a cloud of coloured powder inside a temple during "Lathmar Holi" at the village of Barsana in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh March 21, 2013.
A Hindu devotee sits with his face daubed in coloured powder inside a temple during
A Hindu devotee sits with his face daubed in coloured powder inside a temple during "Lathmar Holi" at the village of Barsana in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh March 21, 2013.