FOOD AND CULTURE OF MATHURA - VRINDAVAN

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Location: Right Bank River Alaknanda
Altitude: 3,133 mt. Above Sea-Level
Dedicated To: Lord Vishnu
Built In: 8th Century A.D

Food
In keeping with its divine links, Mathura-Vrindavan makes some of the finest butter and other milk products in the land. Lord Krishna was known as a makkhan-chor (butter-thief) merrily stealing butter by breaking pots of the gopis (milkmaids) on their way to the market. The people here are mostly vegetarians. Try the Mathura Ke Dubkiwale Aloo, a delightful potato curry delicately flavoured with asfoetida (hing) and coriander leaves, for an authentic taste of the local cuisine.

Music and Dance
Sanjhee - is the art of decorating the ground with flowers. Legend has it that in order to please Radha (Krishna's divine consort), Krishna decorated the floor with flowers one evening, and thereafter this art was known as Sanjhee.

Raaslila - is a dance festival of Krishna's childhood. According to the Bhagwat Purana, Krishna and the gopis had danced the Raas on the banks of the Yamuna at Vrindavan. When the gopis felt conceited about Lord Krishna dancing with them, he disappeared from their midst. In the agony of separation from their beloved Krishna, the gopis enacted his lilas (divine episodes of his life) which in course of time came to be known as the Raaslilas. The Raaslila in its present form is ascribed to Swami Haridas and Shri Narayan Bhatt. Only young Brahmin boys of 13 to 14 years of age can perform the Raaslila. The charming childhood pranks of Shri Krishna constitute the main them of these dramas.

Charkula - In this traditional folk dance of Braj, a female dancer balances a column of lighted lamps over her head while dancing. The charkula, a tapered wooden column with four to five circular tiers has earthen lamps on each level. The number of lamps can range from 51 to 108 at times. The dancer with her face veiled, moves with swift, graceful movements while balancing the 40 to 50 kilogram charkula on her head. A dramatic dance that is visually attractive, it is performed on the Dooj of Holi, to the accompaniment of songs sung by the men.

Rasiya - This is the rich tradition of folk-songs that is found in the Braj area. Rasiya songs describe the love of the divine couple Radha and Krishna. It is an inseparable part of the Holi celebrations and all other festive occasions at Braj. The Rasiya is sung to the rhythm of huge drums, locally known as bumb.

Devotional ArtGovinda Dev Temple - Vrindavan, Uttar Pradesh
About a half a century ago, celebrity artist Kanhai Chitrakar started a tradition of making gem-studded gold paintings at North Indian pilgrim city of Vrindavan. The artistic and cultural heritage of Vrindavan revolves around Radha and Krishna. Kanhai Chitrakar responded to this ethereal beckoning when he came here half a century ago and started the glittering tradition of gold paintings.

What charms connoisseurs the most, is the life-like expressions of the figures, the bhav or emotion that light up their faces. Together with the serene backgrounds, these paintings arouse spirituality. What's more, these works are believed to emit an aura which bestow a sense of profound peace and tranquility. They are supposed to usher in good luck and prosperity to the family of the owner.

Language spoken : Hindi, English and Brajbhasha

FAIRS & FESTIVALS

Janmashthami - Celebrations reach a height around midnight in all the temples on Lord Krishna's birthday. The main celebrations are held at Mathura, his birthplace where at the temple his birth is symbolically re-enacted. At Vrindavan, colourful Raaslilas, song and dance drams depicting various phases of Krishna's life are performed all day and night. Janmashthami comes a week after Raksha Bandhan during August-September.

Govardhana Puja - During Dwapara Yuga, Lord Krishna convinced the cowherd men to worship Govardhana, instead of doing a sacrifice to please Lord Indra, the king of heaven, who is in charge of the rains. Krishna told the cowherds that Govardhana Hill was a better benefactor as it supplied them with their daily needs. The tradition continues to this day since then and is known as Annakuta. In all the temples of Vrindavana, huge quantities of food are prepared in this ceremony and are distributed to general public.

A typical Holi scene - Mathura Vrindavan, Uttar PradeshHoli - is celebrated on the full moon day in the month of Phalguna (Feb-March). Holi in Braja is celebrated for several days, at different places around Braja, before the actual day of Holi. People throw colored powdered dye and colored water on each other. This is joyfully celebrated in Braja, especially at Varsana, Nandagram and Dauji. In Varsana the festival includes colorful processions with music, song, dance, and some boisterous scenes around the temples. If you go to these festivals you should expect to be totally covered in dye and never to be able to use the clothes that you are wearing again, at least until next year's festival. This is celebrated at the same time as Gaura Purnima.

At Nandagram - The day after the Holi festival at Varsana, Holi is celebrated in Nandagram. The gopas (men) from Varsana come to Nandagram to play Holi with the gopis (women) there. The flag of the Larily Lal Temple in Varsana is carried in an elaborate procession to Nandagram. At this time the residents of Nandagram attempt to capture the flag, but their attempts fail. are foiled. After this, women play Holi with bamboo staffs. This festival is celebrated on the tenth day (dasami) of the month of Phalguna (Feb-March).

At Phalen - Holi is celebrated from a different angle. On the full moon night in Feb/March a huge bonfire is lit. One of the local priests walks through the fire unscathed. One story about Holi is that Prahlada Maharaja refused to worship his father and wanted to worship his father's enemy, Lord Vishnu instead. His father's sister Holika, who was immune to fire, sat with the boy. Prahlada's devotion was so great that Holika was burnt to death and Prahlada was unharmed. The Holi festival at Phalen re-enacts this event.

At Dauji (Baldeo) - Holi is a wild affair. Women pour buckets of colored water on the men. The men are also thrashed with whips made of cloth, which has been torn apart from men's clothing. The men cannot touch the bodies of the women or unveil their faces. From the roof of the temple, basketfuls of colored powder are emptied on participants and onlookers.


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