Women thrash men with sticks to kick off colourful Holi festival in India

Two small towns near Mathura kicked off Holi, India’s colourful spring festival, on Saturday.

As the men from Nandgaon arrived, the women of Barsana ceremonially thrashed them with sticks, re-enacting a famous annual ritual "Lath mar Holi (hit with sticks)."

According to the legend, Hindu god Krishna visited Barsana, his lover Radha's village, and teased her friends. Taking offence, her friends chased him away with sticks.

The mythological episode is re-enacted every year with the women of Barsana weilding their sticks on the men from the neighbouring town, who arrive in hordes.

The men try to protect themselves with shields and the festivities last till one of them is captured, made to wear a saree, and dance in public.

Different regions in north India have their own traditions of the Holi

festival, in which Indians drench each other with colours to celebrate the arrival of the spring.

Lath mar Holi, which takes place at the sprawling campus of the Radha Rani temple in Barsana, is a huge tourist draw as well.