What Is India News Service
Saturday, August 06, 2005




Art, Culture & Heritage

Dance & Culture | Fairs | Festivals

Festivals - Makar Sankranti (Ghughutia) | Chippla Jaat | Harela and Bhitauli | Hilljatra | Kandali | Khari Holi and Baithaki Holi | NandaDevi Rajjaat Yatra | Olgia or Ghee Sankranti | Phool Dei

Makar Sankranti (Ghughutia) 
According to the Hindu religious texts, on the day of Uttarayani, the sun enters the Zodiacal sign of 'Makar' (Capricon) from the Zodiacal sign of the Kark (Cancer), i.e. from this day onwards the sun becomes 'Uttarayan' or it starts moving to the north. It is said that from this day, which signals a change of season, the migratory birds start returning to the hills. On Makar Sankranti people give Khichadi (a mixture of pulses and rice) in charity, take ceremonial dips in holy rivers, participate in the Uttarayani fairs and celebrate the festival of Ghughutia or Kale Kauva. During the festival of Kale Kauva (literal translation 'black crow') people make sweetmeats out of sweetened flour (flour and gur) deep fried in ghee, shape them like drums, pomegranates, knives, swords etc. They are strung together and worn as necklace-in the middle of which an orange in fixed. Early in the morning children wear these necklaces and sing "Kale Kauva.." to attract crows and other birds and offer them portions of these necklaces, as a token of welcome for all the migratory birds, who are now coming back after their winter sojourn in the plains. 

Chippla Jaat 
Chhiplakot is situated in the heart land of Kali and Gori rivers, south of Panchchuli mountains. The highest point of this mountain - Najurikund (4497m) - is the seat of Chhipla Kedar. The people of 15 - 20 villages of Dharchula and Gorikhal regions reach Kedardwe and Najurikote every third year (last 2002, next 2005) on Bhado Purnmasi. The principal yatra starts from village Khela near Tawaghat. It goes through thick forests, rocky lands and Bugyals. People go there barefoot even in these days. The dhami burha or bonia (folk priest) finalizes the dates of the jaat. With folk drums, bhankaras (metallic pipe instrument) and neja (the flag of red cloth pieces collected from all the families of the villages) the jaat goes to Barmano, which is 6 km from Khela. On the second day the yatris go through a thick oak forest. After crossing Bunga, Garapani, Mangthil gwar, Ganbhujdhura (the blooming bugyal) comes Brahmkund (18 km). Around 100 people can stay at the udiyar (cave) of Brahmkund. From this point one can have a glimpse of Chaudans region and the peaks of W. Nepal. On the third day the route is on the back of Najurikote, which is full of buggi grass and brahmkamals (Saussurea obvallata). At Kedardwe pond sacred dips are taken and the worship is performed. For the night, the yatris have to come back to Brahmkund. On this day one has to trek about 35 km. 

On the fourth day after seeing Jyulital and Patojkund the Jaat reaches Bhaiman Kund (16 km). This small lake is like Brahmkund. A night stay is possible in the cave. On the fifth day, one can reach Baram in Gori valley after seeing the Kanar devi temple. If some one wants to remain with the jaat, he can come back to Khela and participate in the village fair. Chhipla Jaat expresses different aspects of human faith. The bare foot journey, worship, bath, collective food, songs and dances and the possession of the body of Bonia by the folk god are the essential parts of Chhipla Jaat.

Harela and Bhitauli
On the first day of the navaratris (nine day holy period) of the month of Chaitra women fill baskets with soil and sow seven types of grains in them. The grains germinate symbolizing the future harvest. These yellow leaves, called Harela, are cut on the tenth day and people put them on their heads and behind their ears. During the month of Chaitra (March-April) brothers send presents to their sisters. These presents are called Bhitauli. 

Harela is peculiarly a Kumaoni festival to mark the advent of the rainy season. The celebration falls on the first day of Shravan. Ten days before the due date, seeds of either five or seven kinds of grains are mixed together and sown in pots inside the room, using small baskets filled with earth. The sowing is done either by the head of the family or the family priest. It is done ceremoniously. Water is sprinkled after worship. On the last day of the month of Aasarh, one day before the actual celebration of the festival, a kind of mock weeding is done with small wooden hoes. Gaily painted images of Shiva and Parvati and their off springs are prepared and worshipped on the Shankranti day. Green shoots Harela are placed on the head gear. 

The significance of Harela lies in the fact that it provides an opportunity to the cultivator to test the qualities or defects of the seeds he has in his store. Another significance is that the festival is the occasion to give taken monetary allowances - pocket money to the young girls of the family. However, the more popular Harela is the one that is celebrated in the month of Shravan to commemorate the wedding of Lord Shiva and Parvati and to welcome the rainy season and the new harvest. On this day people make Dikaras* or clay statues of Gauri, Maheshwar, Ganesh etc. and worship them. Even the overworked bullocks are given a rest on the occasion of Harela. People put the blades of freshly cut Harela on their heads and send them to their relatives and friends as well.

The Hilljatra, which is being celebrated in some parts of Pithoragarh district, is essentially the festival of pastoralists and agriculturalists. In the developmental process, the aathon (eighth day of bhado) and Gawra Visarjan also became the part of Hilljatra. The festival, which basically came to the Sor valley from the Sorar (Mahakali) region of West Nepal, was first introduced in Kumaour village. The Jatra was also accepted by the people of Bajethi, another village near Pithoragarh town and with some modifications it was introduced in Kanalichhina and Askot regions as Hiran chital.  

The Hilljatra is related to ropai (the plantation of paddy) and other agricultural and pastoral labours of the rainy season (Hill = mud, Jatra = Jaat). It has also been connected with the victory of the Champawat ruler. There is another story that Kuru, the representative of a Chand King, who went to Sorar (Nepal) to participate in the hilljatra, was able to sacrifice a buffalo with horns covering the neck. The people became happy and wanted to present Kuru a gift.

Kuru thought of introducing this festival in Sor valley and asked for four masks, Lakhiabhoot, Halwaha, two bullocks, and one implement - the Nepali plough. In this way, the hilljatra was introduced in Sor. In the first part of jatra, worship and the ritual sacrifice of goats is performed, and in the second part, different pastoral and agricultural activities are presented in a dramatic way. The masks are very expressive and this is the most entertaining part of the festival.

In the third and last part, the songs are recited with the performance of circle dance (Chanchari). It continues late into the night. The songs are traditional as well as new and popular. The hilljatra is a living tradition and all care should be taken to preserve its style in a rapidly changing society.

In the Chaudans region of Pithoragarh district, a flower - Kandali (Strobilenthes wallichii) - blooms once every 12 years (last in 1999) and the people celebrate Kandali festival between the months of August and October. The Chaundas Valley is remote in the Dharchula tehsil of Pithoragarh. It lies between the Kali and the Dhauli rivers. In the week long festival the local people - Shaukas or the Rangs participate with gaiety and enthusiasm in different villages of the region. Some stories are associate with this festival, which express the martial tradition of the Shaukas. In the first story, it is said that by tasting the poisonous flower of the Kandali the only son of a widow died. In the second story, this flower the symbol of famine and poverty. According to the third and most popular story, the region was once attacked while the men folk were away for trade. The brave women repelled the enemy, who hid in the Kandali bushes, and the attacked the bushes and destroyed the enemy. The festival commemorates their bravery and the women therefore destroy the plant ceremonially to remind th local people of the incident and to prevent further mishaps. 

The festival begins with the worship of a Shiva Linga made of barley and buck wheat flour mixture. Local liquor is traditionally used during this festival. Every household performs it in a decorated comer of the courtyard. People pray for prosperity. The individual pujas are followed by a community feast. Then, the women and men, in their traditional dresses and laden with gold and silver ornaments, assemble around a tree on the sacred ground of the village. Strips of white cloth are tied to the tree and a flag is raised.

A procession is formed behind the flag. The women lead the procession, each armed with a ril (an implement used in compacting carpet on the loom) followed by children and men armed with swords and shields. As they sing and dance their music echoes in the valley. On approaching the blooms, war like tunes are played and war cries uttered and the women attack the bushes with their rils. The men folk then come to their aid, and the bushes are hacked with swords. They uproot the bushes and take them back as the spoils of the war. Victory cries are raised and rice grains are again cast towards the sky to honor the deities with the prayer that the people of Chaundas Valley may be ever victorious over enemies. Festivity, dancing and music continue throughout the night.

The enthusiasm and emotion have to be seen to be believed. All the members of the community, even those living elsewhere, return to their village for the event, on the return of the procession to the village an assembly known as the 'Savdhoomo-sabha' is held at which sweetmeats, liquor and fruits are consumed, the deities are again worshipped with flowers. Festivity, dancing and music continue throughout the night.

Khari Holi and Baithaki Holi
The uniqueness of the Kumaoni Holi lies in its being a musical affair, whichever may be its form, be it the Baithki Holi, the Khari Holi or the Mahila Holi. The Baithki Holi and Khari Holi are unique in that the songs on which they are based have touch of melody, fun and spiritualism. These songs are essentially based on classical ragas. No wonder then the Baithki Holi is also known as Nirvan Ki Holi. The Baithki Holi begins from the premises of temples, where Holiyars (the professional singers of Holi songs) as also the people gather to sing songs to the accompaniment of classical music.

Kumaonis are very particular about the time when the songs based on ragas should be sung. For instance, at noon the songs based on Peelu, Bhimpalasi and Sarang ragas are sung while evening is reserved for the songs based on the ragas like Kalyan, Shyamkalyan and Yaman etc. The Khari Holi is mostly celebrated in the rural areas of Kumaon. The songs of the Khari Holi are sung by the people, who sporting traditional white churidar payajama and kurta, dance in groups to the tune of ethnic musical instruments.

NandaDevi Rajjaat Yatra
The three week long Nandadevi Rajjaat is one of the world famous festival of Uttaranchal. People from entire Garhwal-Kumaon as well as other parts of India and the world participate in Nandadevi Rajjaat Yatra. 
Goddess Nanda Devi is worshipped at dozens of places in Kumaon, but the region around Mt. Nanda Devi and its sanctuary, which falls in the districts of Pithoragarh, Almora and Chamoli, is the prime area related to Nanda Devi. In Chamoli Nanda Devi Rajjaat is organized once in 12 years. The jaat starts from Nauti village near Karnprayag and goes up to the heights of Roopkund and Haemkund with a four horned sheep. After the havan-yagna is over, the sheep is freed with decorated ornaments, food and clothing's and the other offerings are discharged. People also celebrate the annual Nanda jaat. 

Though in the Johar region there is no tradition of Nanda Rajjaat but the worship, dance and the ritual of collecting Brahmkamals (it is called Kaul Kamphu) is part of Nanda festivals.

Olgia or Ghee Sankranti
Olgia is celebrated on the first day of Bhado (middle of August), when the harvest is lush and green, vegetables are in abundance and the milch animals very productive. In ancient times sons-in-law and nephews would give presents to fathers-in-law and maternal uncles, respectively, in order to celebrate Olgia. Today agriculturists and artisans give presents to the owners of their land and purchasers of their tools and receive gifts and money in return. Binai (oral harp), datkhocha (metallic tooth pick), metal calipers, axes, ghee, vegetables and firewood are some of the presents exchanged on this day. People put ghee on their foreheads and eat ghee and chapatis stuffed with 'urad' dal. It is believed that walnuts sweeten after this festival. This festival, which is a celebration of the produce of the land, is now seldom celebrated. 

Phool Dei
Phool Dei is celebrated on the first day of the month of Chaitra in mid March and on this day young girls conduct most of the ceremonies. In some places this festival is celebrated throughout the month with the advent of spring. During this festival young girls go to all the houses in the muhalla or the village with plates full of rice, jaggery, coconut, green leaves and flowers. They offer their good wishes for the prosperity of the household and are given blessings and presents (sweets, gur, money etc) in return.  Sei (a pudding made with floor, curd and jaggery) is prepared specially for this occasion. Folk singers sing the Riturain, Chaiti and other songs welcoming spring and are given presents, money and foodgrains.




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