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UTTARANCHAL

Uttaranchal Fairs & Festivals

The fairs and folk festivals of Uttaranchal are very colourful and distinctive, and are the blend of various natural, social and cultural factors. The people of Uttaranchal also celebrate all the major Indian festivals. Basant Panchami, Bhitauli, Harela, Phooldei, Batsavitri, Ganga Dusshera, Dikar Puja, Olgi or Ghee Sankranti, Khatarua, Ghuian Ekadashi and Ghughutia are some of the major festivals of Uttaranchal.

The daily lives of Uttaranchali women are crowded with a never-ending succession of festivals, most of them involving fasts and the preparation of special foods

Explore more about the folk festivals of Uttaranchal-

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.

Basant Panchami
The festival of Basant Panchami celebrates the coming of the spring season. This festival, which also signals the end of winter, is generally celebrated during Magh (January - February). During this festival people worship the Goddess Saraswati, use yellow handkerchiefs or even yellow cloths and in a few places people put a yellow tilak on their foreheads.

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.

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.

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.

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 upto the heights of Roopkund and Haemkund with a four horned sheep.

Hilljatra
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.

Kandali
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 popul< story, the region was once attacked while the menfolk were away for trade. Th brave women repelled the enemy, who hid in the Kandali bushes, and the attacked the bushes and destroyed the enemy. The festival commemorates thei bravery and the women therefore destroy the plant ceremonially to remind th local people of the incident and to prevent further mishaps.

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.

Khatarua
Khatarua is essentially the special festival of pastoral- agricultural society and celebrated on the first day of the month of Ashwin in mid September, and signifies the beginning of the autumn. On this day people light bonfires, around which children dance, holding aloft colourful flags. People take special care of their animals and feed them fresh grass. Cucumbers are offered to the fire of Khatarua, which is said to destroy all evil influences. The victory of the king of Kumaon is also said to be one of the reasons for the celebration of Khatarua.
Bat Savitri

Ganga Dusshera or Dasar
Ganga Dusshera is celebrated on the Shukla dasami of the Jyestha (May - June). The sacred Ganga is worshipped on this day and Dusshera posters (dwarpatras or dasars), which have various geometric designs on them, are put up on the doors of houses and temples. These posters, once hand written by brahmins, are now printed. On this day people bathe in the holy rivers.

Janopunyu
The people of Kumaon celebrate Raksha Bandhan and J anopunyu, the day on which people change their janeu (sacred thread). On this day the famous Bagwal fair is held at Devidhura in district Pithoragarh.

 

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