Festivals and Culture

Festivals in the Himalayas are not only an expression of the socio-cultural values and traditions, but in the past were also important trade points, as difficulty of access presented a challenge to traders from other parts of Kumaun and the neighbouring Garhwal region, as well as China and Nepal. While most cross-border trade has ceased nowadays as a result of the political climate, festivals still hold significance for many in the region and is the best way to preserve their cultural heritage.

Harela

Harela is a Kumaoni festival marking the advent of the rainy season. Ten days before the due date, seeds of either five or seven types of grain are mixed together and sown in small baskets filled with earth, by the head of the family or the family priest. Painted images of Shiva and Parvati and their offspring are prepared and worshipped, and green shoots ('harela') are placed on the head.

Uttarayani

One of the largest fairs in the Kumaon region, the Uttarayani festival of Bageshwar, takes place every January for a period of one week and is attended by traders from nearby Almora, Bhotiyas from the higher Himalayas, as well as a great multitude of people from the surrounding villages. Its commercial, cultural and political importance is still very high. Wares range from iron and copper pots, baskets, casks to bamboo products, mats, mattresses, carpets and blankets to herbs and spices.  

Shravani Mela

This fair is celebrated in honour of Lord Shiv during the traditional month of Baisakh (rainy season) in July and August. Night long worship celebrations are held, along with local song and dances.

Harela

Harela is a Kumaoni festival marking the advent of the rainy season. Ten days before the first rains are due, seeds of five or seven types of grain are mixed together and sown in small baskets filled with earth by the head of the family or the family priest. Painted images of Shiva and Parvati and their offspring are prepared and worshipped, and green shoots ('harela') are placed on the head.

Bikhoti Mela

This is the local version of the famous Baisakhi festival, celebrated all over the country to mark the solar New Year. Here, it is also celebrated as marking the beginning of the summer. Celebrated in the month of April, people travel from all over to take a dip in the holy rivers, accompanied by a popular custom of beating symbolic stones representing demons with sticks. The fair is celebrated in various major centres including Sealdah, Bageshwar and Dwarahat and involves much singing and dancing, accompanied by local drums and other instruments.  

Song and Dance

Jaagar

Jaagar, folk songs often combined with dance, are a form of spiritual worship in honour of various gods and goddesses and usually involve animal sacrifice.

Jhoda

A community dance, in whch all caste barriers are forgotten. Jhoda is most commonly danced at fairs in springtime or at weddings, to the accompaniment of singing that grows with the dance. From a minimum of 6 participants, it can swell to 200 at times, men and women both joining in moving together in a circle. There is no time limit to the dance, which can last for hours with new groups joining in while old ones retire.

Chanchri

Chanchri dance form resembles Jhoda and is another Kumaoni group dance, danced by men and women in a semi-circle at a slow tempo.

 
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