Fairs & Festival
Ages of rich tradition, warm and hospitable people, a landscape
of breathtaking variety and beauty - all combine to pack each year
in Himachal with a variety of fairs, festivals and celebrations.
There are some 2000 deities worshipped in Himachal and numerous
fairs and festivals are held in their honour. There are others that
began as if just yesterday - and have added their colours to the
grand collage. From religion to trade, from seasons to sports -
and month by month - here is a joyous celebrations of life.
A cliche if you will - but often laced with snow - the year opens
with a heady cocktail. Thousands of revelers head to celebrate the
new year in Shimla, Chail (Solan), Manali (Kullu) and Dalhousie
(Chamba). Around New year comes Halda in Lahaul, which is a more
private celebration of the event. Along the valleys of Chandra and
Bhaga rivers, a few members of every household step out with lighted
cedar twigs to a west oriented place selected by the 'lamas'. These
slender branches form the first flames of a bonfire which is then
dispersed. Shiskar Apa, the goddess of wealth is worshipped,
and the dancing continues for a couple of days.
There is greater sobriety, but no less joy, when Lohri or Maghi
comes along in mid January. This is the traditionally mid winter
day and also commemorates the last sowing of the Rabi crops. Community
bonfires, folk songs and dancing, mark the festival. In tribal Spiti,
Dechhang is celebrated at the height of winter, while the Lahaul
area reserves it for early April. At Paonta Sahib (Sirmour) the
major focus is on Guru Gobind Singh's birthday. The town and other
gurudwaras close to it, are closely linked with the Guru's life.
On a mid-night towards the end of Paush (December-January), Phagli
begins in Lahaul's Pattan valley with snow being packed in a conical
basket - kilta.
This is upturned on the roof, this resembles a Shivalinga. Shiva,
Naga and the goddess, Hadimba are worshipped, and the younger generation
mark this by venerating the village elders. Chhang and lugari, locally
brewed liquors flow freely, and ritual dishes are eaten. Kinnaur's
Sazi (or Sazo), also comes at around this time.
More contemporary -events come in the form of the National Snow
Statue Competition at Kufri (Shimla), the Folk Dance Competition
on Republic Day at Shimla. and the Water Sports Regatta at Kangra's
Maharana Pratap Sagar. To make this wonderful time of year all the
more attractive, Himachal Tourism offers special discounts and packages
in its wide network of hotels.
Snow continues to play a major part in February's festivals and
Himachal's Winter Carnival is also held this month.
Gochi in the Bhaga Valley is an unusual festival when the villagers
celebrate the birth of male children. Token marriages of children
below the age of six are also performed - comes when children throw
snow balls at each other.
Baba Barbhag Singh Mela is held in Una to honour the sage who was
renowned for his magical powers. Basant Panchmi marks the arrival
of spring in the lower areas, and every town seems to keep a reserve
of colour for the occasion and the skies are filled with a medley
Ritual dances and an unbelievably rich imagery mark Lossar. This
is celebrated in Buddhist areas throughout the state while Lahaul's
monasteries have some of the most spectacular performances. On its
eve, the stylized chhaam dance with elaborate costumes and masks,
commemorate the assassination of the cruel Tibetan king, Langdarma
of the 9th century. Often - though wrongly - called 'the devil dance',
it symbolises the triumph of good over evil.
Centered around the temple of Trilokinath, Char is celebrated in
Lahaul. The town of Mandi with Its ancient temples revels in the
Shivratri fair for a whole week. On elaborately decorated palanquins,
hundred of local deities are carried to the town. Accompanied by
folk bands, they make their first stop at the Madho Rai Temple and
then go to pay obeisance to Lord Shiva at the Bhootnath Temple.
This is followed by festivities - music and song, dance and drama.
Yet, all the while the atmosphere is surcharged with deep religious
In third weekof March, the fascinating Nalwari fair is held at
Bilaspur. Cattle are traded, there are wrestling bouts – aero
and water sport shows are recent additions.
Holi Festival is a riot of colours and celebration of spring, alogng
with it comes laughter and vitality. There are exuberant celebrations
at Palampur (Kangra) and Sujanpur (Hamirpur). By the banks of the
river Yamuna the shrine of Paonta Sahib in Sirmour is thronged by
Hindu and Sikh devotees . In Sirmour, the Balasundari fair is held
at Trilokpur near Nahan, it coincides with the sacred days of the
Navratras. The temple of Baglamata, near Bankhandi in Kangra is
also a major focus during these days.
Chait, the first month of lunar calendar is celebrated with dancing
by women in Kullu and by folk singers in Chamba.
At the shrine of Deothsidh (Seo) on the district border of Hamirpur
and Bilaspur, a month long fair is held in March and April.
Held on the first Baisakh - the 13th April - Baisakhi is one of
Himachal's very important festival. Rooted in the rural agrarian
tradition, it bids final farewell to winter. At Tattapani near Shimla,
at Rewalsar and Prashar lakes near Mandi, people take purifying
dips in water. Numerous village fairs complete with wrestling, dancing
and archery are also held on this day.
In April, Rali with its clay models is marked in Kangra. Legend
has it that the beautiful Rali was married against her wishes and
on the way to her husband's home, she leapt into a stream. The husband
jumped in after her and trying to save both, Pali's brother also
dived info the fast flowing waters. All three died. Today, clay
models are made in every house to mark that day, while unmarried
girls pray for grooms of their choice and the newly-wedded ask for
happiness and prosperity, At Chamba, the Sui Mela is thronged by
women and children and at the village of Taraur in district Mandi,
the Mahu Nag fair Is held. The holy Markandaya fair Is held near
Bllaspur and the Rohru (Shimla) Jatar is held in honour of the deity
Shikhru. This is also the time when fishing and low altitude trekking
raise their winter barriers, while the Spring Festival Is celebrated
in Kullu from April 28 to 30.
May gushes In with a whole series of river rafting festivals and
water sports Regattas, through-out the state. Focused around the
goddess Hadimba Devi, Kullu celebrates the Dhoongri fair. In the
same district, the Banjar fair and the Sarhi Jatar are held in May.
Near Shimla at the exquisite glade of Sipur below Mashobra, the
charming Sipi fair is held. It is traditionally a time for match-making.
Throughout Himachal a variety of programmes are organised by the
Department of Language, Art and Culture. Dharamsala's (Kangra) summer
festival and the programmes organised by the Tibetan Institute for
Performing Arts, lift their curtains. The skies are blue and clear
for the Hang Gliding Rally at Billing near Kangra, white Summer
Sking glides smoothly at the Rohtang Pass.
A wide spectrum of national talent, a variety of programmes and
a splendid setting make Shimla's Summer Festival - a memorable event.
Shimla also hosts the Red Cross Fair, sport tournaments, flower
shows, a photographs and posters exhibition and a fashion show based
on folk costumes. The Kangra Festival is also held in June at Kangra,
At Solan, on the third Sunday of the month, the Solan Fair honours
the goddess Shoolini, the presiding deity of the region. On June's
full moon night, the Ghantal festival is held at Lahaul's Guru Ghantal
Monastery. And of course, given the time of the year and the possibilities
it offers, there are various camping and trekking expeditions.
In the arid trans-Himalayas. At Kaza's Ladarcha fair (Lahaul &
Spiti), the old trade routes come alive as traders barter and sell
a variety of goods and produce. At Keylong, the Lahaul Festival
is also held this month. Elsewhere in the state, Haryali (Rhyali,
Dakhrain) announce the advent of the monsoon rains.
Shravana Sankranti is celebrated at Nahan (Sirmour), at Arki (Solan),
buffalo fights mark the Sair fair it is held in honour of Banar
Sevta of Shari, the Rampur (Shimla) Jatar is held near Jubbal in
district Shimla. July also heralds the travelling and trekking season
to Kinnaur and Lahaul & Spiti.
Chamba's famous Minjar fair which celebrates the bounty of nature
and prays for a good harvest is normally held in August. 'Minjars',
maize shoots or silken strands, are cast on the waters of the river
Ravi and the town immerses itself in a week long of celebration.
Also in Chamba, the Manimahesh Yatra to the sacred tarn of Manimahesh
is held immediately after the festival of Janamashtmi. At Bharmour,
28 km short of the lake, the nomadic Gaddis hold a fair for six
Celebrated in Chamba, Kullu and elsewhere, Chrewal, Badronjo or
Patroru is a festival of fire and flowers - and a time for purification
of the fields.
In August, several places in Chamba, Bilaspur and Sirmour have
the Gugga fair which is connected with the worship of Gugga, the
Nag Devta. The same month witnesses the Dal fair in Upper Dharamsala
in Kangra district. At Udaipur, in the Lahaul valley, the Trilokinath
temple becomes a focus; this is sacred to Hindus and Buddhists alike.
The Shravan fair is held at the shrine Naina Devi in Bilaspur district,
while the Ashapuri fair is held in Kangra.
As the rains end, autumn sends fiery colours racing through the
hills. In Kinnaur, the festival of flowers, 'Fullaich' (Phulech)
opens a window to its remarkable people and their beautiful countryside.
Villagers scout the hillsides for flowers which are collected in
the village square. These are then offered to the local deity. Then
comes a spate of revelry - singing, dancing and feasting. Kalpa
has some of the most vibrant celebrations and every twelve years,
there is a special festival. Also in September, at the village of
Chhatrari, near Chamba - and centered around the exquisite temple
of Shakti Devi - a fair is held and masked dances are performed.
The Kangra valley celebrates the festival of Sair. This is also
celebrated with stalls, singing and buffalo fights at Arki (Solan)
and Mashobra (Shimla) both near Shimla. At Nurpur in Kangra, under
the watchful walls of its old fort, the Nagini fair bids the summer
farewell. In the same district on September 27, World Tourism Day
is celebrated. In Sirmour, there is a Regatta at the Renuka Lake
and Nahan hosts the Bawan Dawadashi fair.
There is a Regatta on the waters of the Gobind Sagar, anglers vie
for the largest catch in the Sangla valley (Kinnaur) and paragliders
sail the skies at Billing (Kangra). More traditionally, over two
hundred deities converge on Kullu for its unusual Dussehra celebrations.
They pay homage to Lord Raghunath while music and colour fill the
'Silver Valley'. Numerous stalls offer a variety of local wares.
This is also the time when the International Folk Festival is celebrated.
The Jwalamukhi Temple in Kangra becomes the venue for a major fair.
At Killar and Panai (in Chamba's Pangi valley), the Phool Yatra
witnesses a remarkable display of neighborly affection and the Dehant
Nag is worshipped.
With winter Just a hop and skip away, the age-old Lavi fair fills
Rampur (Shimla) with a burst of activity. The town was once a major
entry point on the old trade routes to Kinnaur, Tibet, Ladakh and
Afghanistan. Even today, the tradition is as vibrant as ever. By
the churning waters of the river Sutlej, a variety of goods including
wool, dry fruits and horses are bartered and sold.
The Kharif crops have been harvested when at the legendary Renuka
lake (Sirmour), a fair graces its banks. There is trade, recreation
and amusement. Idols of Lord Parshurama and Renuka are ceremoniously
dipped in the sacred waters of the lake – and it is a time
when matchmaking is done. Water Sports Competitions are held at
the Maharana Pratap Sagar and Gobind Sagar.
As winter arrives, anglers shift to the Pong Dam. With the blessings
of Nobel Laureate, His Holiness the Dalai Lama, the International
Himalayan Festival is held in Kangra district. Troupes from the
Himalayan Nations are invited. The winter winds carry the delights
of ice-skating at Shimla. The extravaganza of the Ice-Skating Carnival
is normally reserved for December. Christmas celebrations overtake
Shimla and Dalhousie (Chamba) and as the church bells chime, they
carry away another event-packed year. To visit the traditional fairs
or to participate in the festivals, do confirm the dates as many
vary from year to year. A range of accomodation is available at,
or close to almost all the places.
Info on Fairs and Festivals of Himachal Pradesh - india