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Fairs & festival

The religious, social and cultural urges of the people of Uttaranchal find an expression in various fairs, which are in turn closely linked to the economic activities of the region. Various folk songs and dances have been kept alive because of these fairs. In older times, when means of transport were not so good these fairs were an opportunity for friends and relatives to meet regularly. Inspite of all the changes in our society, the tradition of fairs has been kept up by the people. The fairs of Jauljibi, Thal and Bageshwar have been closely linked with the trading activities of the people of this region, while the fairs at Dwarahat, Syalde and Devidhura are important from the religious and cultural point of view.

The following are the major fairs of Uttaranchal:
Jauljibi and Thal fairs
This fair is held every year in November at Jauljibi, the confluence ofthe rivers Kali and Gori, which is a meeting place of three different cultures - the Shauka, the Nepali and the Kumaoni. This gateway to Johar, Darma, Chaudans and Byans was at one time, considered to be the central place between Tibet and the Tarai regions. Though this fair is primarily a commercial one, its cultural importance cannot be overlooked. People come even from Nepal to this fair in order to sell horses, ghee and foreign goods and take back foodgrains, jaggery etc. A similar fair is held at Thai on Vaishakh Sankranti (14 April) and it attracts a large number of Shaukas. With the closure of the Indo - Tibet trade these fairs have lost their former importance.

The Uttarayani fair
This fair is held in a number of places including Bageshwar, Rameshwar, Suit Mahadev, Chitrashila (Ranibagh) and Hanseshwar etc. on Uttarayani day. At Pancheshwar the dola of Chaumu comes down to the temple. The fair at Bageshwar attracts maximum people. Its commercial, cultural and political importance is still very high. Goods like iron and copper pots, baskets, casks, bamboo articles, mats, mattresses, carpets, blankets, herbs and spices are sold during this fair.

The Uttarayani fairs are often used as platforms by social and political workers and the Bageshwar fair specially has played an important role in all the local movements, as also in the freedom movement. In 1921 activists had given a call for the eventual eradication of the system of bonded labour known as coolie begar. In 1929 Gandhi ji came to Bageshwar. Many freedom fighters and folk singers have been closely associated with the Bageshwar fair. Even today the fair attracts a large number of people, who spend the whole night dancing and singing Jhoras, Chancharis and Bairas.

The Nandadevi fNandadevi fairair
The Nandadevi fair is held at Almora, Nainital, Kot (Dangoli), Ranikhet, Bhowali, Kichha and also in the far flung villages of lohar (like Milam and Martoli) and Pindar valleys (like Wachham and Khati). In the villages of the Pindar valley people celebrate the Nanda Devi J aat (journey) every year, while in lohar people come from far and wide to Danadhar, Suring, Milam and Martoli in order to worship the Goddess. In Nainital and Almora thousands take part in the procession carrying the dola (or litter) of N anda Devi. It is said that the Nanda Devi fairs started in Kumaon during the reign of Kalyan Chand in the 16th Century. A three day fair is held at Kot ki mai or Kot bhramari devi. The fair at Saneti comes every second year (89,91,93). Both these fairs are rich in folk expressions and many village products are brought for sale.

Syalde Bikhauti
It is celebrated on the Vishuwat Sankranti day and commemorates an ancient victory. On this day, the Bagwal is held at Syalde Pokhar in the old town of Dwarahat. People also celebrate the occasion with music, songs and dancing. One day before this a similar fair is held at Vibhandeshwar in which Lord Shiva is worshipped. The Syalde Bikhauti fair has been successful in retaining its old colour and gaiety to a large extent.

The Somnath (Masi) fair
This fair, also on Vishuwat Sankranti day is held in the Shiva temple at Masi. It is a famous fair of Pali Pachhaun. Animals, specially bullocks and calves, are sold at this fair. On the same day a fair is held at ThaI. In the summer the people in the valley of Ramganga W., especially in Masi and Bhikiasen, celebrate the unique machhli utsav (the fish festival). The villagers bearing tumra come with Jaal, fatyav and hathiya to the river to catch fish. The fish festival is locally known as Dahau.

The Devidhura fair
This fair is held in the compound of the Varahi Devi temple at Devidhura on the day of Raksha Bandhan. Devidhura is situated at a trijunction of Almora, Pithoragarh and Nainital districts and the fair is well known for its enchanting folk songs and dances as also for its Bagwal. During the Bagwal the two groups (khams) of people throw stones at each other while they try to protect themselves by using big roof like shields. Even watching the Bagwal is a truly thrilling experience. The Devidhura fair has maintained its old vigour.

The Jageshwar fair
This fair is held on the fifteenth day of the month of Baishakh (late March or early April) at the Shiva temple in Jageshwar. During the fair people take holy dips in the Brahma Kund (pool) and worship Lord Shiva. On this day, fairs are also held in many other places.

The Punyagiri fair
Many people throng the temple at Punyagiri, which is situate,d on the top of a mountain on the right bank of the river Kali, in the district of Pithoragarh. The temple is very crowded during the Navaratris of Paush and Chaitra. Every year a fair is held on Vishuwat Sankranti and this attracts a large number of pilgrims. After the Holi festival, the longest fair of Kumaon (for about 40 days) starts at Punyagiri. Thousands of people visit the shrine these days.

The Haatkalika fair
On the ashtami (eighth day of the month)of the Chaitra and Bhado, a fair is held in the Kalika temple at Gangolihat. People come with drums and flags to pay homage to Goddess Kalika. On this day, animals are sacrificed and offered to the Goddess. The athwar (eight sacrifices) processions with drums and dances are worth seeing.

Other Fairs
The Mostamanu (Pithoragarh) fair held in August - September, the Chaiti fair at Kashipur during which Talsundhari is worshipped, the fair of Jahraulia Peer at Kashipur, the Shiva Mela at Ataria (Rudrapur) on the day of Purnamasi in the month of Chaitra; the fairs at Nanakmatta, Saneti, Sanigaar, Berinag, Wadda (Chaupakhia), Dharchula and Tapovan; the Shivratri fair at Bhikiasen and Salt Mahadev; the Devi fair at Deghat and Kalanka (at Almora - Pauri border, once in three years); the Krishna Janmastami fair at Kalapani and Gunji; the Kanar Devi fair (above Baram in Gori valley); the Hokaradevi fair at Birthi; the Dhanlek fair at Askot; the Lachher fair near Nainipatal are some of the important fairs, which playa major role in the social and cultural lives of the people of Kumaon. In all these fairs one can feel the coexistence of the forces of continuity and change in Uttaranchali culture.


Makar Sankranti (Ghughutia)
Select a FesMakar Sankrantitival Makar Sankranti Basant Panchami Phool Dei Harela and Bhitauli Olgia or Ghee Sankranti Khatarua Bat Savitri Ganga Dusshera Janopunyu NandaDevi Rajjaat Chippla Jaat Kandali Hilljatra Khari Holi

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 togather and worn as necklace-in the middle of which an oragne 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.

Basant Panchami
Select a Festival Makar Sankranti Basant Panchami Phool Dei Harela and Bhitauli Olgia or Ghee Sankranti Khatarua Bat Savitri Ganga Dusshera Janopunyu NandaDevi Rajjaat Chippla Jaat Kandali Hilljatra Khari Holi

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. This festival also marks the beginning of holi baithaks.

Chippla Jaat
Select a Festival Makar Sankranti Basant Panchami Phool Dei Harela and Bhitauli Olgia or Ghee Sankranti Khatarua Bat Savitri Ganga Dusshera Janopunyu NandaDevi Rajjaat Chippla Jaat Kandali Hilljatra Khari Holi

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
Select a Festival Makar Sankranti Basant Panchami Phool Dei Harela and Bhitauli Olgia or Ghee Sankranti Khatarua Bat Savitri Ganga Dusshera Janopunyu NandaDevi Rajjaat ChipHoli pla Jaat Kandali Hilljatra Khari Holi 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.

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
This festival is celebrated on the Krishna amavasya (last day of the dark half of the month) of Jyestha and on the day married women worship Savitri and the Bat or banyan tree (Ficus benghalensis) and pray for the well being of their spouses. Women observe fast in honour of Savitri and Satyavan and remember how Savitri through her intense dGanga Dussehraevotion saved her husband from the claws of death.

Ganga Dussehraor dasar
Ganga Dussehra is celebrated on the Shukla dasami of the Jyestha (May - June). The sacred Ganga is worshipped on this day and Dussehra 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.

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

Other festivals
Ghuiya Ekadashi, Krishna Janmasthami, Shivratri, Nandastami, Saton Aathon, Ramnavmi, Nagpanchami (Birur panchami) are also celebrated in different parts of Kumaon. On Nagpanchami the whole Nag region (Berinag, Pingalnag, Basukinag, Kalinag, Feninag, Harinag, Dhaulinag and Nag) worship Nag Devta in Pithoragarh district. The Shaukas worship Nanda Devi in the Johar and Gabla Dev in the Darma, Chaudans and Byans region. Syangthangapujan, Syeemithhumo (atma pujan), Maati (Soil) pooja and Nabu Samo and the KandaU utsav (held once in twelve years) are some of the other festivals of the Shaukas of the Kumaon.

Uttaranchal also celebrate all the major Indian festivals like Holi, Navratri, Diwali, Muharram, Barawafat, Sha-be-raat, Id-ul fitar, Id-ul Zuha, Easter, Christmas, Baisakhi, Guru Nanak Jayanti etc. People from all the communities celebrate these festivals with gaiety and enthusiasm.


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