Mussoorie : 9 August, 2015

Celebrations in rustic hill locales of Garhwal have always been exciting as here the essential passions of the heart find a better soil and are under less restraint. Manners of rural life and celebrations germinate from these elementary feelings that exist in the state of greater simplicity and the passions of men are incorporated with the beautiful forms of nature. The festivals of Garhwal are dedicated to nature, gods and changing seasons and have the potential of a transcendent self to commune with a transcendent divinity living beyond the visible natural phenomena.

These festivals give a person a chance to acquire subtle understanding of the pleasure, purpose and the laws that govern the relation between humans and nature. These betray an inextricable ecological consciousness and a sense of subordination to nature. These festivals provide one with an invitation to ‘come forth into the light of things’ with a humble openness to nature’s revelations.
Most of the festivals (also called Thaulus) of the region are based on folklore that have antecedents to the Mahabharata era and even before the arrival of the Aryans.

Gods bathe in Ganga
The Magh festival also known as Bada Haat ku Thaulu is the most important festival of Uttarkashi district. It is celebrated since ages in Uttarkashi that was an important stopover for tribal traders from the Jad Ganga region, who used to bring goods from Tibet for trade at Baada Haat ku Thaulu. Later, the trade fair was merged with Makreni festivities in Magh month when it is believed gods come down on earth to bathe in the Ganga. Dolis or palanquins carrying idols of Hindu gods and goddesses from various parts of Uttarkashi are brought on the first day of the festival for a holy dip in the Ganga. The festival lasts for more than a week. Today, it is famous for numerous stalls that display local produces and handicraft.

Butter is for festivities
The Dayara Bugyal butter festival also called Anduri Utsav is celebrated in lush green meadows of Dayara Bugyal at around 10,000 feet in Uttarkashi district. Villagers smear each other with butter as part of the festivities and the occasion provides an out of the world experience.
Residents of Raithal, Vaarsu and other villages in Uttarkashi gather at lush green meadows of Dayara Bugyal with their cattle in August to express their gratitude to mother nature.  They play Holi by smearing each other with butter. However, this year the festival was celebrated in June to attract tourists. Villagers dance, rejoice and sing in praise of Lord Krishna, and the fairies that they believe are still staying in the bugyals (meadows). Children present skits on Lord Krishna.

Earth girl child's saviour
The Dubri festival is also celebrated as Durga Ashtami or Radha Ashtami. It is believed that Lord Krishna's parents Devki and Vasudev first gave birth to baby girls and hence, some celebrate it as Radha Ashtami while others celebrate it as Durga Ashtami. According to folklore, king Kansa, who was bent upon killing children fearing that if anyone of them survives and grows up, he would become the cause of his death. But as Kansa snatched the newborn baby girl from Devki's hands, she flew into the sky cursing Kansa.

Later, she entered mother earth forever. The festival is also celebrated as a period of seeking blessings from mother earth who saved the life of the girl child. Portions of crops grown are offered to Goddess Earth for seeking her security against all evils. The festival also denotes the arrival of fresh crops after the sowing season is over during the monsoon. In some areas, it is also linked with the birth anniversary of sage Durvasa of ancient times.

Bhedu ku Tamashu
A unique festival called Bhedu ku Tamashu (show of sheep) is celebrated by villagers at a height of around 2,500 m in the Varuna valley, the Asi Ganga valley and the Rawain region of Uttarkashi district. The festival is celebrated once in two years at Uprikot village in Uttarkashi district. Villagers bring their goats and sheep that they had left for grazing in meadows (bugyals) in the district for festivities to mark their safe homecoming.
The oldest or the biggest sheep or goat is selected to represent the local deity and the local priest worships it. Some villagers, who are believed to be possessed by local deities, along with sheep and goats follow the head sheep and take a round of the Someshwar Mahadev temple. Villagers take their sheep and goats back home after they had been blessed. They then start festivities with Raso and Tandi dances amid beats of traditional drums.

Stunned fish isn't a prized catch
The fishing festival known as Maund is celebrated by villagers in the Aglar river  in and around the Kempty Fall area of the Jaunpur block in Tehri district from June 26 to 28 every year. Villagers take turn in preparing a powder of the Timru plant that is dumped at Maundkot, a few kilometres upstream of the river, to stun the fish and make them unconscious for a while. The festival witnesses a mad rush for catching fish. Many people wait downstream to take home a prized catch for a sumptuous meal. The festivities date back to the period of the royal king of Garhwal who used to give permission for fishing. He  used to visit the place and collect maunka (a sort of tax) from people interested in fishing. Travel writer Hugh Gantzer believes that the festival might have some ecological significance as it could help in cleaning the river of big, old and sick fish to make way for new hatchling to thrive.
Courtesy: The Tribune

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