fairs & festivals

  fair and festivals  
There is a sobriety, but no less joy, when Lohri or Maghi comes along in mid-January. This is the traditionary 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 he height of winter, while the Lahaul area reserves it for early April. Paonta Sahib is a major focus 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, Phagli begins in Lahaul's pattan valley with snow being packed in a conical basket - kilta. This is upturned on a roof and resembles a Shivalinga. Shiva, Naga and the goddess Hadimba are worshipped, and the younger generation also mark it by venerating the village elders. Chhang and Lugari, locally brewed liquors flow freely and ritual dishes are eaten. Kinnaur's Sazi, also comes at around this time.
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. Taken marriages of children below the age of six are also performed - and a lighter side comes with the snow balling every child participates in. The Baba Barbhag Singh Mela is held in Una and honours this 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 of kites. Ritual dances and an unbelievable 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 stylised chhaam dance and elaborate costumes and masks, commemorate the assassination of the cruel Tibetan king, Langdarma in the 9th century. Often - through arongly - 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. Accompained 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 devotion. In the third week of March, the fascinating Nalwari fair is held at Bilaspur. Cattle is traded, there are wrestling bouts and aero and water sports shows are recent additions. Chait, the first month of lunar calendar is celebrated by the dancing of women in Kullu and by folk singing in Chamba.
Held on the first Baisakh - the 13th April - Baisakhi is one of Himachal's most important festivals. Rooted in the rural agrarian tradition, it bids a final farewell to winter. At Tattapani near Shimla, at the Rewalsar and Prashar lakes near Mandi, people take purifying dips in the 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. 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 Bilaspur and the Rohru Jatar is held in honour of the deity, Shikhru.
May gushes in with a whole series of river rafting festivals and water sports Regattas, throughout 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.
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 Shilooni, the presiding deity of the region. On June's full moon night, the Ghantal festival is held at Lahaul's guru Ghantal monastery.