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Himachal Guide - Fairs & Festivals

Fairs in Himachal Pradesh

The fairs organized in Himachal Pradesh have their own distinctiveness. They give a clear picture into the customs, life and beliefs of Pahari people. With the medium of fairs, the tourists get connected with the folk lifestyle and historical background of that particular place. After all, fairs are the best time to catch-up with specialities of a particular place and its handicrafts that tend to attract the tourists more than anything else.

Lavi Fair of Himachal Pradesh is organized annually in Rampur. Lavi once served as a major trading center and the stopover point on the old trade routes that led to Kinnaur, Tibet, Ladakh and Afghanistan. During the reign of Raja Kesar Singh, a trade treaty was signed between Bush air and Tibet, as a sign of friendliness named lavi fair. Amongst the things one can buy at the fair, the most popular ones are 'Pashmina' wool, dry fruits, 'Chaumkhi' horses that are surefooted and abound in the surrounding tribal areas and a variety of native handicrafts. Traders come to the Lavi Fair to sell quilts, utensils and other consumer goods.

In May Sipi Fair begins in Shimla. It takes place in Mashobra, a village of this district. This is a time to connect with the local culture of India. Earlier the Rana of Koti used to be the chief guest of this festival. Sipi Fair in Shimla is a celebration to pay respect to God Sip. This fair has all sorts of attractions. There are many competitive games are also organized. This particular day is observed as a holiday in the district.

This fair is held in Raila on 21st of Baisakh (April-May) for one day. The significance and legend of the fair is religious and recreational. Idol of Devta Laxminarayana is brought from Raila to Sainj. Thereafter the fair starts with folk dances and songs rythemical with the beat of drums and trumpets.

This fair is held on Jaishth 2nd (May-June) for the three days at Dhoongri (Manali) in the memory of Devi Hadimba who meditated at Dhoogri and was married to Bhima one of the five Pandavas. She had a son from him who was named Ghatotkach. He fought in the battle of Mahabharta. The fair starts with the worship of Goddess Hadimba.

On the first day of the fair reception of Devis and Devtas and their attendants takes place. On the second day Devis and Devtas are propitiated through songs and dances. On the third day they are carried in a procession around the village. On the fourth day, the fair comes to an end after serving community feast. This fair held once in three years, dates where of is decided by the Brahmins. The fair is held for four days. The fair is commemorated in the memory of Lord Parshu Ram who is stated to have meditated here.

Phagli in Himachal Pradesh is an important Fair. It attracts numerous tourists from across the country and also ensures a relief from the humdrum of daily existence. Himachal Pradesh, also renowned as an Abode of Clouds, is a land of exquisite beauty. It is not only a majestic locale, but the rich Cultural Heritage of India is also revealed by it from the wide array of its Fairs and Festivals. Phagli Fair is one among them. It is celebrated amidst extensive gaiety and fanfare where cheerful men and women in their brightest costumes adorn the Fair and the shrill cry of the children seems to be like a melodious music. Phagli has been named after the month of Phalguna, (the Roman month of February or March). The Phagli Fair commences at the beginning of spring. Just as the best and beautiful things in the world are only to be perceived and not to be seen and heard, so, the intensity of spring is only to be felt. The Phagli Fair too, with its uniqueness and vibrancy is indescribable, like spring.

This fair held on 3rd (Dec.-Jan) for one day. The fair is mainly religious and it is said that Rana and Thakurs then rulers of Kullu valley were at logger head and used to be constantly at war with one another. To commemorate the battle a ram used to be sacrificed. The practice of ram sacrifice is still in vogue.

This fair is held on Chait 4ty (March-april) for two days in village Dawra. The legend connected with the fair is that once mother Parvati asked Lord Shiva to forget Rama saying that even Rama could change. To prove this she went to Rama in the guise of Sita to deceive him. When Lord Rama saw her he could see through the game and addressed Parvati as mother and enquired as to why she has left his guru i.e. Lord Shiva. The fair starts with worship of Vishnu Bhagwan and the village Devi. Natti dances, folk songs and other cultural programs are the main attractions of the fair.

The Mahu Nag Fair is held in the Mandi District of Himachal Pradesh in the month of April. It is an event where religious fervor combined with gaiety makes for wonderful combination. This annual fair attracts a good number of devotees visiting the Mahu Nag Temple on Sanskranti Day.
Visitors to this fair will love exploring the colorful stalls selling all kinds of knick knacks to carry back home. Many people visiting the Mahu Nag Fair in Himachal Pradesh can also visit the nearby temples that are some of the most interesting attractions located in that area. .

The Manimahesh fair held here every year by the nomadic Gaddis has been declared a state level fair by the Himachal Government eight years ago and has gained a lot of importance since then. Amongst the various winter carnivals held in Himachal Pradesh, Manimahesh Fair is an important fair held in the month of February and attracts lot of locals and tourists from across the country.

During the Shivratri Fair in Himachal Pradesh, gaily decorated palanquins carrying all the local deities are ferried to the town of Mandi. Accompanied by folk bands and hordes of enthusiastic devotees, the palanquins make a stop at the Masho Rai Temple and then proceed to the Bhootnath Temple dedicated to Lord Shiva. After paying obeisance to the Gods, the people of Mandi follow it up with lots of music, dance and singing. Plays or skits are also arranged to entertain the onlookers. Even though merriment becomes the order of the day during the Shivratri Fair in Mandi, the religious fervor that is a part of all the proceedings cannot be missed. No wonder, the Shivratri Fair adds up as one of the most attractive among the fairs in Himachal Pradesh India.

Festivals in Himachal Pradesh

Age-old customs and traditions of the state are best reflected during the festive season. The joyous and vibrant voices fill the air with happiness and everyone enjoys the festivals. Almost every month the people of Himachal Pradesh have a reason to celebrate.
Festivals are a reason to celebrating the traditional values and customs with pomp. Such a time will bring the tourists close to the religious background of Himachal Pradesh and its way to giving importance to some of the most valuable moments in history or past. In fact, it also helps the tourists to know the place with a deeper insight into the cultural lifestyle of Himachal people.

Dussehra is a week long celebration in Kullu, which normally starts on Vijaydashmi.The history of Kullu Dussehra dates back to the 17th century when the king Jaganand installed an idol of Raghunath or Lord Rama on his throne as a mark of penance. Lord Raghunath,who is the main deity of the festival is taken in a procession along with other deities of the region. It is believed that all the gods of the valley visit the region to pay homage to Lord Raghunath.
On the first day of the festival, the chariot of Lord Raghunath is pulled from the Dhalpur Maidan to another spot across the maidan(area) by big ropes. The pulling of ropes is regarded as sacred by the local people. On the last day of the festival the chariot of Lord Raghunath is taken near the bank of the river Beas, where a pile of wood and grass is set on fire rememorize the burning of Lanka.

The Pori Festival offers a unique opportunity to the local communities of the region to come together and rejoice in this great cultural fanfare. Celebrating a host of fares and festivals to mark religious events or seasonal changes, Himachal Pradesh celebrates this festival to strengthen the traditional beliefs of the rural people here. Celebrated with a great pomp and show, the Pori Festival is an annual feature at the Lahaul Valley and is symbolic to the historical and sociological background of the area. It has been a practice amongst the local people to worship Lord Trilokinath since time immemorial on this festival. The statue of the Lord is bathed in milk and yogurt on this festival. Devotees gather at the temple in the morning and go around the temple beating drums, blowing conch shells and bugles. A horse is also taken around the temple. A huge procession is then carried out with the horse and it is believed that God rides on the back of this horse showering His blessings upon the devotees.
At the procession's end, the crowd takes the horse to the royal palace of the local ruler. The horse is bathed in sweet water there and is offered healthy food. After this the king rides the horse and goes to the fair ground which is dotted all over with small shops.

Fulaich festival in the Kinnaur valley is the carnival of flower-watching. It celebrated in the month of September and honors the dead relatives and to pray for their peace of soul. The festival starts with animal sacrifices. People serve rice wine and food to the dear departed ones on a mound of bricks. They believed that their deceased relatives will visit that place and accept their offerings. These are later distributed to the poor and the Harijans in the village. On 16th September about 10 Rajputs of the village pluck flowers and go to the high hills. They stay there till 17th of September and return to their village on 18th.On 20th September the Local God is ornamented with images and fine cloths. On the last day of the festival, the village God is brought back to the temple and a goat and lamb is sacrificed.

In Kinnaur this festival is known as Bishu. People cook a savory gruel known as Doon on this day and eat it together. In villages which do not celebrate Chaitrual, Bishu marks the beginning of the New Year. On this day the gods are dressed up in special finery. The brass masks of the gods are cleaned and polished. Every fourth year a festival called Bala is celebrated.
On this day old weapons belonging to the deities are brought out and cleaned. The villagers divide themselves into two teams and play-act a mock battle. The winning team returns to the village singing and rejoicing all the way. In the village the deities are taken around in their palanquins. It is believed that evil spirits and ghosts get into the palanquin and increase the weight suddenly. Many dances are also performed with ancient historical weapons.

Khepa in Himachal Pradesh which is essentially an event to catch away demons is a very popular festival in Himachal Pradesh. The word Khepa stands for the meaning Siddha or say Tantrik Guru in Hindi. In Khepa, Himachal Pradesh the Siddha or the Tantrik Guru is made of flour. On the day of this festival, local people take bath early in the morning. They place a thorny shrub or say cho or Brekling on the top of their roofs. However, there is other festival called Pulkhepa also. It is celebrated on the same patterns as Khepa, Himachal Pradesh. On the occasion of Pulkhepa in Himachal Pradesh a goat head and Poltu or say a special kind of fried bread is made.

The festivities of Karwa Chauth, Himachal Pradesh start from early morning. Before sunrise, women take bath and attire in new cloths. They take few selected grains and fruits in meal. For remaining day they do not take food and water. Further, married women offer prayers to Hindu god and goddess such as Shiva and Parvati. The prayers on the day of Karwa Chauth are offered with the motive of seeking blessings that would enable them to enjoy successful married lives.
It is during afternoon that women assemble in neighborhood for a prayer ceremony. They recite very popular Karva Chauth story. On the time of the puja, women wear bright red or pink clothes and stunning jewelry. Once the prayer ceremony is over all the women eagerly wait for moon rise. As soon as moon appears on sky every woman come to their terrace and offer prayers to ensure well being for their husband and family. An elderly woman of the family again recites story of Karwa Chauth. At the end of these rituals, all women break their fast with a sip of water.

People from the plains of Northern India rush to Himachal Pradesh in summers, to escape the heat of the harsh sun. It is during this time that a variety of programs, cultural and folk performances and tourism fairs are organized by the Government of Himachal Pradesh. One such festival is Summer Festival, organized in the beautiful hill station of Shimla, in the month of May. It is organized at the Ridge of Shimla and attracts tourists from all over the country. The major attractions of this festival are various local folk dance performances, performances by school children, art and handicrafts exhibition, photographs exhibition, posters exhibition, a flower show and a number of competitions. There is also a unique fashion show that aims at showcasing the folk and traditional costumes of the region, along with a folk dance festival, the Red Cross Fair and numerous sports tournaments. Eminent singers and celebrities come from various parts of India to participate in the amazing Summer Festival of Shimla. At the time of the festival, a fair is also organized in Shimla, where the local people put up stalls displaying the exquisite handicrafts of Himachal Pradesh. One of the major festivals of Shimla, the Summer Festival aims at promoting the rich tradition and culture of the state throughout the Indian subcontinent.

Winter Carnival of Manali is one of the two winter fairs organized in Himachal Pradesh, with the other being the one in Shimla. It is organized in the month of February, when there is lot of snow and ice covering the slopes of Himachal hills. People coming to the carnival can opt for winter sports organized at snow-capped Rohtang range and ski slopes of Solang valley. One of the major attractions of the Winter Carnival of Manali is a beauty contest, known as the 'Winter Queen' contest. The Winter Carnival of Manali holds the status of a state-level festival, declared by the Himachal Pradesh Government a few years back. Every year, a large number of teams from various youth clubs, colleges and universities all over India participate in the carnival, their performances being assessed by a panel of judges. This carnival has brought some fun and entertainment into the, otherwise, dreary life of the people of Manali in winters. At the same time, it has also led to a surge in the tourism in the hill station.

The Lohri Festival is generally held to ensure fertility and prosperity. Bonfire is an integral part of the Lohri Fair that has been named after the Lohri Festival. It is a month of celebration for the people of Himachal Pradesh when new costumes are bought and amidst extensive salsa and melody the celebration ensues. Since Lohri is usually celebrated during the month of Magh (January), it is also known as Maghi Festival. The Lohri or Maghi Fair is a jovial relief from the monotonous daily existence and is thus a welcome relief by the people of Himachal Pradesh.

Chaitraul also well known as the festival of pictures is one of the celebrated festivals of the Sirmaur area in Himachal Pradesh. Food is distributed to the poor people. It is a ritual on this occasion to break clay pots to get rid of the evil spirits. It is performed on a certain day in the bright fortnight of the moon in the month of Chaitra. As a mark of richness and prosperity, the houses are painted and decorated with figures of male animals and crops on this day symbolizing abundance and wealth.
On this Chaitraul day the family deities are taken out into the fields, and a particular dish known as Poltu is cooked. In some instances, the deity is positioned in middle of the field and an extraordinary savory gruel is prepared as offering to the Lord. Another famous feature involved is Khone, a custom of compromise between the gods and the demons. Chaitraul festival is celebrated in the month of Chaitra that is in between March and April.

Gugnaumi is a festival in honor of Googa, the lord of snakes. On this day large feasts (Bhandara) are organized at all the temples of Googa (Googmadhi) in which the food grains collected by the Guru (head priest) are used. It is an elaborate affair and the food is prepared for the Lord by the priests. It symbolizes the offering of the villagers to the Lord of snakes. The farmers also come with offerings of food and pray for their well being. Pictures of snakes are drawn on the walls with turmeric and people feed snakes with milk and butter. Mentally challenged women dance at the temples on this day, in order to get rid of their sickness. It is believed that the spirit of Googa descends upon them and suggests ways of curing the ailment. Googa Saloh and Shibo-Da-than are two major temples where fairs take place. Gugnaumi Festival in Himachal Pradesh is mainly performed by the villagers. It is also whispered that if you can take a glimpse of a snake on this auspicious day your every wish come true. On this day the Lord of Snakes shower His blessings upon the villagers.

Lohadi is a winter festival. According to the Hindu calendar this festival takes place at the end of the month of Pausha. Every farmer sings songs and roams around the entire house of the village in the before month of this festival. The song sung by the farmers has a specific name among the local people. This Lohadi song is called 'Lohkadiyan'. The rituals of Lohadi in Himachal Pradesh start a month before the actual festival. Lohadi is celebrated in each and every household of Himachal Pradesh. The people of each and every house of the village heartily receive the singers. The singers are offered food grains as gifts. After a one month long celebration, the actual day of Lohadi festival comes. At the time of Lohadi festival special sweets and various delicious foods are prepared which is called Babru by the local people. On the night of Lohadi, some boys sing deer songs and a local boy disguises himself in the attire of a Deer, which is locally known as Harin.

Sairi in Himachal Pradesh which is again a celebration to ensure happiness and prosperity for the community is observed on the first day of the month of Ashwin. It falls during winter season in Himachal Pradesh. The celebration of the winter festival Sairi in Himachal Pradesh starts when the maize crops are ready to be harvested. Local people cook Sweet Bhature and Pakodis or say the dumplings composed of ground Urd Dhal. During the celebration of the Sairi in Himachal Pradesh it is a tradition that young men and women apply Henna or say seur on their palms and the soles of the feet. Another striking feature of the celebration of the festival Sairi, Himachal Pradesh is that at night village barbers can be spotted decorating a big lemon with kumkum or vermilion and rice. Later, the village barbers arrange these nicely adorned lemons in a beautiful basket along with coconut and attractive flowers. Once this decoration gets finally over, the village barbers carry these baskets around the village from one door to another door. These baskets are curiously awaited by each of the house-holds. The members of the house place some more flowers, sweets and money in the basket that again signifies an offering.