Colors and Divinity: The Festivals of Kinnaur
The festivities for Sazo had begun by the time Lovnish Thakur, a development entrepreneur in the Himachal, had settled in his gracious host Ajay’s home in Chaura, a nondescript village in tribal Kinnaur. The divine land of Kinnaur has much to offer and Lovnish was fortunate to be a part of these splendid and warm festivities.
The view of the imposing Himalayas from the gallery of Om Prakash’s home was impeccable. The divine land of Kinnaur was waking to another morning as the winter sun played hide and seek with misty clouds. Before I could wander down the memory lane, Ajay Bhushan came in with a bowl full of traditional chiltas, freshly prepared by his mother. It was the month of January, the festive season for Sazo, a local fair held in Kinnaur. Ajay Bhushan, just a young boy otherwise, gave me a detailed account of the myriad intriguing festivals the Kinnauras celebrated.
It was but appropriate for Ajay to begin the discussion by narrating the relevance of Sazo, a festival that is celebrated across the Kinnaur valley during the month of January. Ajay had just returned after a sacred dip in the nearby Sutlej river – an auspicious ritual on this day. His mother was busy preparing the traditional delicacies including poltus, chiltas and pug. The family later worships the local deity. Wine and freshly prepared halwa is also offered to the deity as a mark of respect on this festive occasion.
Kinnaur is rightly described as the land of deities. Ajay informed me that the months of February and March are reserved for the festival of Suskar. The festivities continue throughout these months. Distinct functions are held on each day. Goddess Kali is worshipped on rooftops on the last day of this function with people thronging to seek the blessings of the goddess. The festivities are mostly symbolic now – I later found that youngsters like Ajay Bhushan take little pride in participating in these culturally important Kinnauri festivals.
Though Kinnaur is not primarily an agriculture intensive region, people in Chaura told me that that the festival of Beesh or Baishakhi is celebrated with religious fervour here. Local delicacies like poltus, halwa and keyshid are prepared on this occasion. People prodly and affectionately display their traditional outfits on this occasion. Ajay’s father, Om Prakash, had kept these outfits ready for the day though he couldn;t keep off his hands for long and occasionally wore them, even though the festivities were months away.
Ajay reminisced an incident when he was stuck on a kanda – a mountain top – for over two days, where he had gone to pluck the zongor and loskar flowers, both of which are offered to the local deity on the festive occasion of Dakhraini. The festival is celebrated during the month of July and villagers offer garlands made from these flowers to the local deity.
Flaich or Fulaich
Flaich or Fulaich is one of the most important festivals celebrated throughout Kinnaur in the month of September. The highest peak of the village is chosen for the celebrations and shuloo flowers brought from high hills to be offered to the deity on this day.
I had the opportunity to be a part of the Losar festivities on a later occasion and found it to be a significant festival in the region. It is held to mark the beginning of the New Year. The taste of fresh butter milk mixed with parched barley I had on that day still lingers in my taste buds.
Today as I remember those early days spent in the magical land we know as Kinnaur, the urge to go back only gets stronger.
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