Pangi – Exploring another ‘secret’ of the Himachal
Pangi is a world in itself. The landlocked valley remains cut off from the outer world for over six months during winters. It is during these months that the people of Pangi rejoice and come along to relive the moments of togetherness that has bound them for centuries now.
A trekker’s paradise to the core, the geographically isolated Pangi region lies amidst the majestic Pir Panjal range on one side and the formidable Zanskar on the other. Pangwals, as the locals are often known, occupy the Himalayan treasure we know as Pangi. The people of Pangi who number around 18,000 were shrouded in mystery until recently as the region was without a road link. The splendid landlocked valley is located in the Chamba district of Himachal Pradesh.
Village deities and devtas still hold the might in the valley without consulting whom no important decision is taken. The higher reaches in the valley are occupied by people of Buddhist origin who are known as Bhots. These Bhots occupy areas in the higher reaches of the Pangi valley, known as Bhatoris. The Pangi valley is home to five Bhatoris namely Sural, Hundan, Parmar, Chasak and Hilu-Twan.
A Land of Unique Traditions
‘Patar’, the locally brewed liquor, is cherished by locals and visitors alike in Pangi. Festivities continue throughout the year as the festivals of Jukaru, Phulaich, Phul yatra and Sheel keep the locals occupied thoroughly.
Jukaru, the most important festival in Pangi, is held in February to mark the end of the intense winters. The origin of Jukaru is interesting enough to be mentioned. Local folk stories mention that in the older days two of the biggest landowners of the valley had a quarrel. The battle got so intense that they decided to kill each other. However, good sense prevailed and they reconciled. Jukaru has been celebrated since to mark their friendship.
Singing, dancing and feasting, not to forget the splendid use of patar, Phulaich is held during the months of October and November in the region. The festivities continue for four days and people from all over the valley participate in Phulaich. The festival is held as a mark of respect to Det Nag – the chief deity of Kupha.
Phul Yatra and Sheel
Phul Yatra is often held to mark the end of the harsh winter months. Offerings are made by locals to the deities of the region even as they pray for a joyful summer. Another fair by the name of Sheel is also held during March and April to mark the end of winters and the onset of a beautiful spring.
The Legendary Det Nag Shrine
Almost every temple in Pangi valley has a legendary tale associated with it. Among these is the deity of Det Nag which is revered in Killar, the headquarters of Pangi valley. Legend has it that Det Nag was originally based in the Lahaul valley and used to demand to eat the locals. One day it was the turn of an old widow to offer her only son to the Nag. However, a passing shepherd (gaddi) came to the rescue of the old lady and offered himself to the Nag. His only condition was that he be devoured alive and each part of his body be shown to him while he was being eaten. A fight eventually ensued and the Nag was thrown into the Chandrabhaga River from where it reached Pangi. A farmer carried the Nag and eventually left him at the present spot where the temple has been constructed.
The Det Nag has been worshipped ever since and occupies a significant place in religious references in Pangi valley.
Social fabric of Pangi
Despite the advent of modernization in the form of mobile technology and internet, Pangwals remain connected to their roots. The age old tradition of Praja System still continues in the valley. Elder male members of the family form a part of the Praja or village council and are consulted on every matter of relevance to the villages.
Editor’s Note: Isolated from civilization and development in general, the Pangi valley is a secret yet not unfurled onto the general tourist conscience – may be for the best.
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