others that began as if just yesterday - and have added their colours
to the grand collage. From religion to trade, from seasons to sports -
and month by month - here is a joyous celebrations of life.
JANUARY: A cliche if you will - but often laced with snow - the
year opens with a heady cocktail. Thousands of revelers head to
celebrate the new year in Shimla, Chail (Solan), Manali (Kullu) and
Dalhousie (Chamba). Around New year comes Halda in Lahaul, which is a
more private celebration of the event. Along the valleys of Chandra
and Bhaga rivers, a few members of every household step out with
lighted cedar twigs to a west oriented place selected by the 'lamas'.
These slender branches form the first flames of a bonfire which is
then dispersed. Shiskar Apa, the goddess of wealth is worshipped, and
the dancing continues for a couple of days.
There is greater sobriety, but no less joy, when Lohri or Maghi comes
along in mid January. This is the traditionally 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 the height of winter, while the Lahaul area
reserves it for early April. At Paonta Sahib (Sirmour) the major focus
is 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 (December-January), Phagli
begins in Lahaul's Pattan valley with snow being packed in a conical
basket - kilta.
This is upturned on the roof, this resembles a Shivalinga. Shiva, Naga
and the goddess, Hadimba are worshipped, and the younger generation
mark this by venerating the village elders. Chhang and lugari, locally
brewed liquors flow freely, and ritual dishes are eaten. Kinnaur's
Sazi (or Sazo), also comes at around this time.
More contemporary -events come in the form of the National Snow Statue
Competition at Kufri (Shimla), the Folk Dance Competition on Republic
Day at Shimla. and the Water Sports Regatta at Kangra's Maharana
Pratap Sagar. To make this wonderful time of year all the more
attractive, Himachal Tourism offers special discounts and packages in
its wide network of hotels.
FEBRUARY: 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. Token
marriages of children below the age of six are also performed - comes
when children throw snow balls at each other.
Baba Barbhag Singh Mela is held in Una to honour the 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
Ritual dances and an unbelievably 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 stylized chhaam dance with elaborate costumes and masks,
commemorate the assassination of the cruel Tibetan king, Langdarma of
the 9th century. Often - though wrongly - called 'the devil dance', it
symbolises the triumph of good over evil.
MARCH: 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. Accompanied 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 third weekof March, the fascinating Nalwari fair is held at
Bilaspur. Cattle are traded, there are wrestling bouts aero and
water sport shows are recent additions.
Holi Festival is a riot of colours and celebration of spring, alogng
with it comes laughter and vitality. There are exuberant celebrations
at Palampur (Kangra) and Sujanpur (Hamirpur). By the banks of the
river Yamuna the shrine of Paonta Sahib in Sirmour is thronged by
Hindu and Sikh devotees . In Sirmour, the Balasundari fair is held at
Trilokpur near Nahan, it coincides with the sacred days of the
Navratras. The temple of Baglamata, near Bankhandi in Kangra is also a
major focus during these days.
Chait, the first month of lunar calendar is celebrated with dancing by
women in Kullu and by folk singers in Chamba.
At the shrine of Deothsidh (Seo) on the district border of Hamirpur
and Bilaspur, a month long fair is held in March and April.
APRIL: Held on the first Baisakh - the 13th April - Baisakhi is
one of Himachal's very important festival. Rooted in the rural
agrarian tradition, it bids final farewell to winter. At Tattapani
near Shimla, at Rewalsar and Prashar lakes near Mandi, people take
purifying dips in 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. Legend has it
that the beautiful Rali was married against her wishes and on the way
to her husband's home, she leapt into a stream. The husband jumped in
after her and trying to save both, Pali's brother also dived info the
fast flowing waters. All three died. Today, 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 Bllaspur and the Rohru (Shimla)
Jatar is held in honour of the deity Shikhru. This is also the time
when fishing and low altitude trekking raise their winter barriers,
while the Spring Festival Is celebrated in Kullu from April 28 to 30.
MAY: May gushes In with a whole series of river rafting
festivals and water sports Regattas, through-out 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
Near Shimla at the exquisite glade of Sipur below Mashobra, the
charming Sipi fair is held. It is traditionally a time for
Throughout Himachal a variety of programmes are organised by the
Department of Language, Art and Culture. Dharamsala's (Kangra) summer
festival and the programmes organised by the Tibetan Institute for
Performing Arts, lift their curtains. The skies are blue and clear for
the Hang Gliding Rally at Billing near Kangra, white Summer Sking
glides smoothly at the Rohtang Pass.
JUNE: 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 Shoolini, the presiding deity of the
region. On June's full moon night, the Ghantal festival is held at
Lahaul's Guru Ghantal Monastery. And of course, given the time of the
year and the possibilities it offers, there are various camping and
JULY: In the arid trans-Himalayas. At Kaza's Ladarcha fair (Lahaul
& Spiti), the old trade routes come alive as traders barter and sell a
variety of goods and produce. At Keylong, the Lahaul Festival is also
held this month. Elsewhere in the state, Haryali (Rhyali, Dakhrain)
announce the advent of the monsoon rains.
Shravana Sankranti is celebrated at Nahan (Sirmour), at Arki (Solan),
buffalo fights mark the Sair fair it is held in honour of Banar Sevta
of Shari, the Rampur (Shimla) Jatar is held near Jubbal in district
Shimla. July also heralds the travelling and trekking season to
Kinnaur and Lahaul & Spiti.
AUGUST: Chamba's famous Minjar fair which celebrates the bounty
of nature and prays for a good harvest is normally held in August. 'Minjars',
maize shoots or silken strands, are cast on the waters of the river
Ravi and the town immerses itself in a week long of celebration.
Also in Chamba, the Manimahesh Yatra to the sacred tarn of Manimahesh
is held immediately after the festival of Janamashtmli. At Bharmour,
28 km short of the lake, the nomadic Gaddis hold a fair for six days.
Celebrated in Chamba, Kullu and elsewhere, Chrewal, Badronjo or
Patroru is a festival of fire and flowers - and a time for
purification of the fields.
In August, several places in Chamba, Bilaspur and Sirmour have the
Gugga fair which is connected with the worship of Gugga, the Nag Devta.
The same month witnesses the Dal fair in Upper Dharamsala in Kangra
district. At Udaipur, in the Lahaul valley, the Trilokinath temple
becomes a focus; this is sacred to Hindus and Buddhists alike. The
Shravan fair is held at the shrine Naina Devi in Bilaspur district,
while the Ashapuri fair is held in Kangra.
SEPTEMBER: As the rains end, autumn sends fiery colours racing
through the hills. In Kinnaur, the festival of flowers, 'Fullaich' (Phulech)
opens a window to its remarkable people and their beautiful
countryside. Villagers scout the hillsides for flowers which are
collected in the village square. These are then offered to the local
deity. Then comes a spate of revelry - singing, dancing and feasting.
Kalpa has some of the most vibrant celebrations and every twelve
years, there is a special festival. Also in September, at the village
of Chhatrari, near Chamba - and centered around the exquisite temple
of Shakti Devi - a fair is held and masked dances are performed.
The Kangra valley celebrates the festival of Sair. This is also
celebrated with stalls, singing and buffalo fights at Arki (Solan) and
Mashobra (Shimla) both near Shimla. At Nurpur in Kangra, under the
watchful walls of its old fort, the Nagini fair bids the summer
farewell. In the same district on September 27, World Tourism Day is
celebrated. In Sirmour, there is a Regatta at the Renuka Lake and
Nahan hosts the Bawan Dawadashi fair.
OCTOBER: There is a Regatta on the waters of the Gobind Sagar,
anglers vie for the largest catch in the Sangla valley (Kinnaur) and
paragliders sail the skies at Billing (Kangra). More traditionally,
over two hundred deities converge on Kullu for its unusual Dussehra
celebrations. They pay homage to Lord Raghunath while music and colour
fill the 'Silver Valley'. Numerous stalls offer a variety of local
wares. This is also the time when the International Folk Festival is
celebrated. The Jwalamukhi Temple in Kangra becomes the venue for a
major fair. At Killar and Panai (in Chamba's Pangi valley), the Phool
Yatra witnesses a remarkable display of neighborly affection and the
Dehant Nag is worshipped.
NOVEMBER: With winter Just a hop and skip away, the age-old
Lavi fair fills Rampur (Shimla) with a burst of activity. The town was
once a major entry point on the old trade routes to Kinnaur, Tibet,
Ladakh and Afghanistan. Even today, the tradition is as vibrant as
ever. By the churning waters of the river Sutlej, a variety of goods
including wool, dry fruits and horses are bartered and sold.
The Kharif crops have been harvested when at the legendary Renuka lake
(Sirmour), a fair graces its banks. There is trade, recreation and
amusement. Idols of Lord Parshurama and Renuka are ceremoniously
dipped in the sacred waters of the lake and it is a time when
matchmaking is done. Water Sports Competitions are held at the
Maharana Pratap Sagar and Gobind Sagar.
DECEMBER: As winter arrives, anglers shift to the Pong Dam.
With the blessings of Nobel Laureate, His Holiness the Dalai Lama, the
International Himalayan Festival is held in Kangra district. Troupes
from the Himalayan Nations are invited. The winter winds carry the
delights of ice-skating at Shimla. The extravaganza of the Ice-Skating
Carnival is normally reserved for December. Christmas celebrations
overtake Shimla and Dalhousie (Chamba) and as the church bells chime,
they carry away another event-packed year. To visit the traditional
fairs or to participate in the festivals, do confirm the dates as many
vary from year to year. A range of accommodation is available at, or
close to almost all the places.