Himachal the land of God and Goddesses celebrates four major festivals. In the district of Kullu,Himachal Pradesh, the well known Seven day long Dussehra is celebrated . District Mandi celebrates Shivratri; Rampur celebrates Lavi and Chamba Celebrates Minjar. All these are international festivals and are celebrated with great pomp and show. There is huge gathering seen during this time. Stalls are set up, the shops are decorated, people wear their best clothes, local sports are organized and cultural programmes are held for all to enjoy.
Dussehra is held every year in the month of October, in the town of Dhalpur, District Kullu.
The day before Dussehra, the local deities or the gram devtas start to converge in Kullu. On the first day of Dussehra, goddess Hadimba is welcomed along with hundred other gods and Goddesses. The Idol of Raghunath (Lord Rama) is placed next to Goddess Hadimba and placed in a chariot. The chariot is pulled on the last Day of Dussehra, till the right bank of the river Beas. Small fire is lit with grass and bushes to signify the burning of Lanka.
Historical Significance: It is believed that Raja Jagat Singh of Kullu was cursed by a Brahmin Durga Dutta, as Raja Jagat Singh had become greedy for his pearls. A learned man Krishan Das advised him to drink the Charanamrit Of Lord Rama Idol, which washed away his sin. Since then Raja Jagat Singh decided to honor Lord Rama, which is the reason to celebrate Dussehra with such pomp and show.
Dasara at Sarahan
At Sarahan a decorated chariot is moved from Bhimakali temple to a nearby temple at a distance of half KM distance in the afternoon of Dussehra day. The festival is joined by local villagers from near by areas with drums , long trumpets and colorful flags . People bring village deities to the festival from different villages.
Lavi is held four days in the month of November, at Rampur Bushair, 130 km from Shimla in Himachal Pradesh.
Historical Significance: The fair dates back to the time of Raja Kesar Singh who wanted to encourage friendly ties between Tibet and Bushair State . The two states signed a treaty and exchanged horses and swords to strengthen their bond.
History says that Chamba was established by Raja Sahil Varman on the banks of River Ravi in 920 AD. In 1923 AD, the Raja defeated the ruler of Trigartha (Kangra) and to celebrate that hard won victory,the Mijar Fair has come to be held every year.
Another local folklore tale would have us believe that in the 10th Century, River Ravi flowed right across Chamba town. Two temples,Champawati and the Hari temples were located on either banks and the priest in the temple would swim across, the river every morning to worship at the other temple, which the king and the people could not to do so.
The Raja pleaded with the holy men to device a way that one could visit both the temples easily. The sage held a holy prayer for a week, in which a long cord (Minjar) of seven colors was used. On completion of the yajna, the River changed the course and both the temples came on the same river bank,making it easy for everyone to visit them.
Every year, the fair is opened with hoisting of the Minjar flag in the historical fields of Chowgan. The celebration last for seven days, starting from second Sunday of Shravan (July-Augut) . At the onset of the fair, silk tassels are distributed that men and women hone on their dresses. These silk tassels, known as Minjar, are symbolic of maize and paddy shoots, crops that are widely grown in the region.
On the concluding day, the river is offered a coconut, a rupee and seasonal fruit, all tied to a red cloth before the Minjars are thrown into the river. Interestingly, till 1943, a buffalo was pushed into the river to propitiate it. If the buffalo drowned, the sacrifice was said to have been accepted. If it swam across the river, it meant that the sins of the people have transferred to the other side.
The Mandi Shivaratri fair is held as per every year on the Krishna paksha 13th day/13th night of the waning moon in the month that corresponds to February/March.
As many as 215 village deities carried around in palanquins were invited for the weeklong festival. Other than the dances and traditional music played out on local instruments, the shivratri fair also hosted a lively cultural nights program at the vast Paddal ground.