Himachal Pradesh, the abode of Gods and snow, is renowned for its breathtaking beauty. A famous tourist destination for all nature lovers, the rich cultural and traditional heritage of the state is equally surprising and diverse as its landscapes. This is quite evident from the plush variety of customs and rituals practiced here. The most interesting and unusual customs are practiced by the Kinnauras who reside in the eastern district of Kinnaur and follow a curious mix of Bhuddist practices.
Let’s take a look at 4 of the most unusual and interesting traditional practices followed in ‘Dev Bhoomi Himachal’:
4. Bhuddhi Diwali
Bhuddhi Diwali or Dark Diwali is celebrated in the interiors of Himachal Pradesh, exactly after a month from celebrating Diwali Diwali’ as locals believe that the news of Lord Ram’s return to Ayodhya reached them late.
The celebration involves dancing around the bonfire and animal sacrifices.
Nirmand and Ani regions in the Kullu district, Chopal in Shimla district and Shillai region in Sirmaur district are the regions most commonly associated with the unique festival.
Bhuddhi Diwali celebrations begin on the darkest night of the lunar month, also known as “amavasya” and last for about a week. Generally the duration of celebration depends on the local mythologies of the various regions.
3. Pathron Ka Mela
Another festival marking the unusual culture of Dev Bhoomi Himachal is ‘Pathron Ka Mela’.
Hundreds of people come from far flung regions of the state to congregate in Dhami village. The quaint station is located at a distance of about 20 km from the state capital – Shimla. The celebrations are marked by people throwing stones at each other to follow the age-old tradition.
As per old timers, during the 18th century, to celebrate the festival of stones, youth from Halog, the erstwhile capital of Dhami, and neighboring station Jamog gathered here and pelted stones at each other.
Getting injured during the event is considered to be highly auspicious by the local residents.
The ritual began as a device to stop human sacrifice. It was the queen of Dhami, who directed that the day following Diwali people would hurl stones at each other. The moment someone amongst the group got injured and started to bleed, his blood would be smeared on the idol of Goddess Kali, at the place where the sacrifices used to take place. This tradition has been followed ever since.
2. Bhunda Festival
Bhunda is a three day local festival, celebrated in the Nirmand region of Himachal Pradesh.
A man from the Beda tribe is chosen to perform all the rituals of the ceremony and also gamble his life by agreeing to slide down a deep ravine on a grass rope.
With the help of his tribesmen, the Beda man weaves a sacred rope from munji grass on which he is supposed to glide on the day of the traditional ceremony. The length of this sacred rope is generally kept around 500 meters. It is clamped across a deep ravine, known as the “well of death.”
After the pundits perform a puja in the presence of numerous local devi and devtas (Gods and Goddesses), the Beda man sits on a wooden sledge, his hands are positioned upwards and he slides across the ravine.
His wife, in the meantime is adorned with jewelry and declared a widow in case her husband dies. His death indicates that the devtas have accepted their sacrifice. But if he escapes death, he is accompanied to a nearby temple, where he is worshipped with the devtas.
1. Dhari & Atta-Satta Ka Nata
Different communities in Himachal follow their own rituals which they have preserved zealously despite modernization. For instance in parts of Sirmaur and Shimla, people practice reverse dowry system, which is locally known as Dhari.
Under this system, the groom’s father pays a certain amount of money to the bride’s father to meet the expenses of the marriage.
Another unusual betrothal system practiced in certain parts of Himachal Pradesh is atta-satta ka nata. Here, a series of marriages are arranged by the relatives of boys and girls of marriageable age. Following the age old tradition, a father promises the hand of his daughter to another’s son on the condition that the latter will give his daughter to the third man’s son, who in turn will promise her hand to the first man.