It was on a cold winter morning that I began the journey from Chamba to Bhanjraoo, a small town high up in the hills of Chamba in the hill state of Himachal Pradesh. It took four hours of careful driving to cover the distance as a wrong move could mean a thousand feet deep fall.
Waiting at the guest house was my old friend Bhushan Singh a native of Pangi whom I had not seen in ages. He was excited lot and I could but ask him the reason for the same. He pointed out that soon he would be going to Pangi for attending Jukaru.
This prompted me to ask him about different festivals that are held in the region. He had a storehouse of knowledge and I also wanted to know about these.
Jukaru- the most important
Over a round of cup of tea,Bhushan pointed out that Jukaru was one of the most important festivals of Pangi. He got nostalgic pointing out that this was the first time ever that he could end up missing the same if he did not leave within a day or two.
The entire population of Pangi seems to be in a festive mood as Jukaru approaches. These celebrations start by first week in February and go on for the entire month. Old tales point out that prominent people in Pangi had a fight and it came to a virtual war. Somehow, the conflict was avoided and people celebrate it as a victory of good over evil.
These days it is also celebrated to mark end of winters as weather begins cleaning up by March and people can move to other areas of the state.
Phul Yatra is another of the important festivals of Pangi as pointed out by Bhushan Singh. This is held during October and November to honour Khupa deity known by name of Dehant nag. This festival marks the beginning of winters in Pangi and people prepare for the harsh months ahead after completion of Phul Yatra. The people sing and dance together during Phul Yatra.
Bhushan had a vicious smile on his face while mentioning Phul Yatra and I was curious to know the reason. After a bit of hesitation he pointed out that it was during this festival only that he met the girl who is now his wife. This also made me think about the social importance of Phul Yatra as it provided an opportunity for youngsters to interact among themselves, something which we miss today in this virtual world.
Another worth mentioning festival in Pangi is Sheel which is held during month of March and April. This marks the advent of spring in the valley.
Though I had the opportunity to interact with Bhushan for only three hours, he took me to a virtual tour of Pangi and I hope that through this blog, I have given you that opportunity too. More on travel trails in hills of Himachal in coming days.