The daily activities of the locals depict the rich and varied culture of Himachal. Famous for their friendly and warm culture, the Himachali people with their illustrious bodily characters and colorful dresses have an untouched austerity which makes the state of Himachal even more beautiful. Their invigorating fairs and festivals enthral all who become a part of it. The beautiful folk dances performed in weddings and fairs not only add colour to the everyday monotony, but also express the joy and the close bonding of the Himachalis with their roots.
Kangra School of Painting
The Kangra Painting art form, over the centuries, has come up with such masterpieces that too many reputed galleries around the world proudly have them on permanent display. This art form came into prominence after the fall of the Mughal Empire in Delhi, when many artists, left to fend for them, sought patronage from the hill of Rajas of the 18th century. The delicate miniature genre of the paintings, different from Rajasthan’s Rajput School of Painting, has popularly came to be known as the Pahari or Kangra School of Painting.
Nicholas Reorich Art Gallery
Location: Naggar, Kullu
Nicholas Reorich Art Gallery houses many paintings by the famous artist Nicholas Reorich, who fled from Russia during Bolshevik Revolution. He translated the beauty of Himachal onto canvas with deft, exquisite strokes of the brush. It is his resident, the Hall Estate that was converted into a museum by his son and now maintained by a trust headed by the Prime Minister. For someone who is interested in arts, it offers more than just beautiful paintings.
Location: Spiti, Lahaul and Kinnaur
Thangkas first appeared in Tibet in the seventh and eighth centuries. Given the close ties Spiti, Lahaul and Kinnaur have had with Tibet, these images soon appeared in Himachal’s monasteries too. Tabo In Spiti dates back to 996 AD. With the arrival of His Holiness the Dalai Lama and several of his followers from Tibet, and the establishment of new monasteries in Himachal in the1960 fresh centres of the art like McLeodganj, Tashijong, Bir, Manali and Shimla also came into being.
At its simplest, the thangka is a painting on cloth, and can be rolled up. It is invariably a vertical images, usually painted on cotton or linen, and rarely, silk. Traditionally, the common images coming down to the present day are episodes from the ‘Jataka Tales’ or depictions of the life of the Buddha. Others have the Dhyanibuddha, Amitabha, the Bodhisattvas, and female deities like Tara who appears – with variations – in five major forms of different colour and is regarded as the protector of her followers. The sixteen arhats, thesaints who have so advanced on the path to nirvana that they were on longer subject to rebirth, but stayed back on earth to preserve and preach the law of the Buddha are represented. The Lokapalas – the deities of the four directions who live on mount Sumeru and guard the entrance to Sukahavati (paradise) – as well as historical figures like Padmasambhava, Rinchensang-po, the Dalai Lamas, Panchen Lamas and other renowned lamas are also portrayed.
Carried as talismans, or as banner in religious processions, or unfurled on the external or internal walls of temples and monasteries, or displayed at domestic altars, a thangka is created according to strict rules of iconography and ritual. The traditional artists were invariably monks, though common men also paint these now.
To paint a thangka an auspicious date is divined, incense is lit and throughout the period of painting sutras – literally, doctrines – are recited. The sacred text, the Kunjur, declares that the artist must be well versed in the scriptures and be of good demeanour and the studio must be clean. The traditional pigments were vegetable colours and mineral dust bound by gum. Normally a true thangka is the work of a master assisted by his disciples. Work proceeds at a snail’s pace with great attention paid to even the minute details given in the manuals of iconography. There is no room for mistake or for artistic latitude. Everything is rigidly prescribed by a ritual code born of profound meditation. After being painted, a thangka is lined and bordered by silk or brocade. A dust-cover of silk is also added.
Location: Kangra & Chamba
The Gaddis, one of the major tribes are famous for their nomadic lifestyle.
The traditional Gaddi male wear Chola (a long woolen coat), Dor (used to tie the coat around the waist), Topi (Which is made from Patti, a woolen cloth) and Patti Pajamas underneath.
The Gaddi women’s attire consists of a Luanchari (frilled long frock), Dor and a Dupatta, which is called Ghundu.
Here is the list of some ornaments the Gaddi men and their women folk wear:
Chiri: This is worn by the Gaddi ladies on forehead with the help of strings and represents the identity of married women.
Jhumka & Dur: While the females wear Jhumkas (ear rings), the men wear Dur (golden ear rings). This ornament is mostly worn at the time of marriage. Chanderahar: A heavy silver necklace, usually worn by a bride.
Chack or Chakdi: It is yet another symbol of a married lady. It is worn on the back of the head, mostly beaded in the plait with the help of silver clips or a string called Dori. Beeni Chack has one loop and two strings which are used to tie it up in the plait.
Gojru and Toke: These are silver bracelets, often worn in pairs.
Fulli: A big sized gold nose pin with a red colored stone in the middle, it is again the symbol of a married woman.
Balu: It is a nose ring made of gold. Unlike the others, nose ornaments are made of gold.
Singi: It is a small sized necklace with golden beads and a silver pendent.
Pari: It is an anklet made of silver and is worn usually by the newly wedded. Phullu- These are worn on toes and represent a married woman. They have different designs and patterns on it.
The Gaddi tribe make woven woolen articles like blankets (Gardu, Gardi, Dodh), Patti, shawls, ropes (Thalch from goat hair), bags (from sheep or goat skin), carpets (from goat hair) etc., which are generally made for their personal use and not for trading.
A humble square piece of cloth with exquisite embroidery, the Chamba Rumal holds the essence of Himachali culture and its importance to the people of this land. Held in high regard, though the name Rumal' refers to a handkerchief, it is used for ceremonial purposes to cover gifts on special occasions such as a wedding, birthday, festivals and others. Inspired from the Chamba and Kangra paintings of yore, the Chamba Rumals are a manifestation of these paintings in the form of embroidery.
Needling Novel Delights
Varying between small squares to elongated shapes and reaching to the size of bedspreads, the splendid Rumals have become collector's items. They are embroidered using a closely knit satin stitch that is reversible and has no space in between and gives the impression of the colors having been painted on. They formed an indispensible part of a woman's dowry and depending on higher status of the family; the intricacy of the embroidery was increased. It is traditionally done by the women of the house.
Myths, Epics and Life
These Rumals draw inspiration from epics like Mahabharata, Ramayana, Krishna Leela and scenes from fairs, festivals and marriage. They also portray human figures along with animals and birds. They also depict trees bearing fruits and flowers. They are embroidered not just on the Rumals but also on caps, cushions, wall hangings and other everyday articles. Shrubs and flowers act as fillers for the empty spaces in the design of the embroidery.
The rustic and colorful Chamba Rumal is a wonderful present for friends and prized possession to brighten up your home.
Shri Naina Devi Ji
Shri Naina Devi ji temple is situated on a beautiful hillock, about 60 Km from Bilaspur and about 20 Km from Anandpur Sahib. It is one of the 51 Shaktipeeths. According to a belief, once Shiva's consort Sati, died to avenge an insult. The estranged Shiva picked up her corpse and gyrated in his horrific dance of destruction. Then Vishnu, the preserver, unleashed his Chakra and cut the body into 51 pieces to save the earth from Shiva's wrath. Naina Devi, is where Sati's eyes are believed to have fallen. Nearby is the holy cave in the name of Shri Naina Devi. A big fair during Shravan Ashtami and in the Navratras of Chaitra and Ashwin, fairs commemorating the goddess are held here.
Minjar Mela is the most popular fair of Chamba which is attended by a large number of people from every nook and corner of the district. This fair is held on the second Sunday of the Shravana month i.e., between last week of July to first week of August. The fair is announced by distribution of Minjar which is a silk tassel worn on some parts of the dress by men and women alike. This tassel symbolizes the shoots of paddy and maize which make their appearance around this time of the year. The week long International fair begins when the Minjar flag is hoisted in historical Chowgan. The town of Chamba wears a colorful look with every person turning out in best attire.
Most part of the Chowgan is converted into markets and people do brisk business during this week. Sports and cultural programs are organized.
Earlier the Raja and now the chief guest throws a coconut, a rupee, a seasonal fruit and a Minjar tied in a red piece of cloth - Lohan - as offering to the river. This is followed by all the people throwing their Minjars into the river. Traditional Kumjari-Malhar is sung by the local artists.
Undoubtedly Chamba is at its very best during this International fair that generally falls in the month of July/ August.
In the month of August/September the annual famous Jatra of Manimahesh commences from Laxmi-Narayana Temple in Chamba. The Chhari is taken to the sacred lake of Manimahesh, which is one of the chief tirthas in the district. Off late people from north India and beyond have started visiting this sacred lake. The lake is situated at the height of 13,500 feet above sea level and at the base of Manimahesh Kailsah peak (18,564 feet), 92 Km from Chamba, where pilgrims take holy dip. Manimahesh Kailash is a virgin peak. In 1968 an Indo-Japanese team led by Nandini Patel made an unsuccessful attempt to scale the peak. The devout attribute the failure to the divine prowess’s of the holy mountain. On the margin of the lake is a small marble Shivaling called Chaumukha.
The Hamir Utsav
The Hamir Utsav is celebrated in the memory of existence of Hamirpur District. Cultural programs show casing the folk music and dances of Himachal Pradesh and other states are organized in the festival.
Jwala Mukhi Fair
The famous temple of Shaktipeeth Jwalamukhi is 35 Km from Kangra and 53 Kms from Dharamshala. Two important fairs are held here during the Navratras in earlier March/April and September/October. Hotel accommodation, Sarai's, rest houses and HPTDC hotels with modern facilities are available for visitors to the shrine.
Tribal Festival of Reckong Peo
The Tribal Festival is organised in the last week of October to first week of November at Reckong Peo, Kinnaur. Variety of cultural programmes organized.
The Phulaich Fair
The Phulaich Fair is celebrated in Kinnaur district in the month of September every year. A famous flower was brought by the local people from the top of the peak for the Devta Pooja and they perform the dance in a series of sequences.
Kullu Dussehra is a week-long international level fair held every year during October. The major attraction of the fair is the assembly of hundreds of local deities with the main deity Raghunath ji. Other activities like cultural programmes, exhibitions are also organized.
Renuka Fair is a religious fair. Cultural programmes organized during the evenings, provides a wholesome entertainment for the tourists and locals. This annual fair is scheduled to be organised in October/November, 2014 at Renuka Ji (Sirmour).
Gemur is 18 Km from Keylong in Bhaga valley where devil dance is held during July in the Local Gompa. The place is situated on Manali-Leh highway.
Location: Rampur, Shimla
Lavi Fair is a trade festival. Every year the Lavi fair is organised between 11th to 14th November at Rampur, 130 Km from Shimla. This is an International festival of trade of dry fruits, handicrafts and handlooms etc.
Sair Festival is celebrated in the different parts of the State. The Sair Festival at Arki in District Solan is the major attraction for the visitors. This festival is organised in mid September.
Chintpurni Temple Fair
This Shakti-temple is located on Dharamshala-Hoshiarpur road on a ridge, 53 Km from Una. Thousands of devotees visit this temple. In addition to many religious festivals, the main fair is held during the 10 days of "Shukalpaksh" in August. There is a Yatri Niwas which is managed by Himachal Pradesh Tourism Development Corporation.
Himachal Pradesh is a land of festivals and dances that form an inherent part of its culture. Dances are notably performed at festivals and other special occasions like weddings, lending colour and variety to everyday monotony. The varied forms and styles of dances reflect the true spirit of the people. Through beautiful folk dances and honey sweet pahari songs, they express merriment and exhibit a close bond with their roots.
The most popular dances of the state are Rakshasa (demon), Kayang, Bakayang, the Bnayangchu, the Jataru Kayang, Chohara, Shand and Shabu, Lang-dar-ma, Nati, Jhanjhar, Jhoor, Gi and Rasa. A myriad of musical instruments like Ranasingha, Karna, Turhi, Flute, Ektara, Kindari, Jhanjh, Manjara, Chimta, Ghariyal, and Ghunghru are played to provide music for the songs and the dances.
A few popular dance forms of Himachal Pradesh are listed below:
Jhamakada is a dance form that is native to Kangra Valley. This group dance is performed only by women, usually at sacred ceremonies including marriage. Women sing songs, dance and make merry during the night. In their dances, they present incidents related to their day to day life. Gugga dance is performed to pay homage to the famous peer called Gugga. The artists present this ritualistic dance around the grave of this great saint, singing as a token of respect.
Losar Shona Chuksam
The next in line is Losar Shona Chuksam, a folk dance form that belongs to the Kinnauri people. This dance has immense religious significance for the people, who celebrate it in the months of April and May (during the Tibetan New Year). Chuksam is mostly performed by the farmer community as a tribute to agriculture and its significance in the lives of rural people. The knees of the dancers move in the same manner as the knees of farmers that move while sowing seeds in their farms.
Kullu Nati is another famous dance of the state that is performed with much fanfare. Dancers dressed in ethnic attires groove to the beats of several musical instruments like dhol, nagara, narsimha etc. People gyrate their bodies in slow swaying movements; they dance either by making circles or by standing in rows. This dance form is performed during the New Year and celebrates the new harvest ready for reaping.
Chham dance is one of the most colourful and splendid dance forms of Himachal. It is performed by a sect of Buddhists — usually monks and lamas in monasteries on special occasions and festivities. Dancers dress up in monstrous appearances and embody the evil spirits that are supposed to bring natural disasters and disease among mankind. According to legend, the dance form is pious and performing it is known to ward off evils and spirits.
Location: Lahaul & Spiti
Another dance that closely resembles the dance forms of Ladhakh is Lahauli dance. It is a dance that is native to Lahaul and Spiti. The dancers, with their hands interlocked, make circles and take big steps. Their bodies are adorned with beautiful gowns, with embroidery borders. This exclusive dance is accompanied by the beats of instruments like Daman and Surna.
Thoda from the hinterlands of Himachal Pradesh is a dance form that derives origins from martial arts. Also known as the dance of archery, Thoda is performed by two teams, descendants of Kauravas and Pandavas respectively. The two opposing parties make continuous attempts to attack each other and defend themselves at the same time. They use arrows and bows swiftly and skilfully to create an illusion of real battle.