The Unsung Monsoon Festivals of North India: The Best Ways to Rejoice in the Rain
Tags: Behdienkhlam Festival, Hareli Festival, Harvest Festivals of India, Hemis Festival in Ladakh, Minjar Festival, Monsoon Festivals in India, North Indian Culture, Offbeat Activity, Offbeat Celebration, Offbeat Experience in India, Offbeat Festivities
The Indian culture is famous for the plethora of festivals that mark the entire calendar and provide an occasion to celebrate every month. While some of the festivals such as Holi and Diwali have received global recognition, there are several others that are relatively unknown to all but the locals of North India. These unsung monsoon festivals in India pay homage to the natural forces that bless the land with an excellent harvest each year. Agriculture is an integral part of the local culture and these celebrations in the rainy season act as a reminder for the natives to remain grateful to nature for its bounty. Here are some of the lesser known monsoon festivals in India that offer a closer look at the customs of Northern India and provide an opportunity to participate in some offbeat festivities.
Every year, the Behdienkhlam festival is celebrated with much fervor in the north-eastern state of Meghalaya. On this auspicious occasion, the locals pay their tribute to the Gods of the Seven Huts who are the protectors of the kingdom. The members of the Pnar tribe also conduct rituals to drive evil spirits away and to pray for a rich harvest in the coming months. The celebrations include unique games such as one in which men fight with other participants to claim a huge beam and a local version of football played with a wooden ball. The energetic atmosphere created by the festivities is truly one of a kind.
Hareli is the harvest festival observed in the state of Chhattisgarh and the name refers to the Hindi word Haryali which means greenery. Needless to say, Hareli is a celebration of the lush green harvest of the previous season as well as an opportunity to pray for a good harvest in the next season. Farmers conduct simple rituals that include worshiping their farming equipment and the cattle that assist them in the fields. They express their gratitude to all the elements that help them in reaping a wonderful harvest. Traditional sweets are made using jaggery to add some sweetness to this joyous occasion.
A festival named after the maize flower, which is one of the most important crops of Himachal Pradesh, Minjar is a week-long celebration that is believed to have originated in the town of Chamba. There are several stories regarding the birth of this festival but what they all have in common is some reference to the maize flower, a symbol of prosperity in the region. In the present day, a grand fair is organised in the town of Chamba on the occasion of Minjar. Artisans set up stalls to sell their wares while cultural performances are conducted in the evening along with special poojas at the local temples.
When the clouds cast their shadows on the valley of Ladakh, an explosion of colors can be witnessed at one of the largest monasteries of the region, the Hemis Monastery. The Hemis Festival depicts the victory of the good over the evil, which is celebrated by the Lamas at the monastery in the form of dance performances for which they adorn beautiful masks. Locals and tourists gather at the monastery to witness these intriguing rituals while the beats of the music reverberate through the landscape. The festival falls on the birth anniversary of Lord Padmasambhava, known as the founder of Tibetan Buddhism, which incidentally coincides with the onset of monsoon in the region.
Attending these festivals in the rainy season is an offbeat activity that will make you realize how each celebration in India stands out from the rest. These unsung monsoon festivals of India have retained their rustic essence over the years and shed some light on the ancient traditions of the respective regions. So, this monsoon, head over to North India to immerse in the uplifting music and wonderful rituals of these enchanting festivals.