Feel The Beauty Of Uttarakhand Through Its Culture And Traditions

Uttarakhand is a beautiful place which can be sub-divided into two regions majorly known as Garhwal and Kumaon. The culture identifies its people uniquely and gives them a meaning. The various traditions, religions, fairs, festivals, folk dances, music are what distinctly separate them from the rest of the crowd. The residents of Uttarakhand are proud of the culture that they follow. The beauty of the state of Uttarakhand is that it houses people belonging to several sub-groups and ethnic groups together under one roof. This article talks about the culture, beliefs and traditions which bind the people of Uttarakhand together.

Culture of Garhwal

Garhwal is a beautiful place marked by the tall mountains, cold weather and green valleys. People from all over the country visit the place to meditate and attain peace in a life full of so much chaos. The very ancient wood carving can be seen even today on some of the doors as well temples of Garhwal. All the places such as Ransi temple, Srinagar temple, Chandpur fort, Padukeshwar and Devalgarh temple comprise of architectural remains even today.
Garhwali is the main language spoken here. Garhwali language has a number of dialects too including Jaunsari, Marchi, Jadhi and Sailani. The Garhwali language is believed to have originated from a combination of- Sauraseni Prakrit, Sanskrit and Western or Central Pahari language.  Garhwal is inhabited by people belonging to a number of ethnic groups and castes. These include Rajputs who are believed to belong to Aryan origin, Brahmins who migrated after the Rajputs or later, tribals of Garhwal who stay in the Northern tracts and comprise of Jaunsaris, Jadhs, Marchas and Van Gujars. 

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Culture of Kumaon

Kumaon has been an interesting region since the last two decades due to the rock paintings which have been discovered in the area. Lakhu Udiyar and Lwethaap are the most famous ones amongst them. Kumaon is said to be the point of origin of Pahari Kalam which is yet another style of painting well-known across the world.  The most popular art form of Kumaon, however, is known as Aipan or Alpana. In this art form, pieces of cloth, walls and papers are all decorated with geometric figures which belong to God, Goddesses and the other natural objects of nature.

Alpana is a very important art form of Kumaon which can easily be spotted in the homes of this region. Aipan has a number of art forms including Saraswati Chowki, Nav Durga Chowki, Chamunda Hasti Chowki, Janeyu Chowki, Hasan Chowki, Acharya Chowki, Dhuli Arghya Chowki, Durga Thapa etc. Apart from worshipping Lord Shiva and Shakti, the residents of this region worship other Gods and Goddesses too including Kul Devta, Bhumi Devta, Gram Devta and Naga Devta. Some other important folk Gods worshipped include Naina Devi, Nanda Devi, Gwalla, Bholenath, Airy, Gangnath, Chaumu, Haru and Kail Bisht.

The people of Kumaon speak 13 dialects including Kumaiya, Gangola, Soryali, Sirali, Askoti, Danpuriya, Johari, Chaugarkhyali, Majh Kumaiya, Khasparjia, Pachhai and Rauchaubhaisi. This group of languages is known as the group of Central Pahari languages. Kumaon is also rich in its folk literature which comprises of myths, heroes, heroines, bravery, Gods, Goddesses and the characters drawn from Ramayana and Mahabharatha.

The most popular dance form of Kumaon is known as Chhalaria and it is related to the martial traditions of the region. All the festivals are celebrated with a lot of enthusiasm and witness such traditional dance forms even today.

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Festivals Celebrated

Some of the majorly celebrated festivals of Uttarakhand include

Holi of Kumaon

The Holi of Kumaon is celebrated in three forms namely Baithki Holi, Khari Holi and Mahila Holi. The unique feature about this festival is that it is celebrated with a lot of music. The Baithki and Khari Holi are unique in the sense that the songs played have a different kind of texture, fun and melody to it. These songs are based on some classical ragas. During the Baithki Holi, the event begins from the temple and is accompanied by songs sung by the professional singers known as Holiyars.

The people of Kumaon are very exact about the songs which should be sung. At noon, songs based on ragas including Peelu, Sarang and Bhimpalasi are sung while in the evening songs based on ragas including Kalyan, Yaman and Shyamkalyan are sung. The Khari Holi is celebrated in rural Kumaon. People who sing songs to the musical instruments for the Khari Holi wear a white churidar pyjama and kurta.

Harela and Bhitauli

The day when Navaratris begin, women sow seven different types of grains in a basket full of soil. These grains then germinate and turn into yellow leaves known as 'Harela'. These leaves are then cut on the very last day (the tenth day) and are put on the head of the women. The month of Chaitra which is the period between March and April is when presents are sent by brothers to their sisters. These presents are known as Bhitauli. Harela is a festival which is celebrated so as to welcome the rainy season.
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Fair of Jageshwar

This fair is carried out in the temple of Lord Shiva in Jageshwar on the fifteenth day of Baisakh month which is the period extending from late March to early April. People take a dip in the pool known as Brahma Kund as a kind of belief during the fair. The people also worship Lord Shiva on this day.

Kumbh Ka Mela

Its origin can be traced back to the time when Gods and demons entered into a pact to work together for attaining Amrita which means immortality from the milky ocean and split it equally amongst them. However, when the pot was found, it was stolen by the demons and they ran away with it. The Gods then followed them for twelve days and twelve nights and there was a huge battle which took place between both the parties. It is said that while this battle was going on, some drops of this nectar fell in all the four places mentioned  i.e., Prayag, Haridwar, Ujjain and Nasik.
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Folk dance and music of Uttarakhand

Folk Songs

The lives of the people of Uttarakhand are filled with a lot of music and dance. Dancing is considered to form a major part of their traditions. The people here believe that dance is not only a form of entertainment but an art through which one can please Gods.It is believed that this ritual of dancing can be dedicated to the young maidens called 'Ancheris' dancing on the sow-dwelling mountains. Any form of dance is incomplete without costumes. Thereby, people dress up in some special designs and get collected to dance and worship. Some of the folk dances include Barada Nati which is the popular dance of Jaunsar Bhawar area in Dehradun district, Langvir Nritya which is an acrobatic dance form performed by the men, Pandav Nritya which is the narration of Mahabharatha in the form of music and dance and Dhurang & Dhuring which are popular folk dances of the bhotiya tribals.

Folk songs include Basanti which are composed to welcome the spring season, Mangal which are sung during the marriage ceremonies, Jagars which are used during the worship of ghosts, Bajuband which talks about the love and sacrifice of the shepherds, Khuded which talks about the suffering of a woman who gets separated from her husband and Chhura which talk about the experience of the shepherds and the advice passed on by them to the younger generation.
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Food Of Uttrakhand

Yummy recipes being followed from generations

Some of the most delicious mouth-watering specialities of Uttarakhand include-

Urad Dal ke pakode which are spicy pakoras prepared from different pulses.
Phanu which too is made from dals, Jhangore ki kheer which is a sweet dish prepared with Jhangora.
Chainsoo which is made from black gram dal.
Bhang ki chutney which is sour tasting chutney prepared from roasted bhang and cumin seeds mixed with lemon juice.
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Traditional Dresses Of Uttarakhand

The dresses worn by people residing in an area depicts the culture and traditions followed by them and a fair idea about the kind of communities residing there. Uttarakhand is home to a variety of communities including Punjabis, Bengalis, Tibetan and Nepalis. Residents of Garhwal Hills have their own pattern of wearing clothes due to the cold weather of the place as a result of which, wool obtained from sheep or goat is used to prepare woollen clothes.

Traditional Costumes Of Men

Almost everyone follows a similar dressing style. The most commonly worn lower-garment is either a Dhoti or a Lungi. Various colored Kurtas are worn as the upper-garment. In addition, a headgear or a turban is a must add-on to complete this traditional costume. Kurta-Pyjama is another very famous alternative for the men of Uttarakhand. Women as well as men wear woolen jackets as well as sweaters in the winter season.

Towns as well as cities such as Rishikesh and Dehradun have witnessed a lot of western clothing influence over past few years.

Traditional Costumes Of Women

Ghagri is a long skirt which is worn by mostly all the women of Uttarakhand. It is complemented with a beautiful colored Choli which is an Indian blouse and a cloth covering the head i.e., an Orni. This Orni is generally fixed firmly to the waist. This is the traditional costume of the women of both Garhwalis as well as Kumaonis. Ghagra- Pichora is the traditional bridal costume of the Kumaoni women which is similar to the Ghagra Lehenga-Choli. Pichora is a Kumaoni covering (more like a veil) which is decorated with gold and silver embroidery.

Saris are also very commonly worn by the ladies here. The usual look of Kumaoni women involves them wearing sindoor on the forehead along with a huge gold ring (also known as Nath) on the nose. Also, it is mandatory to wear Chareu which is a necklace composed of black beads as a sign of being married. Hansuli is another ornament (kind of a necklace) which is worn in gold by the rich ladies while in silver by the poor ones. Some ethnic groups also wrap mantle-like clothing known as Sarong around them.  Sarong is kept in place with the help of a waistband and the dress is completed by wearing a top blouse along with it. Muslin textiles especially muslin veils are the most famous and truly some assets of the Uttarakhand costume designs which exist. These designs are made in shades of yellow which bring out positivity and red which brings out the warmth and affability both of which define the auspicious occasion and holy nature of marriage.

Uttarakhand is thus a hub of different traditions, ethnic-groups and languages brought together. This is what brings out the beauty of the state. Do plan a visit to the wondrous state and we are sure each one of you is likely to have an amazing time.

Come, be a part of the troop!

This post was published by Saumya Bansal