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Himachal is the home to a variety of fairs and festivals and ofcourse celebrations. There are some 200 deities worshipped in Himachal and numerous fairs and festivals held in their honour. Lets have a look at month by month festivals of Himachal.
Laced in snow January opens with flocks of tourists heading to hillstations of Chail, Shimla, Manali and Dalhousie.
Lohri or Maghi comes around the mid of January. This is the traditionary mid-winter day and also commemorates the last sowing of the Rabri crops. Community bonfires, folk dances and dancing mark the festival.
In tribal Spiti Dechhang is celebrated at the height of winter while the Lahaul area reserves it for early April.
Paonta Sahib is a major focus on Guru Gobind Singh's birthday. The town and other Gurudwara's close it are closely linked to the Guru's life.
On a midnight towords the end of Paush (December-January), Phagli begins in Lahaul's Pattan valley with snow being packed in a conical basket - kilta. This is upturned on a roof with snow and resembles the Shivalinga. Shiva, Naga and the Goddess Hadimba are worshipped and the younger generation also mark it by venerating the village elders.
Chhang and Lugari locally brewed liquors, flow freely and ritual dishes are eaten.
Kinnaur's Sazi or Sazo also comes at around this time.
More contemporary events come in the form of the the National Snow Statue at Kufri, the Folk dance competition on Republic Day at Shimla and the Water sport Regatta at Kangara's Maharana Partap Sagar.
Snow continues to play a major part in February's festivals and Himachal's Winter Carnival is also held this month.
Gochi in the Bhaga valley is an unusual festival when the villages celebrate the birth of male children. Token marriages of children below the age of six are also performed - and a lighter side comes with the snaw balling every child participates in.
The Baba Barbahag Singh Mela is held in Una and honours this sage who is renowed for his magical powers.
Basant Panchami marks the arrival of spring in the lower areas and every town seems to keep a reserve of colour for the ocassion and the skies are filled with the meledy of kites.
Rituals, dances and unbelievably rich imagery mark Losar. This is celebrated in the Buddist areas throughout the state. While Lahaul's monastries have some of the most spectacular performances. On its eve the stylised chaam dance and elaborate costumes and masks commemorate the assasination of the cruel tibetan King, Langdarma in the 9th century. Often though wrongly called the devil of dance it symbolises the triumph of good over evil.
Centers around the temple of Triloknath, Char is celebrated in Lahaul. The temple of Mandi with its ancient temples revels in the Shivaratri fair for a whole week. On elaborately decorated palaquins, hundreds of local deities are carried to town. Accompanied by the folk bands they make their first stop at the Madho Rai temple and then go to pay obeisance to Lord Shiva at the Boothnath temple. This is followed by festivities music, and song dance and drama. Yet all the while the atmosphere is surcharged with deep religious devotion.
In the third week of March the fascinating Nalwari fair is held at Bilaspur. Cattle is traded there are wrestling bouts and aero and water sports show recent additions.
Holi's riot of colours and celebration of spring comes with laughter and vitality. There are exuberant celebrations in Palampur and Sujanpur. By the banks of the river Yamuna the shrine of Paonta Sahib in Sirmour is thronged by the Hindu and the Sikh devotees on this day. Also in Sirmour the Balasundari fair is held at Trilokpur near Nahan, this coincides with the sacred days of the Navratras. The temple of Baglamata near Bankhandi in Kangra is also a major focus during these days.
Chait the first month of lunar calendar is celebrated by the dancing of women in Kullu and by folk singing in Chamba.
At the shrine of Deothsidh on the district border of Hamirpur and Bilaspur, a month long fair spans March and April.
The 13th April - Baisakhi is one of Himachal's most important festivals. Rooted in the rural agrarian tradition it bids farewell to winter. At Tattapani near Shimla, at Rewalsar and the Prashar lakes near Mandi people take purifying dips in water. Numerous village fairs complete with wrestling dancing and archery are also held in this day. In Kinnaur the festivals is known as Beesh and is also the time when the seities are taken out of their temples.
In April Rali with its clay models is marked in Kangra. Legend has it that the beautiful Rali was married against their wishes and on the way to her husband's home, she leapt into a stream. The husband jumped in after her and trying to save both Rali's brother also dived into the fast flowing water. A three died Today clay models are made in every house to mark this day. While unmarried girls pray for grooms of their choice and the newly wedded ask for hapiness and prosperity.
At Chamba the Sui Mela, is thronged by women and children and at the village at Taraur in district Mandi, the Mahu Nag fair is held. The holy Markandaya fair is held near Bilaspur and the Rohru Jatar is held in honour of the diety Shikru. This is also the time when angling and low altitude trekking raise their winter barriers. The Spring Festival is celebrated in Kullu from April 28 to 30.
May gushes in with a whole series of river rafting festivals and water sports Regattas through out the state. Focusses around the goddess Hadimba Devi Kullu celebrates the Doongri fair. In the same district, the Banjar fair and the Sarhi Jatar are held in May.
Near Shimla at the exquisite glade of Sipur below Mashobra, the charming Sipi fair is held. It is traditionally a time for match making
Dharamshala's summer festival and the programmes organised by the Tibetan Institute for Performing Arts lift their curtains. The skies are blue and clear for Hang Gliding and Para Gliding at Bir Billing near Kangra while Summer Gliding glides smoothly in at the Rohtang Pass.
A wide spectrum of national talent , a variety of programmes and a aplendid setting make Shimla's Summer Festival a memorable event. Shimla also hosts the Red Cross Fair Sports tournament a flower show and a photograph poster exhibition and also a fashion show based on folk costumes.
The Kangra Festival is held in June at Kangra.
At Solan on the third Sunday of the month the Shoolini fair is held on the honour of Goddess Shoolini the presiding deity of the region.
On June's full moon night the Ghantal festival is held at Lahaul's Guru Ghantal Monastery.
In the Mandi district, the Saranhuli fair is held in honour of Dev Kamrunag in the Chachiot tehsil. An unusual aspect of the fair is that all the offerings are made in the lake near the temple.
In the arid trans-himalaya at Kaza's Ladarcha fair, the old trade routes come alive as traders barter and sell a variety of goods they produce.
At Keylong the Lahaul festival is also held this month. Elsewhere in the state Haryali (Rhysli, Dakhrain) announces the advent of the monsoon rains
Sharavana Sankranti is celebrated at Nahan, at Arki buffalo fights mark the Sair fair and conducted in honour of Banar devta of Shari, the Rampur Jatar is held Jubbal in district Shimla.
July also heralds the travelling and trekking season to Kinnaur and Lahaul & Spiti.
Chamba's famous Minjar fair which celebrates the bounty of nature and prays for a good harvest is normally held in August. Minjars maize shoots or silken stands are cast on the waters of the river Ravi and the town immerses itself in a week of celebration.
Also in Chamba the Manimahesh yatra the sacred tarn af Manimahesh is held immediately after the festival of Janmashtami. At Bharmaur 28 kms short of the lake, the nomadic Gaddis hold a fair for six days.
Celebrated in Chamba, Kullu and elsewhere Chrewal, Badronjo or Patroru is a festival of fire and flowers and a time for purification of the fields.
In August several places in Chamba, Bilaspur and Sirmour have the Gugga fair which is connected with the worship of Gugga, a manifestation of Nag Devta.
The same month witnesses the Dal fair in Upper Dharamshala. At Udaipur in the Lahaul valley the Triloknath temple becomes a focus, this is sacred to Hindus and Buddists alike.
The Sharavan Fair is held at the holy shrine of Naina Devi while the Ashapuri fair is held in Kangra.
As the rains end autumn sends fiery colours through the hills. In Kinnaur the festival of flowers. Fullaich or Ookhayang (Phulech) opens a window to its remarkable people and their beautiful countryside. Villagers scout the hillsides for flowers which are collected in the village square. These are then offered to the local diety and this is also a time when the spirits of ancestors are propitiated. Then comes a apate of revelry singing, dancing and feasting. Kalpa has some of the most vibrant celebration and every 12 years there is a special festival.
Also in September at the village of Chhatrari near Chamba and centered around the exquisite temple of Shakti Devi a fair is held and masked dances are performed.
The Kangra valley celebrates the festival of Sair. This is also celebrated with stalls singing and buffalo fights at Arki and Mashobra both near Shimla. At Nurpur in Kangra under the watchful walls of its old fort the Nagini fair bids summer farewell. On the 27th September World Tourism Day is celebrated through out the state, District Nahan in Sirmaur hosts the Bawan Dawadashi fair.
There is Regatta on the waters of the Gobindsagar anglers vie for the largest catch of Trout in the Sangla Valley and para gliders sail the skies at Billing.
More traditionally more than 200 dietes converge on Kullu for its unusual Dussehera celebrations. They pay homage to Lord Raghunath while music and colour fill the Silver valley. Numerous stalls offer a variety of local wares. This is also time when the International Folk Festival is celebrated.
In Spiti the festival of Gutor is held in the monastries of Tabo, Ki and Dhankar. Prayers and dances charaterise the occasion.
The Jwalamukhi temple in Kangra becomes the venue for a major fair. At Killar and Panai the Phool yatra witnesses a remarkable display of neighbourly affection and the Dehant Nag is worshipped.
With winter just a hop and skip away the age old Lavi fair fills Rampur with a burst of activity. The town was once a major entrepot on the old trade routes to Kinnaur, Tibet, Ladakh and Afganistan. Even today the tradition is a vibrant as ever. By the churning waters of the river Satluj, a variety of goods including wool, dry fruit and horses are bartered and sold. The kharif crops have been harvested when at the legendary Renuka lake, a fair graces its banks. There is trade recreation and amusement. Idols of Lord Parashurama and Renuka Ji are ceremoniously dipped in sacred waters of the lake and it is a time when a lot of matching is done.
Water Sports Competitions are held at Maharana Partap Sagar, Kangra and at the Gobindsagar lake, Bilaspur. In November Himachal also host the Pre World Cup Paragliding Championships at Billing in Kangra.
As winters arrive, anglers shift to the Maharana Pratap sagar Kangra. With the blessings of Nobel Laureate. His holiness the Dalai Lama, the International Himalayan festival is held at McLeodganj, Kangra district. Cultural troupes from the Himalayan States put on deveral shows.
The winter winds carry all the delights of ise-skating at Shimla. The extrvaganza of the Ice Skating Carnival is normally reserved for December. Christmas celebrations overtake Shimla and Dalhousie and as the church bells chime they carry away another event packed year.
Spring (May/June)- You would get lots of snow but roads are at worst, lots and lots of tourists and obviously a costly trip with escalated price.
Monsoon (July/Aug) - Ladakh/Lahaul/Spiti is historically there is no rain but traffic is high.
Autumn (Sep/Oct) - Roads are at the best but almost no snow enroute. Weatherwise I like this season personally the most, the weather after monsoon recedes remain crystal clear with least haze/dust/mist and gives excellent visibility for watching peaks.
Winter (Nov-April) - At your own risk without any tourists, excellent bargain and budget trip is likely. Also for special interest tours like say Chaddar trek of Zanskar, this is the time to go.