One of the unique festivals that is celebrated by the people of Uttarakhand, is the Harela festival. It is celebrated majorly in the Kumaon region of the state.
The festival is celebrated to mark the beginning of the rainy season or the monsoon, and is celebrated on the first day of Shrawan. On this day holy water is sprinkled over the people.
It is said to bring good health and prosperity to the house. Also as a part of the rituals, the head of the family sows kernels of five to seven kinds of grains in a mud pot. It is kept in the house. The crops that grow in the plant show the healthy harvest of the season. This is followed by Bhaitauli or Bhitauli wherein gifts are given to girls of the family.
There is great zeal and enthusiasm surrounding the state at this time.
1. Harela symbolizes for the new harvest of the rainy season and is 100 years old.
2. The Mela is celebrated as the wedding of Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati, with probable origins in Neo-lithic fertility festivals. The people make the clay statues of Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati known as Dikare or Dikars and worship them.
3. Ten days before the due date, seven or five types of seeds are sown in the buckets by the head of the family and water is sprinkled over them.
4. Mock wedding is done between small hoes Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati is worshipped. Young girls in the family are presented with money.
5. The yellow leaves of the new harvest are cut and put on the ears. This is the symbol for the rainy season and new harvest.
6. People also eat the seeds of a new harvest after heating them. Some people also sow the seeds of new plants in the earth and put together their hands for saving the environment.
7. The bullocks are also given rest on this day and the Harela is sent to friends and family.
Since the festival is closely related to nature, it gives one a reason to dwell on the role of nature in our day-today life, which we tend to forget in the mechanised world of today. Schools in the Kumaon area often encourage their students to plant trees, either at home, in the school or with the support of local officials. In olden days, saints and otherwise people had the ability to talk to plants, trees and other creatures. They took from nature only what they needed without any greedy intent.