Himachal Pradesh is one of the richest states when it comes to cultural heritage. Many festivals and fairs are organized here every year. These glorify the religious ceremonies, culture and history of the state. They even contribute to the economy and are dear to the locals. These are some of the most popular fairs and festivals in Himachal Pradesh.
This festival welcomes the New Year. The festival dedicated to ShashikarApa, the goddess of wealth. Celebrated in January over 2 days, the exact dates are determined by the Lamas. A new site is chosen for the completion of rituals.One ritual is a bonfire that signifies the community’s unity. The Halda festival is organized in the Lahaul district, in theKeylong, Bhaga River and Chandra River Valleys.
This particular event from Kullu dates back to 1651. From the very beginning, celebrations have been organized at the DhalpurMaidan. The festival itself is just 1 day long, however, the devotees camp out on VijayaDashmi. Ravana’s effigy is not burnt here, instead just grass and a heap of wooden logs.
Mandi Shivratri Fair
The fair in Mandi is the grandest among allShivratri is celebrated across the state. The 81 shrines of Lord Shiva invite thousands of devotees, even more so on shivratri. TheMandi fair was started by Raja Ajbar Sen. One of the highlights of the festival is the SobhaYatra. Deities, carried in the chariots, are taken to pay homage to Madho Raj. After this, the deities are taken to the Raja. The 3 day festivity includes trade, folk music and dance.
Himachal Winter Carnival
In the first week of January the Himachal WinterCarnival is organized in Manali. First organized in 1977, this carnival is now bigger and better than ever before. The Carnival has been celebrated for more than 4 decades and a large number of activities are conducted. The Himachali Food Festival, Band Competition, Street Plays, Adventure Sports, Folk Dances, craft Bazaar and a Skiing Championship. The “Winter Queen” and “Mr. Manali” beauty contests are one of the biggest highlights. Other attractions are the Manacle Gompa, Jagatsukh, Hadimba Temple, Manu Temple and the Vashisht Springs.
Another celebration of January, Sazo bids adieu to the deities of villages. The deities move to heaven for a brief nap. They shower gifts on the devotees from heaven above. Kinnaur witnesses quite a bit of dances and musicals during this festival.
This Tibetan New Year Celebration is in the month of February. There are prayer ceremonies and Tibetan opera performances in the monasteries. Special ThukpaBhatuk noodles are consumed on NyiShu GU. This is the day prior to the Tibetan New Year. This multi-day festival starts with the Lama Losar when His Holiness the Dalai Lama is worshipped. The Tibetans perform the Chaam dance. The dancers perform this dance while wearing a mask. Because of the appearance of the dance masks, the festival is often called the ‘Devil Dance’.
The Nalwari fair has been organized in Bilaspur in March since colonial times. The fair was originally started by the then Shimla Superintendent, W. Goldstein in 1889. Back then, the fair was organized to promote cattle trade. Articles on saleinclude paintings, jewelry, local folk art and other local artifacts. The wrestling match is also popular among the visitors.
The International Himalayan Festival in the Kangra Valley is another popular event. It celebrates the Nobel Peace Prize won by His Holiness The Dalai Lama. The above mentioned are the bigger, more popular festivals and fairs. Here are some of the other events:
- Doongri Festival, Kullu
- The Spring Festival in Kullu called PipalJatra or Basantotsav
- Phulaich Festival, Kinnaur
- La Darcha Fair, Kaza (Spiti)
- Ice Skating Carnival, Dalhousie/Shimla