Holi in Sangla

Holi in Sangla, Kinnaur

Holi is a festival of colours in India to celebrate the victory of the good over the evil. India being a vast country having 28 states and 8 Union Territories, where each of these provinces celebrate this colourful festival in their own manner. Some celebrating it traditionally, some with a bit of craziness and some like Sangla by dancing, singing, eating, drinking and worshiping the God. You must have heard about the Holi being played in Mathura called as the Lath Maar Holi and the Holi played with madness in Vrindavan but Holi in Sangla is something which has never been seen, never been heard and never been imagined until and unless one has witnessed it on their own. Sangla is yet to be popularized among the tourists as it is looked as a pass by place while going Chitkul but Sangla still sees a descent number of tourists during the festival of Holi from different parts of India.

          Sangla is a small village in the Kinnaur district of Himachal Pradesh located at an elevation of 2,621 meters above the sea level in the Baspa valley. Sangla is so picturesque that it looks straight out of a painting of a beautiful village with a forest resembling scenery all around with high mountain peaks covering it like it’s child and the eternal snow acts like a cherry on the cake. Holi is one of those festivals for the immaculate people of Sangla that is considered as sacred by them and that’s the reason they take out their Devtas during the festival of Holi and worship them. Holi is the only festival when all the locals in Sangla come out of their houses together to celebrate the festival of victory of truth.      

 

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Both the days of Holi have different essence, elegance and uniqueness of celebration in Sangla. So I will share the experience of the whole process of the celebration for both the days separately.

DAY 1:

The first day of Holi celebration which is the day on which Holika Dahan ritual is conducted in the entire India starts from the Sangla’s main Temple named Bering Nag Temple . The entire village get accumulated at the temple in the morning, worship the god and start their celebration from there. Locals wear their traditional dress with the Kinnauri cap while some of them are dressed as characters of Ramayana. As compared to the cities and the other places of India where people play with colours for few hours, take shower, have some delicious food and back to their normal life, in Sangla people start their day dancing and end their day dancing to celebrate the start of the Spring season.

The local people joined by the tourists conduct a rally starting from the main temple in the morning, going through few small villages and ending it in the same temple with the execution of Holika Dahan ritual at night. Also they carry along the statue of Holika that is to be burned at night along with the rally on their shoulders. 

So the question arises that what kind of celebration they exactly do in the rally from the morning till the night? The answer to the question lies in the question itself that is they celebrate, celebrate and celebrate. In the rally there are people playing Holi with different colours, doing their traditional dance holding each other’s hands on the music of drums, eating the local food, drinking their local wine and most importantly they do all these things with such a big smile on their face. One very nice thing here about playing with colours is that people here only use Gulaal and no colours made up of chemicals, also they don’t use water to play with either. The rally takes few stops at few different villages, and the people from the village where the stop has been taken join the rally to go ahead. At each stop food is served to everyone including the tourists and the food includes a roti kind of thing made up of Buck wheat, Puri Bhaaji, some Chai and also their local wine called as Angoori made up of Grapes, Apples and Apricot. 

The first stop is a local temple in Sangla itself where some rituals are performed by the Sadhus and the people dressed as characters of Ramayana along with people playing with colours, dancing around and chanting “Holi hai, Holi hai” in a rhythmic tone. You are not supposed to be a local in order to play Holi with the Sangla people, the locals here are so warm that they will pull you out and colour you with all fun. Drums playing, people dancing, mountains on the background, different colours everywhere, when you have a glance of all these amazing things together at one place you stand there and tell to yourself that the reason for coming to this very place is apparently valid and you shall not regret the decision to come so far for Holi when you could have celebrated it with your family at your home. So, the celebration at the first stop make it plausible that the remaining journey will be full of boisterous and amusing moments.

After walking for some distance along with dancing and playing with colours comes the second stop which is an open ground where people dance forming a circle. Prasad (Fruits and sweets) is distributed here and rituals depicting a fight between Hanuman and the evil forces is conducted. The celebration goes on for quite a time here with colourful people all around singing and dancing in their traditional way. With snow capped mountains on the background, colours thrown in the air is just a visual treat for the eyes and you feel that “Oh man! This is the moment!”

Now the actual rally starts when it goes through narrow roads, river valleys and mountain paths to take it’s third stop at a small village. Dancing with “Holi Hai” chants mixed with the drum music and the sadhus performing the rituals gives a religious vibe. Now it’s time for some break or rather a energy refiling time when all the people sit on the road while food and drinks comprising of Buck wheat roti, chaai(Tea) and the local wine Angoori is served to everyone. While Talking, laughing everyone have the food and then the celebration continues moving towards the next stop.

While dancing, playing with colours the rally arrives to it’s fourth stop which is an another small village. The same process done at the previous stop is done here too with the same enthusiasm , the only difference being that now there are more people to dance with, play with colours and have food with. Here also food and drinks that includes Buck wheat roti, chaai(Tea) and local wine is served and everyone eat the food sitting on the ground along with sharing their stories with each other.

With no feel of tiredness, continuing with the dance moves the rally reaches it’s fifth stop which is a tiny ground of a village. Rituals are done and the dance never stops as now there are more people joining and holding hands. Here Puri Bhaji is served for food and trust me when I say this that it’s one of the best you will ever have. 

Step by step moving forward and giving a energetic push to their legs the rally reaches it’s final destination which is the main temple of Sangla from where the rally started in the morning.  As soon as the rally reaches the temple, there is no stopping and the people start dancing. The corridor of the temple is so big in size but still it looks so small in front of so many people dancing their hearts out.

As per the culture of Sangla, Holika Dahan ritual is conducted after the moon rises, so the people dance until the moon rises and as soon as the moon rises Holika Dahan is done at the center of the temple’s corridor. After the ritual is completed all people form a circle encircling the statue which is burnt and dance with joy as for them burning of Holika statute is a symbol of victory of good over the evil. 

Watching the Sangla people dance the whole day with such energy left me to a thought that what’s there in the box for the second day of Holi? So with that being said let’s keep our foot into the second day of Holi which according to me is not less than magical.
 

DAY 2:

Unlike the other parts of India where Holi is played with colours on the second day, in Sangla the second day is all clean as no colours are used on this day to play Holi. The second day is all about getting dressed up, stepping into the dancing shoes, worshiping the Devta(God) and dancing all night. The day is for leisure but the evening and the night belongs to the Sangla people dancing all night long.

In the evening at around 5-5:30 PM the celebration not less than a carnival starts at the main temple of Sangla. As there are no colours to be played with, men, woman and kids are well dressed in their traditional outfit and Kinnauri cap with flowers and leaves on it looking so beautiful that you just can’t stop admiring them. The Devtas are already been taken out of the temple and the festival starts with all men entering the temple while dancing on drums and trumpet music.

Gradually and eventually a circle is formed in the corridor of the temple with people holding hands in a cross way and dancing while the drums are played and inside the circle there are photographers clicking pictures of these moments which they don’t see every now and then. There are stands in the temple corridor for the seating of the people. Just a matter of a time, as soon as the dance starts the stands are all filled with people sitting and enjoying this amazing experience. It is so delightful to see these beautiful looking people dancing, laughing, enjoying with the background of snow capped mountains just like angels dancing in the heaven.

At the end of the Day 1 I mentioned the word ‘Magical’, well let’s talk about that one magical moment when I literally felt(not just for the sake of blog, I swear on this) and I said this line in my mind that ‘what the hell is this man!’ The moment was when as soon as the ladies started dancing, the snowfall started. I was wishing from the start of the trip for a snowfall and when it happened it was the perfect moment because people are dancing around me as I was standing at the center, music playing loudly, and the snowfall starts. It felt like thank God I came for this trip. One more thing which is commendable about the people of Sangla is that they are not tired at all at any point of time. Imagine the temperature is in minus and these people are dancing non stop from evening till the night. 

After dancing for almost 3 hours continuously the time comes to do the most important ritual for which this celebration is done. This ritual is considered as sacred for Sangla people and that’s the reason you are not allowed to click pictures when this ritual is been conducted because it is believed that the Devtas will get angry. Also it is due to this reason only that people coming from outside Kinnaur are told to sit a bit far from the Devtas so that Devtas don’t get angry. 

In this ritual Sangla’s three Devtas(God) are carried on shoulders of different local men and a man stands in front of the Devtas and tell something in their local language to the Devtas to which Devtas respond by moving sideways and jumping up and down. At first instance it seems like how is this possible that the Devtas are moving and jumping on their own. Then I thought that there might be a human inside the Devtas who is doing this but then it was strange to see that it’s not the case. I was wondering and it was a weird kind of experience for me that how on Earth is this possible? How are the Devtas jumping in full force on their own? Then I thought that Sangla people have belief in this and that’s matters the most. After this the Devtas are made to run with men carrying them on their shoulders inside the temple corridor. Again this is a thing which has never been seen and imagined. After all these movements the Devtas get happy and give permission to enjoy to the people of Sangla. It is said that the happenings of the Sangla village in the entire year is narrated to the Devtas and if the Devtas are satisfied with it they give permission to enjoy to the Sangla people. Sangla people otherwise so composed and always having a smiling face are so serious when it comes to their Devtas. They believe it and we should believe in their belief. 

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After the pause for the rituals the dance continues all night without stopping. Come on man! These people started dancing in the evening and not stopping the whole night. It’s crazy!

These were the two overwhelming days of Holi in Sangla. If I can then on every Holi I will visit Sangla because it’s that mesmerizing for an experience rather than just spending your time out there. I totally recommend you to visit Sangla on Holi at least once in your life time in order to experience Holi like you never did and like you can never ever do somewhere else.

 “Travel is a goal which has to be achieved with someone or with no one”

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