Festival

Tributes to Ancestors & Fun, Frolic Mark Mizoram’s Mim Kut Fest

The Mim Kut is a spiritual festival held in Mizoram each year and is celebrated with wonderful enthusiasm and eagerness. The festival has wide recognition from across the state and tourism department.

The Mim Kut is a religious festival held in Mizoram, in the North-Eastern State of India, celebrated after the harvest of maize during the months of August and September. It is celebrated for two-days in the entire state by the local residents, with a lot of enthusiasm and joy. This festival is not only about the harvesting of maize; it is also dedicated to the souls of one’s dead ancestors. People remember their dead ancestors, especially the ones who passed away in the previous year and pay homage to them through special prayers and offerings. There is a belief that during this time, the souls of the dead ancestors visit the homes of their descendants. Special offerings are made for the departed souls in the form of fresh vegetables, maize, bread, and necklaces. A part of harvest and even clothes are offered to the departed souls.

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Preparations are made much before the onset of the festival. People clean and decorate their homes to welcome the departed souls. Some even place the favourite possessions or food liked their ancestors as a mark of respect to them. Tributes are paid to the souls by following certain rituals and traditions. The first day of the festival is totally devoted to the departed souls, as people try to pray and please them with the religious rituals.

The real celebrations start on the second day when grand festivities begin; people drink, sing, dance and feast. Grand meals are prepared, people get together and enjoy good food; traditional fare is made mostly from bread. Furthermore, several dance and song performances are organized and people enjoy and have fun. There is enough scope of entertainment that is offered by these festivals. One can even enjoy the local cuisine during this time which is especially prepared during this festival.

Mizoram – Festivals
In Mizoram, the word ‘kut’ is used for festivals. There are in all three ‘kuts’ in Mizoram, all dedicated to agriculture. The kuts are celebrated with great enthusiasm; traditional dances and songs are part of all celebrations.
The three kuts are –
The Chapchar Kut – The Chapchar Kut Carnival is held during spring time that falls around March every year. It is one of the grand carnivals held in the state which is visited by people from all across the country. Traditional dances are performed accompanied with conventional songs; the dances performed during this festival have gained international recognition.
Pawl Kut – The Pawl Kut festival is celebrated in December, before the advent of spring which brings in more colours to the carnival. It is celebrated after the crop’s harvest and is a sort of ‘harvest thanksgiving festival.’ It is a colourful harvest festival that is accompanied with ballets, songs and fun. Meat and egg form a customary part of the feast for the festival.
Mim Kut – The Mim Kut is usually celebrated during the months of August and September, after the harvest of maize, amidst extensive fanfare and merrymaking.

THE FUN AND FROLIC OF MADAI FESTIVAL

Madai is a popular, dynamic religious festival from Chhattisgarh which celebrates the ancient culture of the local tribes. Known for being an inclusive ‘moving festival’, each year scores of locals throng together to celebrate this festival together and make merry whilst worshipping the Goddess…

WORDS BY- SANGEETA S

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Each year, the Madai Festival is celebrated by the tribes of Gond community in Chhattisgarh with a lot of pomp and enthusiasm. This popular festival reflects the rich culture and tradition of the people of this State. For this festival that is typically celebrated between the months of December to March each year, locals gather together on a large ground and then start a procession from one location to another, giving everyone an opportunity to enjoy and participate in this festival.

The movement of the festival from one location to another is a unique feature of this festival, which allows every tribe and other human groups of Chhattisgarh to enjoy this amazing festival. It can be also called a festival that travels. During the festival, the locals sacrifice a goat in honor of the tribal Gods and a special ritual is conducted.

Large numbers of believers of the deity and public gather to witness and perform in these rituals. At the end of the procession, the head priest worships the Goddess, people offer their prayers and then the procession starts.

Various cultural events are also organized during the festival which reflects the rich culture and tradition of the people and the state. The festival originated from the ancient tribal traditions and customs of Chhattisgarh. The dances and the exquisite costumes are worth watching.

People enjoy this festival with their families and a huge fair is held wherein shops selling seasonal specialties, food and drink and of course, entertainment is organised. Local artisans also get an opportunity to display their art and sell their products during this time.

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Greetings are exchanged and there is a happy environment all around. Festivities continue throughout the night where people eat, drink, and enjoy. On the whole, the festival reflects the unique culture of the state which is still practiced and maintained by the tribals.

Chhattisgarh is a vibrant state that is known for its forests, natural beauty and a large number of tribal folk that inhabit here. These locals have a fulfilling lifestyle which includes enjoying life to the fullest; food, drink, music, dances, and festivals which form an integral part of their simple lives. The tribal women love to adorn themselves in ethnic jewelry.

Some of the tribes include – Gonds, Abhuj Maria, Bison Horn Maria, Muria, Halbaa, Dhurvaa and Dorla. The other communities who celebrate this festival include most of the tribes of Bastar and Kanker districts. People of Narayanpur, Kondagaon, Bhanupratappur, Antagarh and Pakhanjore also celebrate Madai.

Kullu Dussehra

Apart from its beauty Kullu is also known for grand Dussehra celebrations. Declared as an international event in 1972 the magnificent festival attracts large number of visitors. Read on to know more about this international event.

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Known world-wide Dussehra celebrated in Kullu is famous for its large number of visitors and grand celebrations. The festival starts from the Vijaya Dashmi day and continues for seven days. Kullu dusshera is little different from the celebrations in rest of the country; Kullu dussehra celebrations begin when the rest of the country closes the nine-day long festival.
The weeklong festival is celebrated in the Dhalpur maidan at Kullu in Himachal Pradesh state. The festival starts with paying respect to Lord Raghunathji. On the first day the statue of Lord Raghunathji is installed on a beautifully designed chariot which is pulled by ropes by the locals from its place to different sites across the maidan. The village Gods and minor deities are also a part of this celebration. The 7-day festival is filled with dancing, drinking and feasting. Thousands of people from all over

the country and world visit this place during Dussehra and the celebrations fill them with eternal happiness and satisfaction. On the last day of the festival, the chariot is brought by the banks of Beas River where a mass of wood grass is burnt, signifying the burning of Lanka.
The celebration of Dussehra in Kullu started in the 17th century during the reign of Raja Jagat Singh. There is an interesting story behind this. Raja Jagat Singh was told that a poor Brahmin named Durga Dutt has a bowl full of pearls. Raja wanted those pearls and sent his troops to get them. Durga Dutt was greatly harassed by the troops and on finding the torture unbearable, he locked himself in a room with his family and set fire to the house. He cursed the Raja for his cruel deeds. The Raja got restless and in his guilt he started hallucinating and used to see blood in place of milk and water and worms in place of rice.

Nothing helped Raja get out of this situation till he met a saint who told him that only the blessings of Lord Rama could save him. Raja sent his troops to the kingdom of Ayodhya and asked them to bring the idol of Lord Rama. The idol of Lord Rama was installed at the Raghunath temple. Then after this Raja showed signs of recovery and his dreams started vanishing and soon the whole state accepted the lord as their deity and celebrated the first Vijay Dashmi festival in the state of Kullu. From that day onwards the Kullu Dussehra festival is celebrated with great joy and devotion.
The festival of Dussehra renews the hope of a wonderful tomorrow in our lives. The festival symbolizes the coming of dawn after dusk and happiness after suffering. The festival inspires us to continue our good deeds and keep the hope alive in ourselves.

Celebrating ‘Fun and Frolic of the Tigers’ with Pulikali

A recreational folk art from the state of Kerala, Pulikali came into origin in 1886 on the fourth Onam day in the month of Chingam. Over the years, this festival has become synonymous with the harvest festival of Onam wherein colourful artists dressed as tigers entertain people through a typical recreational folk art dance…

WORDS: SANGEETA S

PULIKALI a tiger dance of Kerala is performed by trained artists to entertain people on the occasion of Onam which is an annual harvest festival celebrated in Kerala. It is a colorful recreational folk art where artists dance wildly and mimic hunting moves to the beat of drums. The famous folk art is performed in different parts of Kerala but mostly performed in Thrissur district. Literal meaning of Pulikali is the ‘play of the tigers’ hence the performance revolves around the theme of tiger hunting.

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It is a dance where young and old both participate with equal enthusiasm. Though the dance is performed mostly by men but lately few women and children also are a part of the group. It is fun to watch few female and child leopards too amongst the group. The entire scene looks very colourful and vibrant with artists wearing masks of leopard face and body painted in black and yellow. The colourful appearances of the artists make the whole atmosphere more vibrant. However getting the colourful appearance is not easy; it requires lot of patience and time. The dancers clean their body of all hair and then apply the base coat which takes 2-3 hours to dry before the second coat can be applied. The painstaking process can take up to 7 hours before the artists get ready. Leopard faces are also drawn on bellies and men with potbellies shake it and dance to the beats of instruments like Udukku and Thakil. The performance mostly revolves around the theme of tiger hunting.
This folk art is mostly performed on the fourth day of Onam and the best place to watch this show is at Thrissur where thousands of people gather just to watch and enjoy the lovely show.

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It is wonderful watching humans in the guise of tigers roaming in the streets. Children simply love the show as scenes of tiger hunting are beautifully depicted by the artists. Many troupes from all over the state assemble in Thrissur to give their performance. Pulikali is not just restricted to Onam, it is performed during other festive seasons too.
The origin of Pulikali dates back to over 200 years when Maharaja Ramavarma wanted to celebrate Onam with a dance that reflected the wild and macho spirit of the force. It is worth noting the efforts made to preserve this 200- year old art by the artists of the state. Earlier masks were not used; instead the artists would paint their bodies and faces to give the tiger effect. But now, readymade masks, cosmetic teeth, tongues, beards and mustaches are used by the participants along with the paint on their bodies. Over the years the dance has become very popular and people come forward in great numbers to participate and enjoy the dance. The Pulikkali Co-ordination Committee, a unified council of Pulikkali groups formed in 2004 to preserve and propagate the art in all its true hues and tones makes great efforts in organizing the event and keeping the tradition alive.

Champakulam Moolam First boat race of season in Kerala

Kerala, which has been promoted over the past few years as ‘God’s Own Country’, besides being well-known for its soul rejuvenating greenery, culture and hospitality, is also widely popular for its annual snake boat race known as Champakulam Moolam

WORDS: SHIFA MEYAJI

ONE of the most auspicious and exciting festivals of Kerala, the Champakulam Moolam is held in Pampa on the day of the ‘moolam’, which is followed in accordance with the Malayalam month of Midhunam.
Although Kerala takes pleasure in hosting a number of native boat races in the harvest season, the Champakulam Moolam is the first race of the season. Moolam signifies a Malayalam asterism (star or Nakshathra).
It holds much historic significance passed on to the locals through centuries. The traditional annual boat race of Kerala begins in late June and early July at Champakulam.
It is considered to be especially sacred as the deity at the Ambalappuzha Sri Krishna temple was installed on this day.
According to a famous legend, Raja Devanarayanan of Chempakasseri built a temple at Ambalappuzha, as suggested by the royal astrologers, but just before the installation of the idol of Lord Krishna, he was informed that it was not auspicious.

Hence, it became necessary to erect a suitable idol immediately. Luckily, the priests were aware of another idol which was placed at the Karinkulam temple in Kurichi.

Sacred idol
Moreover, this idol was believed to have been given to Arjuna by Lord Krishna himself, and was therefore considered to be sacred. After getting the idol from Karinkulam temple, the Raja’s men set forth by boat for the return journey.
They took shelter at night in the village of Champakulam where the host and his family showed great hospitality to the king and his men. The idol was duly installed the next morning where boats from the entire region assembled to escort it in a colorful, ceremonial procession through the lake to the temple.
The king was thoroughly pleased with the affection shown to him by his subjects. He declared that a great water carnival would be held at Champakulam every year and thus, began the Champakulam snake boat race and related events, which continue to this day.

On this day, the temple delegates enter the prayer room, where along with the Christian icons (the king was hosted by a respectable and kind Christian family at Champakulam) like the cross and statues of Jesus and Mary, the lamp, known as the Vazhakoombu Vilakku is given a place of prominence.

Exuberant boat procession
The temple priests then light the lamp and are then treated to a huge feast by the family. It is only after all these ceremonies that the famous Champakulam snake boat race commences. There is an exuberant procession of boats decorated with bright colored parasols and performances which greet the spectator before the race.
Massive boats dawn over the waters and ancient boat songs are hummed making it an exhilarating experience. This is the event that kicks off the boat racing fiesta, which takes over Kerala for the next few months.
This year, the spectacular festival was expected to start on June 28 and the conviviality is inevitable in the state.

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Gayatri Jayanti

Aum Bhoor Bhuwah Swaha,Tat Savitur Varenyam Bhargo Devasaya Dheemahi Dhiyo Yo Naha Prachodayat’

WORDS: SHIFA MEYAJI

THE foremost mantra in Hinduism, the Gayatri Mantra, is a prayer to the almighty for imparting wisdom and to light up the intellect to make it easier for the followers to walk on the righteous path.
Sage Vishwamitra first chanted this mantra on Jyeshta Shukla Ekadashi and from that day onwards, it came to be recognised as Gayatri Jayanti.

The relevance of this mantra is highest and it was given by Gayatri Devi or goddess Gayatri; hence, it is piously chanted during the festival of Gayatri Jayanti.
It is observed as the birth anniversary of Gayatri Devi, popularly known as the goddess of Vedas or Veda mata. Many accept her as the ‘Mother of all Gods’ and she is considered to be an embodiment of goddesses Lakshmi, Saraswati and Parvati.
The goddess appears with five heads, out of which four face the directions, which represent the Vedas, and the fifth faces the sky above, symbolising the almighty.

The goddess is portrayed sitting on a lotus and has 10 hands which bear the symbols of lord Vishnu.
Goddess Gayatri is also believed to be the second consort of lord Brahma. The story runs that Brahma had to start an important yagna, necessarily with his wife at a fixed time and his first wife, Sabitri was late.
Thus, to not avoid delay and further obstruction, in Sabitris absence he married Gayatri to start the yagna.
The significance of goddess Gayatri and her various portrayals make one realise why her followers celebrate this day with so much piousness and devotion.
Devotees offer special prayers and pujas to the goddess during this day. These are performed either by pandits or experienced elderly members of the family. Special satsangs and kirtans are performed by people from all communities and sects.

Worshippers rise early in the morning and perform the Shadopachara Puja. Those praying for knowledge and education offer the puja along with lillies, while the rest who pray seeking other things offer hibiscus flowers to the deity.
Women also observe the Deerga Sumangali fast on the day, praying for the long life of their husbands and traditionally offer turmeric powder and kumkum to the deity.
People seeking wealth from the deity offer puja with lotus flowers.

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