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Chaitraul Festival

Himachal Pradesh celebrates many different festivals during different times of the year. Some festivals follow customs that are accepted throughout the country, such as Navratras and Shiv ratri. Other festivals honor local deities, but are also related to harvest festivals and other occasions popular in the rest of the country. The Chaitraul festival falls in this latter category. This festival is unique to Sirmaur district of Himachal Pradesh. Like much of the festivals in the Himachal and other regions of the country, this festival falls in the months of Chaitra, during March and April.

The period of Chaitra is a time for harvesting crops. This is also the time when Navratri is celebrated in many parts of the country. In Himachal Pradesh, the Chaitra period is all about festivals.  Some festivals celebrate local lore. Others are connected to gods and goddesses.

Chaitraul is essentially a festival celebrating abundance and a bountiful harvest. Houses are freshly painted and cleaned. Pictures of male animals and cereals, considered symbols of prosperity, are drawn on the walls and other surfaces. Local deities are placed outside the home, usually in an open space. A local dish called Poltu is offered to the deity. It is a custom to provide food to the poor people in the region.

Chaitraul is also a festival that aims at getting rid of evil spirits. One of the rituals in relation to this is the breaking of clay pots. It is believed that breaking clay pots will eliminate evil spirits.

Khore is another ritual followed during this festival. It is associated with the truce between the gods and demons. This ritual is a night long one, involving a lot of songs and jokes. For completion of Khore, a man is dressed in a demon mask is the Khore. He goes around the village accompanied by drummers. Once the Khore completes the rounds of the village, he returns to the temple.

Another custom is the brushing of chariot wheels with thorny twigs. The chariot wheels are supposed to belong to the gods. It is during this procession that clay pots are broken to drive away evil spirits.

Temple Fairs During Chaitra

The month of Chaitra, as already noted, is also a time for harvest and celebration. Chaitraul is just one of the festivals celebrated during this period. Throughout Himachal Pradesh, fairs are organized to trade cattle and household goods. Visitors to Sirmaur district and other regions of the state can visit these fairs to learn more about local culture, or just to have a good time among the hustle and bustle that characterize fairs and festivals in India. These fairs are usually held around temples.

Byas Fair

This fair is organized five days before the day of Holi, a colorful festival famous throughout India. The Byas Fair is held in honor of Rishi Vyas. Legend has it that Rishi Vyas meditated here. The fair is associated with the temple, built to honor Rishi Vyas. The fair is also a time when people gather from all parts of the country to bring offerings to Lord Shiva.

Vishu Festival

This festival is held in the last two days of the Chaitra period. It holds many similarities to Baisakhi, celebrated in the entire country. Archery competition is one of the main attractions of this festival. This contest is popular, as well as raucous. Often, people lose their temper and there is dispute between participants as well as their supporters.

Baba Balak Nath Temple Fair

Another famous Chaitra festival is held at the Baba Balak Nath Temple in Shah Talai, the district of Bilaspur. It is celebrated after Shiv ratri. The fair is famous for its cultural extravaganzas. The temple, where an icon of Baba Balak Nath is present, is the focus of the fair. On this day, people from far and wide come to the temple to pay homage to Balak Nath. Surrounding the temple area are shops selling sweets and other items. The fair caught the attention of private organizers as well, who hold exhibitions on the fair grounds.

Chaitra is a great time for celebration, when people from all across the state come together to celebrate bountiful harvest and pay homage to local deities.  This period is characterized by merry making, household cleaning, and partaking of local delicacies. It is a time for relaxation and rejuvenation, and thanking gods and goddesses for their blessings.

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