Harela and Bhitauli

On the first day of the navaratris (nine day holy period) of the month of Chaitra women fill baskets with soil and sow seven types of grains in them. The grains germinate symbolizing the future harvest. These yellow leaves, called Harela, are cut on the tenth day and people put them on their heads and behind their ears. During the month of Chaitra (March-April) brothers send presents to their sisters. These presents are called Bhitauli.

Harela is peculiarly a Kumaoni festival to mark the advent of the rainy season. The celebration falls on the first day of Shravan. Ten days before the due date, seeds of either five or seven kinds of grains are mixed together and sown in pots inside the room, using small baskets filled with earth. The sowing is done either by the head of the family or the family priest. It is done ceremoniously. Water is sprinkled after worship. On the last day of the month of Aasarh, one day before the actual celebration of the festival, a kind of mock weeding is done with small wooden hoes. Gaily painted images of Shiva and Parvati and their off springs are prepared and worshipped on the Shankranti day. Green shoots Harela are placed on the head gear.

The significance of Harela lies in the fact that it provides an opportunity to the cultivator to test the qualities or defects of the seeds he has in his store. Another significance is that the festival is the occasion to give taken monetary allowances – pocket money to the young girls of the family.

However, the more popular Harela is the one that is celebrated in the month of Shravan to commemorate the wedding of Lord Shiva and Parvati and to welcome the rainy season and the new harvest. On this day people make Dikaras* or clay statues of Gauri, Maheshwar, Ganesh etc. and worship them. Even the overworked bullocks are given a rest on the occasion of Harela. People put the blades of freshly cut Harela on their heads and send them to their relatives and friends as well.

*Dikars – Small idols of gods and godesses are made out of clay/red-soil. These idols are decorated with different colours. They are called Dikars.

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