Bagwal Fair is celebrated at Maa Varahi Devi Temple in Devidhura located at a distance of 45 km from Lohaghat in the Champawat district of Uttarakhand. Devidhura also marks the trijunction of Almora, Pithoragarh, and Nainital districts and is famous for its rich cultural heritage. Bagwal Fair is one such cultural fair that is celebrated with great zeal and devotion.
When is Bagwal Fair celebrated?
Bagwal Fair is celebrated every year during Raksha Bandhan that falls on the full moon day of the month of Shravan.
How is Bagwal Fair celebrated
On the day of the fair, ‘Bagwal’ is played between four different groups of peoplecollectively known as ‘Khams’. The four Khams are- Gaharwal Kham, Chamyal Kham, Lamgarhia Kham, and Valig Kham.
The fair starts with the worship of Goddess Varahi (Barahi) by the priest and the head of the Kham. After worship, prasad is distributed among the people and the ceremony of Bagwal is started.The members of the Kham enter the temple complex one by one and complete the parikrama of the temple complex.
After the parikrama, each Kham positions themselves on the four corners of the temple and the priest starts the Bagwal with the sound of ‘shankh’.
The fighters of the four Khams carry sticks, stones, and farra (a shield made of wood) for the fight. The fighters throw stones at one another while protecting themselves with farra. No matter however wounded they are, they do not stop the fight until the priest concludes the fight with the sound of shankh.
Thousands of people from other regions of Uttrakhand and Nepal come to visit and witness the grand fair. They cheer for the teams throughout the fight with drums, music, and songs. Bagwal is accompanied with beautiful folk dance and cultural music.
History of Bagwal Fair
According to legend, there used to be a tradition of sacrificing a man (Narbali) to Maa Varahi (Barahi) every year from the members of people known as ‘Kham’ as a gift. On one such year, it was the turn of an old woman to gift her only grandson to Maa Varahi. Reluctantly and with great grief she prepared her grandson for the sacrifice.
Witnessing her grief and her devotion, Maa Varahi agreed to spare the life of her grandson under the condition that an equal amount of blood present in a man’s body should be offered to her.
Since that day onwards, Bagwal Fair is celebrated where the members of Kham throw stones at one another so as to wound one another and offer their blood collectively as a sacrifice to Maa Varahi.
Significance of Bagwal Fair
The people of Champawat celebrate Bagwal Fair with great devotion till date. However, in recent times, flowers and fruits such as apples and pears as used instead of stones.
It is estimated that over a lakh visitors attend Bagwal Fair from the neighbouring region of Nepal, Kumaon, and other places.