Harela is one of the most auspicious festivals of Kumaon region celebrated on the first day (KarkSankranti) of Shravan. Harela literally means ‘green leaves’ and is celebrated to mark the onset of monsoon and the beginning of the sowing season of crops.
Where is Harela celebrated?
Harela is celebrated in the Kumon region of Uttarakhand. It is one of the most important festivals of Kumaon and is celebrated with great zeal and fervour especially by the agriculture and farming-based communities.
When is Harela celebrated?
Harela is celebrated every year on the first day of Shravan, i.e on KarkSankranti. The festival marks the beginning of sowing season and is celebrated for a prosperous harvest year.
How is Harela celebrated?
About 9-11 days before KarkSankranti, households sow the seeds of grains like wheat, maize, mustard, horse gram, barley, rice, soybeans in a pot or a flat wooden pane called ‘chauk’. The pot is kept in a dark room away from sunlight. The seeds are watered twice or thrice a day. The number of seeds sown are based on the number of family members. Number of seeds should either be equal to or more than the number of family members.
According to tradition, the responsibility of sowing the seeds lies with the mother figure of the house and the responsibility of watering the seeds lies with the unmarried daughter of the household.
On the day of Sankranti, all the members of the household get up early, take bath, and immediately start the preparations of the festival. The green shoots (harela) germinated from the seeds are cut on this day. The festivities are started as early as possible because in case of any unfortunate event, the green shoots (harela) can’t be cut and the festival can’t be celebrated until a child is born.
Delicious foods like puri, kachauri, bada, and puwa are prepared and other religious ceremonies are undertaken. After the ceremonies, harela is placed behind the ears of each family member. The elders give blessings to the young while chanting –
Aakashjaschakavhaijaye, Surya jastaran,
As Harela is the most important festival of the year members of the family come together to celebrate it. If someone can’t make it, relatives send letters with Harela wrapped inside it.
Karmakandi Brahmans also celebrate the marriage of Shiva-Parvati on this day with auspicious religious ceremonies.
Significance of Harela
The intention for sowing the seeds for celebrating Harela is to determine the germination status of the grains for the particular year. Harela is planted for bringing peace, happiness, and prosperity to the family.
As Harela symbolizes the sowing season and new harvest, it advocates saving and conserving the environment. Seeds and plants are sown on this day to spread awareness and practice of planting trees. It is believed that trees planted on Harela will undoubtedly grow and live healthy.