According to the Hindu religious texts, on the day of Uttarayani, the sun enters the Zodiacal sign of ‘Makar’ (Capricon) from the Zodiacal sign of the Kark (Cancer), i.e. from this day onwards the sun becomes ‘Uttarayan’ or it starts moving to the north. It is said that from this day, which signals a change of season, the migratory birds start returning to the hills. On Makar Sankranti people give Khichadi (a mixture of pulses and rice) in charity, take ceremonial dips in holy rivers, participate in the Uttarayani fairs and celebrate the festival of Ghughutia or Kale Kauva. During the festival of Kale Kauva (literal translation ‘black crow’) people make sweetmeats out of sweetened flour (flour and gur) deep fried in ghee, shape them like drums, pomegranates, knives, swords etc. They are strung together and worn as necklace-in the middle of which an oragne in fixed. Early in the morning children wear these necklaces and sing “Kale Kauva..” to attract crows and other birds and offer them portions of these necklaces, as a token of welcome for all the migratory birds, who are now coming back after their winter sojourn in the plains.
Wearing garlands of the above eatables the children come out calling the crows with following song on their lips:
Kale Kale, bhol bate aile
bor puwa Khale
Ie Kauva bara, mai ke de sunu gharo
Ie Kauva dhal, mai ke de sunu thai.
(come dear crow, come daily
you will enjoy eating bara and puwa.
Take the bara and give me a pitcher full of gold Take the shield and give me a golden plate).
When is Ghughutia celebrated?
The position of the sun is significant in Ghughutia. The festival is celebrated during Makar Sankranti when the sun transmigrates from Hindu zodiac sign of Makar (Cancer) to Dhanu (Sagittarius). This also marks the beginning of the new month of Maagh in Hindu calendar. At this time and from this day onwards, the sun travels from south to north and hence the festival is also known as Uttaryan or Uttaryani. In Kumaon, the festival is celebrated as Ghughutia or Pusyodiya on the first day of Maagh month or the last day of Paush month. River Saryu located at Almora seems to be the indicator of the day of the celebration. The regions north of River Saryu celebrate the festival on the last day of Paush every year and hence it is known as Pusyodiya here.
The regions to the south of Saryu River, i.e. the Kumaon region celebrate the festival on the first day of Maagh month, i.e. on Makarsankranti. It is known as Ghughutia here. In Garhwal, the festival is known as Gholdiya or Ghwaul.
How is Ghughutia celebrated?
Despite differences in the day of celebration and the name of the festival, there is not much difference in the way in which the festival is celebrated across Uttarakhand. Ghughut is the most important part of Ghughutia. Families prepare ghughut a day prior to the main festival and serve them to the crows early in the morning. Other delicious foods like puri, bade, puwe etc. are also cooked.
Ghughut is prepared from flour kneaded with jaggery. The dough is made into different shapes and then deep fried. The most common shape resembles the Hindi letter 4 while shapes of drums, knives, swords, and pomegranates are also common. All the sweets are tied together and made into a garland. The number of garlands equals the number of children. On the day of the festival, the children wear the garland and feed the food to the crows early in the morning. The child who is able to feed the crow first is considered lucky. The remaining food is eaten by the children.
In Garhwal, the food prepared is known as Gholdiya and the shape of the dough resembles Ghurad (Himalayan deer). The children pretend to kill Ghurads by tearing the food into small pieces and then eat them. The festival is also known as Chunya Tyar here. On this day, people prepare a special dish known as Chunya by blending rice, lentils, millets, and other seven types of crops. On this day they also prepare Urad khichdi and eat them after serving to the pandits. That’s why the festival is also known as Khichdi Tyar in this region.
In Johar region, Ghughutia is celebrated on the night before the main day of the festival. The ancestors are offered local liquor (jaang), new clothes, and foods.
The regions of Dharchula tehsil used to celebrate this festival as Mandal Tyar where a big fair was held at Mandal. People cleaned their homes and polished with cow dung. They stuck wheatgrass coated with cow dung at the ends and worshipped using rice and sandals, in their rooms. The people bathed at the hot water spring of Tapovan and brought Bael and leaves from the place. Delicious foods along with dat bhaat, puri, etc. were prepared. The festival was celebrated with a great feast including music and dance.
Mythology & History of Ghughutia
There are several legends about the origin of Ghughutia festival.
- An ancient king of Uttarakhand was warned by astrologers against bad omens and the possibility of near death. There was only one way to relive himself from the foreboding. He had to feed fakta (collared dove) to the crows through the hands of children on the day of Makar Sankranti. The king was against harming animals and didn’t want to ruin the auspicious festival of Makar Sankranti. He came up with an idea where flour kneaded with jaggery would be used to create the shape of faktas and then fried. The figurative faktas/ghuguts were fed to the crows by children and since then the tradition continued.
- A similar legend goes by the story of an ancient King named Ghughut. Astrologers prophesised that crows would kill him in the early morning of Makar Sankranti. The king came up with an idea to avoid his death. He instructed the people in his kingdom to prepare a special kind of dish made with flour mixed in jaggery and let the children feed them to the crows early in the morning of Makar Sankranti. All the crows would be busy in eating the food and his death would be avoided. The people prepared the dish the evening before and named it after the king. The crows were fed early in the morning and the remaining foods were eaten by the children. Since that day onwards, the tradition of Ghughuti was followed.
- Another legend states that on this day, devoted crows take bath early in the morning on the holy site of Bageshwar. Hence, feeding bade to these crows on the event of Uttaryan fulfils the holy bath in Saryu river.
People also celebrate the festival to honour the crows who despite the extreme cold months don’t migrate like other birds and stay in the same place bearing the climate along with the people.