Saton-Athon Festival is one of the most important festivals of the Pithoragarh region of Kumaon. On this day, it is crucial for every member of the family to wear new clothes and celebrate the festival.
When is Saton-Athon Festival celebrated?
Normally, Saton Athon Fair is celebrated on the 7th and 8th day of Bhadrapad month (mid Aug- mid Sept). However if the first 15 days of Bhadrapad falls during Saurmas Ashwin, Saton- Athon Fair is celebrated during Janmasthami, which falls on the eighth day of Krishna Paksha in Shraavan month (mid July- mid Aug).
How is Saton-Athon Festival celebrated?
The festival begins with Biruda Panchami and ends with the immersion of the idol of Gamra Mahesar in the river. The time of immersion is decided upon the convenience and consensus of the villagers.
Prayers and worship:
On the 5th day of Bhadrapad, Biruda is placed in a copper container and soaked in water.
On the 7th day, the ladies take them to the nearby river and wash them. They fast on this day, bring paddy plants from the farm, and arrange them to form the shape of Gamra (Gaura Parvati). The women keep it at a villagers’ home and pray there together. As a part of the puja, they tie a holy thread in their arms. The festival is celebrated with dance and music in the evening.
Similar to the 7th day, on the 8th day paddy plants and arrange them to form the shape of Mahesar (Maheswar- Shiva). The women place it together with the idol of Gaura Parvati. The people narrate the birth of Gaura-Maheshwar, their marriage, and their family life through singing and dancing. Biruda is offered to Gaura-Maheshwar and after completing the prayers, Biruda is placed in the head of the idols as a form of prasad. Women offer ‘Dubdhaga’ (a thread) to Gaura which they tie on their arms or neck after praying prior to Gaura Visarjan. On this day, women abstain from eating food cooked in fire as it is believed that Sati immolated and sacrificed her life in Raja Daksha’s yagna.
The house where the idols are placed bursts to life every evening till late night with games, traditional songs and dances, and interesting activities. Women take part in singing Maa Gamra’s bhajans, Rad Jhadilo, Jhoda, Chanchri, and Nyoli (Hathjora). Men can take part in Jhoda, Chanchri, and Nyoli but aren’t allowed to participate in the other activities. In Nyoli, people sing phrases and puzzles that are interesting and entertaining.
The games for men which is known as ‘Thul Khel’ is held in a separate place in the village. Along with Thul Khel, the festival is celebrated with Dhuska, Fhag, Dhumari, Chali, etc. forms of folk dance. The songs in Thul Khel, Dhuska, and Dhumari are based on the stories of Ramayan, Mahabharat, and Shiv Puran. The celebration is held at specific villages and people from around from the neighbouring village come together and celebrate the festival.