Bikhoti or Vishuvat Sankranti is a traditional New Year’s festival of Hindus also known by the names of Bikhoti, Vaishaki, and Mesh Sankranti. Just like in other parts of India, Uttarakhand also celebrates the beginning of the New Year’s with great zeal and excitement.
When is Vishuvat Sankranti/ Bikhoti celebrated?
Bikhoti or Vishuvat Sankranti is a traditional festival of Uttarakhand celebrated on the first day of Vaishakh month. Vaishakh marks the beginning of a new year in Hindu calendar and normally falls between the months of April and May.
Where is Vishuvat Sankranti/Bikhoti celebrated?
Bikhoti is celebrated grandly every year at Bairat in the Kumaon region of Uttarakhand. It is also celebrated in other parts of Uttarakhand with their own traditions and norms.
How is Vishuvat Sankranti/ Bikhoti celebrated?
There are many traditions associated with Bikhoti and the fair is known by different names in different parts of Uttarakhand. In Johar, the festival is known as ‘Vishtyar’, in Palipchau it is known as ‘Dhaha’, and in Garhwal region it is known as ‘Maun mela’. Each region follows their own traditions and enjoy the beautiful festival of Vishuvat Sankranti/Bikhoti.
One such tradition is the process of Acupuncture. On this day, infants are treated and protected against diseases by performing various methods of acupuncture on them. The navel of infants are pressed lightly with warm iron bar. It is believed that doing so keeps stomach and abdominal pains of infants in check. This tradition is known by the name of ‘Vishtyar’ in Johar.
In the Chaudas-Byas/Dharchula region of Kumaon, the tradition of beating one another with nettle leaves is followed. It is believed that getting beaten by nettle leaves on this day helps remain free from diseases for the rest of the year.
It is a tradition to have non vegetarian dishes and enjoy the festival with great joy. Therefore, non-vegetarian people engage in goat sacrifice and people residing near river banks happily catch fresh fishes. It is known as ‘Dhaha’ in Palipchau and ‘Maun mela’ in Garhwal region.
Celebration of Vishuvat Sankranti/ Bikhoti in Garhwal
In the Khas Pradhan area of Jaunsar-Bawar region of Garhwal, a five-day fair starting from Vishuvat Sankranti is held which is known as Bisu Fair.
A grand fair known as ‘Vikhaud Fair’ is held on this day in the Bhatwari and Karyak regions of Uttarkashi. The people of Uttarakashi look forward to the fair with great anticipation and attend it in large numbers.
In some regions of Garhwal, seeds and plants are sown.
Fairs are held in the regions of Karnaprayag, Nandaprayag, and other areas and mask dance and drama is held in regions like Lata, Tapovan, etc.
Celebration of Vidhuvat Sankranti/ Bikhoti in Kumaon
The women in traditional Kumaoni households take part in a special event known as ‘Natabandhan’. In this event, the women clean the area above and near the fire stove with cow dung and draw the symbol of ‘Natabandhan’ which literally translates to ‘forming relationships’.
The main reason for doing so isn’t evident but it is believed that it could be to remember their ancestors and form good bonds with them despite their absence in their lives.
On this day, fairs are held in the temples of Uma (Karnaprayag), Siteshwar (Kota), Tungnath, Rudranath, Gauri, Jwalpa, Kali, Chandika, Badrinath, Vishnuprayag, and other religious places.
Significance of Vishuvat Sankranti/ Bikhoti
The termBikhoti is associated with wildlife. As the season following Vishuvat Sankrantiis spring season, it is believed that if it rains on the day of Bikhoti, the plants will be free from diseases and the harvest of the following year will be a fruitful one.
Despite different traditions in different regions of Uttarakhand, the festival is primarily rejoiced for the New Year and the arrival of spring season.