Cultural Expressions

The Sacred in the Creative

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Cultural Expressions

The Sacred in the Creative

The Himalayan Festival of Harela

Harela...the greens ..a word I heard for the first time in the hills.Its a festival dear to the Kumaoni, possibly the most popular only after Diwali. It is their way of paying obeisance to mother earth. Harela this year fell on the 7th of July heralding the onset of the monsoons. 

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The Harela Festival and its Creations 

On this day the people lovingly tend to their seeds, pick 5 to seven grains ..Makka, Jowar, Bajra, Jau, Dhan, Kala Bhat and Gehun. They mix them all, pick all the dirt away and sift the good ones together to plant them in a small lovely basket made of Timil leaves. The earth used for this can only be dug out from the roots of the oak tree. Ved Prakash gently covered the roots after taking some earth lovingly smoothening it with his hands and placing leaves and twigs on top with great venerance. Today we have days like earth day and walking barefoot on the earth and feeling the grass etc. Hill cultures and all people who live close to nature were imbibed and knew how sacred nature was to their daily life ..especially the earth on which they stand and walk.

With the " tokri " of Timil leaves stitched by hand and straightened from inside to get a nice curve, the boys lit an agarbatti and placed it on the mound of wet earth. The grains were collected in the fist and strewn at the bottom of the tokri. There are 5 rounds to it ..grains then earth, grains and then earth till it is filled to the brim and the top smoothed over. The tokri then is kept in a warm place where it ll be lovingly tended to; each day to watch over the sprouted greens.

On the 10th day which this year will fall on 16th July, the leaves will be cut in a temple or in the presence of elders n placed on the head or ears ..symbolizing deep reverence for the universe to bless them with a bountiful harvest. Its a day of celebration and joy to know that they have good quality seeds that ll grow and feed the village someday. Some stories also mention this day to be the wedding of Shiva and Parvati and are celebrated with kheer and puri. On this day young girls are also given money and blessings possibly a significance of wishing abundance of the feminine spirit.

"What I found utterly enchanting was the simple manner in which the 3 boys created the harela with all the feeling in their hearts and without any sense of pomp n show of a ritual that Festivals in India have become. In their elegance and demeanour, they showed once again, how man has forgotten the reason he was born."

Being human meant living in tune with nature and all sentient beings and respecting every aspect of life; living it with utmost love gratitude and generosity. I'll wait for the 16th to see the baby shoots and enjoy delicious kheer puri.

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