Why Uttarakhand celebrates Harela

The seeds of five to seven types of crops are sown nine days ahead of the festival

By Arvind Bijalwan
Published: Wednesday 21 July 2021
Why Uttarakhand celebrates Harela

Villagers across Uttarakhand celebrated Harela, a festival of greenery, peace, prosperity and environmental conservation July 16, 2021.

Harela means ‘day of green’ and is celebrated in the month of Shravan (the fifth month of the Hindu lunar calendar) to worship Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati. 

People across Uttarakhand, especially the Kumaun region, associate greenery with prosperity. 

The chief minister of Uttarakhand Pushakar Singh Dhami planted saplings with the villagers and urged them to gift saplings to their visitors for maintaining greenery on earth. 

All the government departments, institutions, schools, non-profits, volunteers, social workers and locals participated in the plantation drive.

The seeds of five to seven types of crops —  maize, til (sesame), urad (black gram), mustard, oats —  are sown in donas (bowl made of leaves) or ringalare (hill bamboo baskets) nine days before the festival. 

They are harvested on the ninth day and distributed to neighbours, friends and relatives. The flourish of the crops symbolises prosperity in the year ahead.

Kheer, puwa, puri, rayata, chhole and other dishes are prepared as the celebratory spread. 

People make clay statues of Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati, known as Dikare, and worship them a day before the festival

Locals of Garhwal said Harela is also linked to the Barahnaza system (12 types of crops), a crop diversification technique followed in the region. 

On the day of the festival the locals sing the following lines in kumaoni language: 

“Ji raiya, jagi raiya, tisteya, panpiya,

Dub jaisi hari jad ho, byar jas phaiye,

Himalaya me hyun chan tak,

Ganhjyu me pani chhan tak,

Yo din or yo mas bhetne raiya.”

The lyrics translate to: You live long, be aware, may this day of Harela come many times in your life, and your lineage and family prosper like the harvested crop, your life expands like the earth, grows tall like the sky, you remain on this earth till the snow on the Himalayas and the Holy Ganga and Yamuna Rivers flow from the Himalayas.

Views expressed are the author’s own and don’t necessarily reflect those of Down To Earth.

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