Phool Dei: Uttarakhand's festival of flowers to teach kids environmental conservation

The festival is celebrated in Garhwal, Kumaun regions to teach children to cherish & nurture nature

How parts of Uttarakhand promote environmental conservation through spring festival Phool Dei Photo: Arvind Bijalwan

As children, we would wake up at the break of dawn with the onset of spring to collect different kinds of flowers. We would place these fresh blossoms at the doorstep of every house in the neighbourhood. 

The memory of this ritual is kept alive with the fragrance of flowers left at our doorstep by local children who continue the practice of Phool Dei

In our childhood, walking around collecting flowers with our friends and getting money for delivering them to our neighbours seemed very exciting. 

But now we realise our forefathers designed this ritual for us to learn to celebrate and value the spring season and nature. They did this by connecting the bloom of flowers with a religious and aesthetic purpose. 

The festival of Phool Dei is celebrated in the Garhwal and Kumaun regions of Uttarakhand every year in the flowering season (March-April) for about a month. Children, particularly young girls, go into farms, forests and gardens after bathing and collect fresh flowers to offer to the local deities as a welcome gesture for the onset of spring season. 

The local belief is that placing flowers at the doorsteps of houses for the gods will bring prosperity and blessings. The groups of children, known as Phoolyari, bring flowers daily to the households and receive money and sweets in return from each family on the last day of spring. 

This is the month when entire Uttarakhand is covered with a blanket of colourful flowers, mainly from peach, plum, apricot, cherry, almond, pear and apple trees. The red rhododendron flowers, locally called buransh (the state tree of Uttarakhand), is a spectacle in the season. The yellow flowers of pheonly, scientifically known as Reinwardtia indica, is also common and used widely during the occasion, as are mustard flowers. 

The celebration of Phool Dei indirectly rooted a sense of affection and protection towards nature, especially locals flowers and trees, in our minds. The local song sung by the people of Uttarakhand during this festival for welcoming the spring season is: 

Phooldei, chhammadei,

Daini dwar, bhar bhakar,

Ye deli par barambar namaskar.

The above lines mean:

May the doorstep in the houses on which the flowers are showered be prosperous, wealthy and free from any conflict / May the grain storage always be filled with gains / and bow (namaskar) to this doorstep again and again. 

On the last day of spring, the Phoolyari place flowers of at least five different colours at every doorstep. Residents of each house give them money with the belief that they will get prosperity and good luck in return. 

The children are also offered delicacies such as rice powder papdi and pudding made of flour and jaggery. The festival also symbolises peace and harmony among the communities.

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