Badahat ka Tholu – A sneak peek into Annual Magh Mela (Uttarkashi)

The last leg of my journey in Uttarkashi was an interesting account of the opening ceremony of “Badahat Ka Tholu” or popularly termed as “The Annual Magh Mela”. Dating back to centuries of age old Garhwali traditions, the fair is organized every year by the local administration in Uttrakashi. Being the district headquarters, it is a major tourist attraction and no less than a festival.

History

The origin of the annual Magh Mela started predominantly as a trade fair between Tibet and India. Later, as trouble brewed with rising India- China conflicts, the fair was restricted to locals providing a platform to showcase the best of their culture and traditions under one roof.

The opening ceremony

The festival begins in January (Magha as per Hindu calendar) to celebrate marking the onset of monsoon and continues for a week (14th – 21st January). Day 1 of the event starts with Kandar Devta, the chief custodian of town leaving his temple (originally residing in Sangrali village) for a darshan of Kashi Vishwanath before proceeding to the mela ground. Here; devotees, pilgrims, locals from nearby villages of Uttarkashi gather carrying “Dev dolis (palanquins)” of their respective deities. Interestingly, none of these gods/godesses can take a platform higher than Kandar Devta as he is considered above all and Lord Shiva’s absolute favourite.

Taking holy dip in the ghats for Ganga snan, prayers, folk performance, processions, trade fair on the mela ground are some major highlights that commemorates the week long Magh mela. The mela ground is adorned with stalls and shops with local products and handicrafts on display.

The procession begins at Kandar Devta temple
Stage set for the grand opening ceremony

The week-long celebration

The most interesting aspect of the festival is a ceremonial worship of Kandar Devta in Laksheswar. It is followed by the beautiful tradition of a group dressed presumably as Pandavas and Draupadi matching steps on local instruments in the harsh cold winters. The sheer intensity of the entire process is certain to leave you awestruck with goosebumps. Further, the beating of drums by dholis radiates an aura, full of energy and positive vibes.

Here are few glimpses of the week long festivity (slide through):

Only those who seek shall find

The grand cultural extravaganza is a celebration of faith, belief and above all life – what our modern outlook might dismiss as superstitions. And I don’t blame them, for we are yet to venture out of our walled mindsets into the realm of a divine experience – the Devbhoomi precisely providing so. A rationale mind may question such cultural sensibilities but a spiritual one embraces it all.

After spending a month in Gangori, Uttarkashi; adapting to the simple ways of living here was a natural transition. The fair was nothing less than the grand finale of my stay except it left me craving for more of such soulful outings – ones that are difficult to narrate but easier to feel on a deeper level.

*Images used in the article are courtesy Mr. Akhil Pant, Owner, Hill Dew Homestay – Uttarkashi and some personal clicks.

The information provided is based on firsthand experience and inputs from Mr. Akhil Pant. For any further queries, feel free to leave a comment below or email. I will revert at the earliest.

Related: Uttarkashi – My Spiritual sojourn

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