Paintings, the art of ‘aipan’ and other art forms
The Aipan (Alpana) is a popular art form of Kumaun, and walls, papers and pieces of cloth are decorated by the drawing of various geometric and other figures belonging to gods, goddesses and objects of nature Pichhauras or dupattas are also decorated in this manner.
At the time of Harela there is a tradition of making clay idols (Dikaras).
The Shaukas use their own and Tibetan knitting art form to decorate mattresses known as Dans. In these woolen goods we find the influence of the Kumaoni and Tibetan styles. Pithoragarh also has a distinctive style of making different baskets called Doka. The art of hilljatra mukhotas (masks) is also worth mentioning.
The fairs of Pithoragarh are not only an expression of the religious,social and the cultural urges of the people but have also sustained the folk culture and have been central to the economic activities of the people. Jauljibi and Thal fairs are primarily trade fairs. During the navratri fair at the Mahakali temple at Gangolihat the devotees turn up in a very large number and thus these fairs are manifestly religious in nature. The other famous fairs of the region are :
Mostamanu fair held in Aug. – Sept.
Kapileshwar fair held on Shivratri. Krishna Janmastami fair held at Kalapani and Gunji Kanar Devi fair at Baram in Gori Valley. Honkra Devi fair at Birthi Dhanlekh fair at Askot Lacchar fair at a place Naini Patal.
The Nandadevi fair
The Nandadevi fair is held at Almora, Nainital, Kot (Dangoli) and also in the far flung villages of Johar ( like Milam and Martoli). In Johar, people come from far and wide to Danadhar, Suring, Milam and Martoli in order to worship the Goddess.
Chhiplakote is situated in the heart land of Kali and Gori rivers,south of Panchchuli mountains.The highest point of this mountain-Najurikund (4497m) – is the seat of Chhipla Kedar.
The people of 15 – 20 villages of Dharchula and Gorikhal regions reach Kedardwe and Najurikote every third year on Bhado Purnmasi. The principal yatra starts from village Khela near Tawaghat. It goes through thick forests, rocky lands and Bugyals. People go there barefoot even in these days. The dhami burha or bonia (folk priest) finalizes the dates of the jaat (journey). With folk drums, bhankaras (metalic pipe instrument) and neja (the flag of red cloth pieces collected from all the families of the villages) the jaat goes to Barmano, which is 6 Km from Khela. On the second day the yatris go through a thick oak forest. After crossing Bunga,Garapani, Mangthil gwar, Ganbhujdhura (the blooming bugyal) comes Brahmkund (18 Km). Around 100 people can stay at the udiyar (cave) of Brahmkund. From this point one can have a glimpse of Chaudans region and the peaks of W. Nepal. On the third day the route is on the back of Najurikote, which is full of buggi grass and brahmkamals (Saussurea obvallata). At Kedardwe pond sacred dips are taken and the worship is performed.
In the village of Aath-gaon Shilling, Bin, Saatshiling, Chaunser etc., chaittol is celebrated on the Astami and Nawmi of Chaitra. On this occasion the deity Deval samet who in fact is a human medium possessed by the deity, is taken around in a dola (palanquin). The temples dedicated to this God are situated in Bin, Chensor, Kasni, Jakhni and Bharkatia villages. The fair in fact is an extension of a convention among the inhabitants of Kumaon, enjoining upon a brother to make to his sister on endowment, in the month of Chait every year, in cash or kind called Bhitola or Bhetna in local dialect.
At the beginning and end of Chaittol the villages assemble, sing in chorus and join hands in rustic dance to the beat of the drums and hurka in gay abandon and the whole process of merry-making is called Khel in local dialect.
The whole paraphernalia of the chaittol includes Dola (palanquin), Chattra, nissan (Symbol), golden Janevo (holy thread) , morpankh (peacock feathers), tails of the chanwar gay (cow), silver Dhagula (bracelets), Chunni, traditional costumes including jhagula (frock) for dhami, the cover over the chatra and a length of rope. With the brush made of the tail of chanwar cow the deity exorcises evil spirits and the rope is used to raise and lower the dola when carried through the difficult mountainous terrains. The deity Deval samet, i.e. the possessed medium, is danced in the mode of Tandava Nritya in 22 villages.
In the Chaudans region of Pithoragarh district, a flower – Kandali (Strobilenthes wallichii) – blooms once every 12 years (last in 1999 and next in 2011) and the people celebrate Kandali festival between the months of August and October. In the week long festival the local people – Shaukas or the Rangs – participate with gaiety enthusiasm in different villages of the region. Some stories are associated with this festival,associated with this festival, which express the marital tradition of the Shaukas. In the first story, it is said that by tasting the poisonous flower of the Kandali the only son of a widow died. In the second story, this flower is the symbol of famine and poverty. According to the third and most popular story, the region was once attacked while the menfolk were away for trade. The brave women repelled the enemy, who hide in the Kandali bushes, and they attacked the bushes and destroyed the enemy. The festival commemorates their bravery and the women therefore destroy the plant ceremonially to remind the local people of the incident and to prevent further mishaps.
The festival begins with the worship of a Shiva Linga made of barley and buck wheat wheat flour mixture. Local liquor is traditionally used during this festival. Every household performs it in a decorated corner of the courtyard. People pray for prosperity. The individual pujas are followed by a community feast. Then, the women and men, in their traditional dresses and laden with gold and silver ornaments, assemble around a tree on the sacred ground of the village. Strips of white cloth are tied to the tree and a flag is raised.
A procession is formed behind the flag. The women lead the procession, each armed with a ril (an implement used in compacting carpet on the loom) followed by children and men armed with swords and shields. As they sing and dance their music echoes in the valley. On approaching the blooms, war like tunes are played and war cries uttered and women attack the bushes with their rils. The menfolk then come to their aid, and the bushes are hacked with swords. They uproot the bushes and take them back as the spoils of the war. Festivity, dancing and music continue throughout the night.
A festival of pastoralists and agriculturist hilljatra came to Pithoragarh valley from West Nepal and at once found fevour in Kumaour and Bajethi and in its modified form as Hiranchital at Kanalichina and Askot. It is associated with ropai (paddy transplantation) and allied agricultural activities of rainy season. In was introduced in Soar by the Chand king ‘Kuru’ and is, in fact, an elaborate masquerade under the open sky where in various pastoral and agricultural activities are represented. The folk legends based on the victory of traditional deities over the demon are enacted in a fantastic masquerade replete with the chiming of bells and hymns in the local dialects supported by loud instrumental music and the booming dhool nagara (drums).