A month after Diwali, hills celebrate festival of lights | Dehradun News

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Moola Gaon (Uttarkashi): Almost a month after the rest of the country celebrated Diwali, the festival of lights was celebrated in the Jaunsar Bawar region of Garhwal this week with traditional gaiety and festivities. The reason for the delayed celebration of the festival — which is known as Budhi Diwali in these parts — is because it is believed that the news of the homecoming of Lord Ram to Ayodhya reached the hills late in those times.
A visit by a TOI team to Moola Gaon, the last village on the motorable road in the Jaunpur area of Uttarkashi district, found traditional songs reverberating in the air and a festive spirit pervading the atmosphere. The four-day-long festival, locally known as Bagwal, sees a number of celebrations, the highlight of which is ‘Bhailoo burning’. Bhailoo refers to a small bundle of grass tied together which is then swirled in the air, producing a swishing sound. The sight of the ‘Bhailoo’ ceremony is a mesmerising one. Another ritual involves male members of a village, usually boys, taking turns and climbing up a 50-feet high wooden log on top of which some green grass is tied. “The log represents Lanka and the grass represents Ravana. When one of the boys reaches the top of ‘Lanka’ and burns ‘Ravana’, it is only then that Diwali celebrations are said to have begun,” said Shoorveer Chauhan, 40, a resident of Moola Gaon.
The celebrations also include traditional dances and food, making Bagwal a much-awaited time of the year when even those who are settled in other cities visit their villages to take part in the festivities.
Residents say that there is another reason for the festivities being held a month after Diwali. “When the country celebrates Diwali, we are busy in harvesting our crops. So, our ancestors had decided to celebrate Diwali a month after the harvest season. This is the best time to celebrate as we get money from selling our crop,” said Madan Singh Chauhan, 72, a resident of Moola Gaon. He added that even though the village is dominated by Rajputs, other castes also participate in celebrations alongside, without any discrimination from the Thakurs.
Besides social parity, the celebrations also send out a message of women empowerment as women are allowed to dance without any restrictions and can also partake of ‘sour’ (the local liquor) without eyebrows being raised.
“Here, we are not judged for drinking or smoking. I really feel hills are a better place for women as they share equal rights as men,” said 17-year-old Neelam Chauhan who is studying in class XII in a school in Vikas Nagar, almost a five-hour journey from Moola Gaon. She is the first girl of her family who moved out to study.
Incidentally, the Diwali of the hills doesn’t involve lighting of diyas or bursting of crackers. Neither are houses decorated lavishly, nor are the idols of ‘Lakshmi-Ganesh’ worshipped. The festival’s prominent rituals are performed in the daytime, unlike traditional Diwali celebrations which happen in the night.
“In the hills, nature is everything. Fields are our lord and our crops are our deities. Hence, instead of our houses, we illuminate our fields in the form of Bhailoo. We also dance in the open to celebrate the onset of winters,” said Shoorveer Chauhan, while swaying to the tune of a traditional song.


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