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<< Indian Himalayas << About Himalayas >> << Culture Travel >> << Culture Garhwal Kumaon >>

Culture Travel Garhwal Kumaon, Uttaranchal

The culture of the present Kumaon is a blend of influences from the indigenous population as well as from the immigrants to this region. Consequently, the myths, dialects, languages, folk literature, festivals, fairs and forms of artistic expression are examples of the creative influences of the different cultural groups that constitute Kumaon.

Every peak, lake or mountain range is somehow or the other connected with some myth or the name of a God or Goddess, ranging from those associated with the Shaiva, Shakta and Vaishnava traditions, to local Gods like Ham, Saim, Golla, Chhurmal, Kail Bisht, Bholanath, Gangnath, Airy and Chaumu. Temples are dedicated to the nine famous Goddesses, other local Goddesses, Bhairava, Surya:. and Ganesh. The temples at Jageshwar, Bageshwar, Binsar, Thalkedar, Rameshwar, Pancheshwar, Baijnath and Gananath are devoted to Lord Shiva. The temples of Devidhura, Gangolihat, Pumagiri, Almora, Nainital, Kot Ki Mai and Kotgari Devi are associated with the Shakt tradition, while the region of Lohaghat - Champawat (Mount Kandeo) is associated with Kunna Avatar. This region also has two famous Sun temples.

God & Goddesses

Folk Gods of Kumaon - In spite of being worshippers of Lord Shiva and Shakti, the people of Kumaon have a rich tradition of folk deity worship. The heroes of some long - forgotten age have later on become folk gods and they give expression to the popular beliefs of the people. Each folk god has a separate story attached to his name and each one is remembered through some peak, temple or jagar (a form of ritual folk poem). It is believed that Kumaon once had a tradition of Yaksha worship. The presence of 'Naga' or snake worship is an indication of the reverence' given to the brave. Besides worshipping the usual gods and goddesses associated with Hinduism, the people of Kumaon have also worshipped Kul Devatas (family gods), Gram Devatas (village gods), Naga Devatas (snake gods), Bhumi Devatas (land gods) and Veers (the brave heroes). The following are the important folk gods & goddesses of Kumaon.

Nanda Devi - Nanda Devi is the Greek Goddess 'Nana', who came to the Himalaya with the Indo - Greeks and Kushan Kings. However, the fact remains that Nanda Devi is typically a Kumaoni goddess and most popular in the region. Referring to the rich religious myths and lores associated with Uttaranchal.

Bholanath - Bholanath is the most popular and revered folk god of Kumaon. He is said to be an incarnation of Lord Shiva. According to legend, the Chand King, Udai Chand, disinherited his elder son because of his bad habits and gave the Kingdom to his younger son. After wandering for a long time the elder son came with his pregnant wife and settled down near Almora.

Kail Bisht - Kail Bisht is said to be a generous folk god. The temple of this flute playing God is near Binsar. The story goes that Shrikrishna Pandey was given false reports about a love affair between his wife and a brave Rajput shepherd Kallu (Kail Bisht). The matter was brought before the king, who refused to have Kail Bisht executed when he saw the impression of a trident on Kail Bisht’s forehead and that of a Kadamb flower on his feet. However, later on Kallu was murdered by deception.

Chamu - This god is worshipped as a protector of animals particularly in the Jhulaghat-Pancheswar region. There is a story about a man who was going to Champawat with a Shivlinga in his turban. When he stopped to drink water he placed his turban on the road, but he could not pick it up again. Later on people started worshipping this spot. Bells and milk are offered in the temples of Chaumu at Chaupakhia (Wadda, Pithoragarh), Chamdeval (Pulla, Champawat), Pancheswar, Thathgaon (Almora), Dhamkuri, Surar and Santola (all in Nepal). These are basically the seats of seven brothers. Chamdeval is the principal seat of Chaumu.

Haru - Harish Chandra was a famous king of Champawat, who after his death was worshipped as the folk god Haru. Haru's mother's name was Kainar and he is said to be Gwall' s maternal uncle. The temples of Haru and Saim, the god of boundaries, are generally together.

Garhwali Music

Garhwali Music - Chhopati
These are the folk songs popular in the Rawain - Jaunpur area of Tehri Garhwal. 'Chhopati' are the love songs sung between men and women in the form of questions and answers.

Chounphula and Jhumeila
"Chounphula and Jhumeila" are among seasonal dances, that are performed from 'Basant Panchami' onwards to 'Sankranti' or Baisakhi'. 'Jhumeila' is sometimes mixed but is usually restricted to women. 'Chounphula' is performed by all sections of the community, at night, in groups, by men and women. 'Chounphula' folk songs are composed for the appreciation of nature on various occasions. Chounpala, Jhmeila and Daryola folk songs all derive their names from the folk dances of the same nomenclature.

Basanti
"Basanti” folk songs are composed for the coming spring season when flowers bloom and new life springs in the valleys of the hills of Garhwal. The folk song is sung individually or in groups.

Puja Folk Songs
These songs are connected with the Puja (worship) of family deities. There are other Puja songs connected with 'Tantra' and 'Mantras ' to exorcise evil spirits from human beings.

Bajuband
This is a folk song of love and sacrifice among the shepherds. It is a love dialogue between a man and woman, or, between a boy and girl.

Garhwali Dance - Langvir Nritya
This is an acrobatic dance and is performed by the men folk only. In this dance, a long bamboo pole is fixed at a place. The dancer-acrobat climbs to the top of this pole and then balances himself on his stomach on the top. Under the pole, a band of musicians play the 'Dhol' and 'Damana', while the dancer rotates on the top of the pole, performing other feats with his hands and feet. This dance is popular in the Tehri Garhwal region.

Barada Nati
The Barada Nati folk dance is a popular dance of the Jaunsar Bhawar area of Chakrata Tehsil in Dehradun district. The folk dance is performed on the eve of some religious festivals or on the occasion of some social functions. Both boys and girls take part in the dance dressed in colourful traditional costumes.

Pandavas Nritya
The Pandavas Nritya, which is related to the story of the Mahabharata, has been very popular, particularly in the Garhwal region. Pandavas Nritya is nothing but a simple narration of the story of the Mahabharata in the form of dance and music. It is mostly enacted on the occasion of 'Dussehra' and Diwali. Pandavas Nritya is popular in Chamoli district and Pauri Garhwal.

Uttaranchal Travel Info. & Destinations

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