Chamba’s Minjar fair- a unique tradition

Ages of rich tradition, warm and hospitable people, a landscape of breathtaking variety and beauty, all are combined together and reflected in variety of fairs, festivals and celebrations. There are some 2000 deities worshipped in Himachal and numerous fairs and festivals are held in their honour. 

Minjar is the most popular fair of Chamba which is attended by a large number of people from every nook and corner of the district. Minjar Fair is held on the second Sunday of Shravan month. The start of fair is announced by distribution of Minjar which is a silk tassel worn on front parts of the dress by men and women alike. The tassel symbolizes the shoots of paddy and maize which make their appearance around this time of the year. 

There are various beliefs regarding the origin of the festival. Some believe that it is celebrated to worship Varuna, the God of water. According to legend, in the 10th century, the river Ravi flowed through Chamba town and the Champawati temple stood on the right bank of the river and Hari Rai temple on its left. At that time, a saint lived in the Champawati temple, who used to swim across the river every morning to perform worship at the Hari Rai Temple. The Raja and the inhabitants of Chamba asked the Saint to make arrangements to enable everyone visit the sacred Hari Rai temple. The Saint told the Raja and his subjects to assemble at the Champawati temple. With the assistance of same Brahmins, he arranged a yajna for seven days. The Brahmins prepared a cord of seven different colours and named it Minjar in the name of maize flower. When the yajna was completed, the river changed its course and everyone was able to visit the Hari Rai temple. According to another legend, an old woman wanted to meet the king of Chamba to pay her regards. The old lady was too poor to offer anything to greet the King. So she took maize flowers called ‘Minjar’ in local dialect with her. The King was very pleased at the affection shown to him by the old lady. He ordered the day to be celebrated in the form of ‘Minjar Fair’.

The week long fair begins when the Minjar flag is hoisted in historical Chowgan. The town of Chamba wears a colourful look with every person turning out in best attire. Most part of the Chowgan is converted into markets and people to brisk business during this week. Sports and cultural programmes are organized. On the third Sunday the gaiety, colourfulness and enthusiasm reaches its crescendo when the colourful Minjar procession of the deities accompanied by dancing troupes, traditionally attired locals, traditional drum beaters along with Police and Home Guards band, begins its march from Akhand Chandi Mahal for the venue near the Police Lines. The idols of Raghuvir Verman and various other Gods and Goddesses in palanquins are taken out from the palace and people in thousands take part in procession which is followed by the old Shahi Flag of the Raja of Chamba. A great convergence of people is also witnessed there. When the procession reaches the place of immersion on the river bank, earlier the Raja and now the Chief Guest throws a coconut, a rupee, a seasonal fruit and a Minjar tied in a red piece of cloth Lohan- as offering to the river. This is followed by all the people throwing their Minjars into the river. After perfarming this ceremony, the festival is declared closed and the idols of Gods, Goddesses and Shahi flag are taken back to Akhand Chandi Mahal. Traditional Kunjari Malhar is sung by the local artists. Prayers are offered in Lakshmi-Narain temple. During the week-long celebrations, people wear a silken tassel with stalks of Minjar, the maize plant as a symbol of their prayers for a bountiful harvest.

International Minjar festival will be celebrated from 29th July to 5th August this year. The highlights of the week long Minjar Festival will be cultural programmes by the cultural troupes from within and outside States, sports in which teams of repute will participate even from neighbouring States. The various departments and organizations put up exhibition stalls. People in thousands participate in this festival from within and outside the State.

A Himachal government PR feature.

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