Manali: People of tribal district Lahaul-Spiti celebrated Halda festival with traditional fervour in Manali Gompa.
Manoj Larje, a resident of the Tandi village in Lahaul, said, “The two-day festival, which began today, is celebrated in the Tandi, Chandra and Gahar valleys of Lahaul-Spiti in January or February every year. It marks the beginning of New Year for crops in the Lahaul valley, which remained under cover for six months due to heavy snowfall.”
He added, “as part of the celebrations, pencil cedar branches are cut into strips and tied together into bundles to make a torch known as Halda. The number of torch remains equal to the male members of each family. Halda is lit inside the house before moving out of it, where all villagers gather at a specific place to perform the rituals.”
The festival is dedicated to ‘Shashikar Apa’, Goddess of Wealth in the Lamaistic Pantheon. The date of the actual celebration is decided by a ‘pujaris’ and a Lama. They choose the site where members from every household collect lit cedar twigs to form a bonfire. Usually, Lahaul is covered with snow during this time of the year. The festival is celebrated to please local deities seeking better crops in the coming season as well as to expel evil souls out of the villages. AjayThakur, another resident of Lahaul district, said the bonfire, which consisted of few branches from every family, signified the unity of the community. After being lit, it was dispersed to the bonfires at homes and community areas as good luck, happiness and hope.
“The festival teaches us to live happily and stay in touch with our land, ancestors and cattle,” he added.
Special local dishes, ‘manna’ and ‘siddu, are offered with ghee to local deities.