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Mountain People Culture and Environment Practices

Uttarakhand have number of temples and famous places for fairs and festivals, adding colours to the life of hilly people. They have rich culture. These festivals are best connection between the nature and people. Almost all festivals of Uttarakhand gave message for environment conservation. In these festivals, one of them is Harela to protect the environment.

Herala is one of the indigenous festivals which celebrated in the whole Uttarakhand to mark the advent of the rainy season. The celebration falls on the first day of Shravan. Ten days before the due date, seeds of either five or seven kinds of grains are mixed together and sown in pots inside the room, using small baskets filled with earth. The sowing is done either by the head of the family or the family priest. It is done ceremoniously. Water is sprinkled after worship. They water it regularly and religiously take care of the germination every day. On the last day of the month of Aasarh, one day before the actual celebration of the festival, a kind of mock weeding is done with small wooden hoes and also makes small clay statues of Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati for worship and mock wedding on the 10th day of the festival. Finally at the tenth day they cut the green grasses shoot out from the soil (harela). This is a symbolic harvesting and celebration of the future harvesting. These small shoots are placed in their heads or behind the ears, and also send to friends and families as a token of good wish.

Mythological Significance

The legend says the festival is celebrated to honour Goddess Parvati, the divine consort of Lord Shiva when she returned to her father’s home after wedding. It is a customary for Indian women to return to their homes for a few days after their marriage. This festival is therefore a celebration of wedding of Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati. The origin of this festival is not clear from the historical perspective, but it is celebrated in hills for centuries as this day people make Dikaras, small clay idols of gods and goddesses of Parvati and Shiva. These idols are decorated with different colours and celebrate the month of rainy season and new harvest.

Significance of Harela festival

Owing to number of sociological, environmental and economic reasons the farms land of traditional cultivation of crops is gradually declining. The festival is a good reason to look after the traditional farming and conservation due to its religious values. The role of biodiversity conservation is an integral part of Uttarakhand’s people and this festival plays a major role in this effort. The festival is also known for sowing new plants and reveres the follow the ideals originated by descendants for preservation and management of natural resources. The significance of Harela lies in the fact that it provides an opportunity to the cultivator to test the qualities or defects of the seeds he has in his store. In uttarakhand each festival is related to nature and conserves the natural resources and respects them.

Celebration during the year 2015

The traditional festival of Harela celebrated this year across Uttarakhand in the form of a tree plantation drive starting July 10, 2015. Chief Minister Harish Rawat said the campaign should be linked with the state government's 'Mera Vriksha Mera Dhan' scheme to ensure large scale involvement of people in environment conservation efforts, named "Jhumalo Gayege, Harela Manayge, Padeh Lageyge”, given by CM on 16th July, 2015 in which ministers, secretaries, DMs, SDMs, District Development Officers and divisional forest officers will plant a tree each in every village of the district under their charge. Further, it will be made annual practices.

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