Budhi Diwali: A Unique Celebration in Himachal Pradesh

Himachal Pradesh is known as Devbhoomi, meaning the "land of gods". The state boasts of traditions that have survived over centuries and are still celebrated with great enthusiasm. One such tradition is Budhi Diwali, which is celebrated in the hill state with great pomp and show. Budhi Diwali is associated with the times of Ramayana and Mahabharata. Let us delve into the details of this tradition and understand its beliefs.

Budhi Diwali in Himachal Pradesh

The celebration of Diwali is a vibrant affair across India, marked by dazzling lights, joyous gatherings, and cultural festivities. However, in the picturesque Kullu district of Himachal Pradesh, Diwali takes on a distinct form known as Budhi Diwali. This celebration, occurring exactly one month after the mainstream Diwali, retains ancient Vedic traditions, providing a fascinating glimpse into a bygone era.

In specific areas like Anni, Nirmand (in Kullu district), Shillai, Sangrah, Rajgarh (in Sirmaur), and Chopal (in Shimla district), Budhi Diwali is observed. In Sirmaur, the festival is celebrated by the name of "Manshaari".

A lot of snow falls in the areas where Budhi Diwali is celebrated. The temperature is always very low, often below zero. As a result, these areas become cut off from the rest of the world, and communication becomes difficult.This lack of communication was the reason why the news of Lord Rama's return to Ayodhya reached these areas almost a month later. Hence, Budhi Diwali बूढ़ी दिवाली is celebrated after one month from the actual Diwali. In ancient times, they celebrated Diwali in their villages about a month after Diwali on the mainland.

Folklore and Customs

Nirmand, in the Kullu district, is famous by the name of “Pahari Kashi”. This festival of lights is not only about illuminations but also commemorates the defeat of Dano and Asur, who are portrayed as demons in snake form. After the celebration, a noticeable decline in snake sightings is observed. This mythological connection adds an intriguing layer to the festivities.

According to mythological beliefs, Lord Parshuram settled in this place. Once he was traveling with his disciples, and a demon in snake form attacked Lord Parashurama and his disciples. Lord Parashuram killed the demon with his ax, and the people there celebrated with great joy. This celebration is still observed on the day of Budhi Diwali. On this occasion, war scenes symbolizing the Mahabharata war are enacted here.

Celebration in Nirmand: A Three-Day Extravaganza

This region  celebrates Budhi Diwali uniquely by lighting torches for three consecutive nights. This ritual is a symbolic representation of the Festival of Lights and has been practiced since the Vedic period. Traditional musical instruments set the backdrop as people immerse themselves in dance.

Ancient Culture Revived

Budhi Diwali offers a window into ancient cultures, with torch-lit nights and rhythmic dances echoing the practices mentioned in the Rigveda. The celebration extends its roots to the narratives of Ramayana and Mahabharata.

  • First Day: Night-long celebration
  • Second Day: Tug of war symbolizing Kaurava and Pandava.Both teams will demonstrate their strength against each other using a specially-made rope made of Munji grass during the Budhi Diwali festival. Additionally, a group carrying torches will enter the village at night.
  • Third Day: Fence dance and garland dance, marking the conclusion.Moreover, the celebration of Diwali, also known as Diyali, continues until the month of February.

Cultural Extravaganza

During the festival, people congratulate each other and share dry delicacies like Muda, Chidwa, Shakuli, and walnuts. The celebration lasts for a week, and includes cultural events like the Hudak dance, Parokadiya songs, Virah Geet Bhayuri, Rasa, Natiyan, and Swang. In some villages, the Badechu dance is performed, adding a dynamic flair to the festivities.The Rasa Dance is a highly anticipated event during the celebration. Male and female dancers move in perfect sync for hours, without a break, while singing folk songs in a circular formation. The festive atmosphere in the village is filled with fun and joy, making it a memorable experience for everyone.

At night, some communities perform the enchanting Budiyat dance under the mesmerizing glow of midnight. The exchange of dry dishes like Muda, Chidwa, Shakuli, and walnuts symbolizes shared joy and unity among people. The narrative of Shirgul Devta is told through sung tales, adding cultural resonance to the celebration. The Puretua song is sung, an act considered of profound significance, further enriching the cultural tapestry of the festival.
The festival holds paramount cultural significance, embodying a harmonious blend of tradition and modernity.

Evolution of Rituals

The celebration of 'Buddhi Diwali' starts with great enthusiasm on the first 'amavasya' or new moon of the lunar half after the customary Diwali festivities. As per the long-standing tradition, villagers take part in a ritual where animals are brought to a nearby temple. Historically, this temple was the sacred site for performing a ceremonial sacrifice during the 'amavasya'. In this ancient rite, the severed head was presented with reverence to the deities, and the remaining meat was taken home for culinary preparations.

However, due to a judicial directive from the high court, the villagers have refrained from engaging in the animal sacrifice practice. Instead, they have adopted a more compassionate approach by offering coconuts as a symbolic gesture to appease the deity. This shift in ritual reflects a harmonious blend of tradition and contemporary values, embodying the spirit of cultural evolution within the 'Buddhi Diwali' festivities.

Preserving Cultural Heritage

The "Budhi Diwali" festival is a testament to our rich cultural heritage and serves as a reminder of the tales in the epic Ramayana. This celebration beautifully blends ancient traditions with modernity, creating a vibrant tapestry of cultural significance. 

During the daytime festivities, people participate in a captivating dance where they form a long chain, synchronized by age. It is an exclusive affair, and outsiders respectfully refrain from participating, adding to its exclusivity. 

The festival is steeped in tradition and observed with unwavering commitment. What makes "Budhi Diwali" unique is its inclusive nature that transcends communal differences of caste and creed. The celebration unites the community in joyous harmony, highlighting the spirit of togetherness that defines this cherished occasion.

In conclusion, Budhi Diwali stands as a testament to the timelessness of traditions, offering a captivating journey into the heart of Himachal Pradesh's cultural tapestry.

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