Sunday, 7 December 2014

The Shoolini Fair of Solan

Thodo Ground during the Shoolini Fair
A myriad of festivals celebrated in different parts of Himachal Pradesh are the outward manifestation of the deep rooted culture of the people. The festivals have their origin in the age old traditions. Every summer season in Solan remain full of festivals and excitement.

A fair is held in the name of goddess Shoolini; the local deity after whom the town has been named. It is not a carnival time but evokes a deep rooted sentiment of tradition. It is an occasion to pray for the well being of everyone.

According to local belief, the goddess Shoolini is the youngest sister of goddess Durga. On the first day of the fair the idol of goddess Shoolini is carried in a palanquin at the head of a long procession from the Shoolini temple at the outskirts of the town to the Durga temple situated in the main bazaar. The purpose is the courteous visit of the goddess to the house of her sister. The goddess symbolized as an idol stays as a guest at the Durga temple for three days. The religious feelings get whipped to a feverish pitch and the air is electrified with a surge of emotional energy emanating from the singing of bhajans or devotional songs accompanied by dancing.

The Deities inside the Shoolini Temple at Solan

In the earlier days the fair proceedings were initiated by the Raja himself. Now the task is performed by some eminent local personality. Though the size of multitude accompanying the procession or Shoba Yatra has diminished over the years, but the unity of participation still prevails. The people living along the route of Sobha Yatra stand in the balconies with folded hands.

The fair is held at the Thodo ground, providing a spectacle of life that is pure and vigorous. The townsfolk, villagers, people from adjoining districts and a large number of tourists blend into the mela or fair crowd.

A rustic charm permeates the festivity. The rural folk come down to take a break from hard routine while the shy village damsels enjoy their simple pleasure by buying sindhoor or vermilion, bangles,  hairpins and other adornments by darting from one stall to another or jostling each other for a ride on sea- saw. The children wearing the caps of gold foils brandish the wooden swords with pride. A village couple could be seen posing excitedly for a photograph.

The chief attraction is the local dangal or the wrestling bout held on the afternoon of the last day. Many wrestlers and the Ustads or the wrestling masters from the Akharas or the amphitheaters of wrestling take part in the competition. The wrestlers are paired as per their appearance and one pitted against the other. The most important bout is the Pagari Ka Jarad, or the fight for the coveted turban in which two wrestlers of the largest size take part.  The chief guest ties the turban to the winner. The wrestling though crude generates far more excitement in the crowd.

One can witness the traditional folk spectacle like Thoda dance in which the arrows are shot by the dancers aimed to hit the padded shins of their dancing partners. The rural women sing folk songs in Chandols or jhoolas or sea-saw and the Karyala or the traditional folk theater during the nights of the festival is also performed. The singing and dancing are an integral part of the fair.

Recently due to the inflow of tourists, the summer festival has been fused into the fair. The folk troupes and the School and College teams from all over the Himachal and some other states come to perform on this occasion. All these activities make the Shulini fair a showpiece of the folk culture and tradition of Himachal Pradesh.

However, it is a sad aspect that the tradition is fast evolving into a dry and commercial entertainment routine, owing to inadequate patronage to preserve its original character. 

Photo Credit- Wikimedia Commons by Bhanu Sharma Solan
Image URL- http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/9/93/Thodo_ground_during_Shoolini_Mahotsav.jpg/800px-Thodo_ground_during_Shoolini_Mahotsav.jpg