The traditional Ramman Mela of Salud Dungra village near Joshimath in Chamoli district was celebrated with great religious fervor on Sunday with thousands of people participating in the festivities.
Chief minister Harish Rawat also reached the village to participate in the fair. The CM said Ramman would be displayed on the tableau of Uttarakhand in the republic day parade in Delhi next year. Rawat asked CS Napalchayal, Commissioner Garhwal to expedite all the demands of the villagers concerning Ramman for the conservation and preservation of this unique heritage of Uttarakhand. The village has been recognised as a world cultural heritage by UNESCO.
A unique dance form, wearing the masks of deities and other characters, carved out of the stem of Bhoj tree (Betula Utilis) was performed by the villagers. It was introduced to the world by IGNCA (Indira Gandhi National Centre for Arts), Delhi in 2008 and later was declared world cultural heritage by the UNESCO in 2009.UNESCO had also awarded aid of ` 40 lakh through IGNCA for the conservation and promotion of this great heritage.
Kushal Bhandari, the organiser of Ramman Mela said workshops were conducted in the village to give training to the youth and teach them the dance form. They were also taught how to play the traditional musical instruments and sing traditional songs, called Jagar, in the local dialect, he said.
A museum is also coming up in the village to preserve all the masks, musical instruments and other things related with the fair, Bhandari added.
The fair is essentially religious in nature where prayers of Bhoomiyal Devta (local deity) and NarSingh Devta are performed, however, various shades of local life are also enacted in the mask dance such as Myor-Muren Nritya that depicts the dangers in the villagers’ day-to-day lives and the immense faith of local people in their deities. The episode of Gorkha invasion on Garhwal is also depicted in the Mal Nritya.
However, the name Ramman associated with the fair is derived from the excerpts of Ramayan which are also performed in the fair.
Earlier, most of the antique and precious masks were stolen and people in the village had stopped singing Jagars after which singers called Jagris were brought from other villages. But after the fair got the recognition by the UNESCO, the villagers started taking pride in their age-old and unique tradition and most of the youth in the village are now associated with it in one way or the other.