People of tribal district Lahaul Spiti are celebrating Halda festival with fervour. The fest is generally celebrated in January every year to please local deities seeking better crops in the coming season as well as to expel evil souls out of the villages.
Locals said it was considered as beginning of New Year for crops in Lahaul valley, which remained under cover for six months due to heavy snowfall.
Ashok Rana, a native of Pattan valley in Lahaul, said, “As festival of lights known as Diwali is celebrated all over India, this a similar kind of festival that is celebrated in Pattan, Chandra and Gahar valley in Lahaul Spiti in the second and third week of January every year.”
“To celebrate the event, pencil cedar branches are cut into strips and are tied together into bundles to make a torch called Halda and number of torch remains equal to the male members of each family. Halda is lit inside the house before moving out of house, where all villagers are gathered at a specific place to perform the rituals,” Rana added.
Prem Lal, who is a native of Gahar valley, said, “The date of festival is fixed by a Lama here, while in Pattan valley it is celebrated on Magh Poornima (full moon). When the ceremony is over at a specific place in each village during night hours, the villagers return to their houses. The Haldas are prepared and lit in the same manner and collected at one place where they burn to ashes.
Special local dishes ‘Manna’ and ‘Siddu are prepared and offered with ghee to local deities.
This celebration would continue till January 23 in various parts of the district.