Residents of some remote areas of Himachal Pradesh celebrated the festival of lights almost a month after the rest of the country.
The three-day festival locally known as “Buddhi Diwali” (dark Diwali) began at Nirmand village of Kullu district on Monday evening.
According to the tradition, the Buddhi or “dark Diwali” celebrations begin on the first “amavasya” (moonless night of the dark fortnight of a lunar month) after the regular Diwali.
The festival marks merrymaking, singing folk songs and invoking gods by slaughtering animals amid the beating of drums and blowing of trumpets.
It is mainly celebrated in Kullu district's Ani and Nirmand areas, Shillai, Sangrah and Rajgarh areas in Sirmaur district, and Shimla district's Chopal area.
The legend has it that the news of Lord Rama's return to Ayodhya after vanquishing Ravana reached late in these pockets of the region and thus Diwali celebrations were held later than in the rest of the country.
The Buddhi Diwali celebrations would continue till Wednesday. In some areas of Sirmaur, the festival would culminate on Friday.
Joginder, a native of Nirmand, said in the evening villagers would take out processions in the village with flames lit on pine and oak twigs, while the Kaviraj family would narrate the epics of Mahabharat and Ramayana throughout the night.
The festival is celebrated at Das Juna Akhara at Nirmand in night hours, while in the day time it is celebrated at Shinaya.
Ram Krishan, a resident of Ani in Kullu district, said the festival was celebrated to commemorate the killing of demons - Dano and Asur - who resided there in the form of snakes.
On the occasion, locals clean their houses, purchase utensils, bangles and clothes and cook special dishes.
He said, “A long rope is made for every year as a symbol of Dano (snake) and all villagers dance with the rope and later it is dissected into pieces to mark the assassination of Dano.”
In Transs Giri area of Sirmaur district, the festival celebrations begins after all agriculture work is finished to appease certain deities, including Shirgul Devta.
According to locals, another reason behind the celebrations is to welcome the winters. Since germination stops, there is no work in the fields for the next three months. It's time to relax and make merry.
Animals are sacrificed at some places to appease deities. The festival is marked by feasting on dishes like “sidku”, “patande” and walnuts.
Chief parliamentary secretary Vinay Kumar says celebrations in some areas like in Ronhat vary where the day is celebrated with traditional archery dance game called “thoda”.
In some places, dance form of “buddha” is performed by people of certain castes by wearing masks.
Different types of dance-dramas such as karyala and thoda (archery dance game) are performed around the bonfire. Warrior folk songs of Harul, Rasas and Pandvains (from Mahabharata) are also sung.
The festival is now losing its charm as youngsters are losing interest, but some rituals of the festival are still performed to appease the deities, said Dinesh Arya, chairman of the Rajgarh nagar panchayat.