Harela Festival: Nature’s Bounty & Renewal

Harela festival (हरेला त्यौहार) is a traditional festival celebrated mainly in the Indian state of Uttarakhand, particularly in the Kumaon region. It is a significant agricultural festival that marks the beginning of the sowing season and is dedicated to the Hindu goddess Shakti.

The word “Harela” translates to “day of green” or “day of greenery” in the local language. The festival typically takes place during the monsoon season, usually in the month of July. It is observed with great enthusiasm and involves various rituals and customs.

During Harela, people sow barley and other grains in small baskets or pots filled with soil. These pots are kept in a prominent place in homes or on rooftops. The sprouting of these grains symbolizes prosperity and abundance for the upcoming agricultural season. The sprouts are considered auspicious and are worshipped as a representation of the goddess Shakti.

Harela Festival

The festival is also associated with environmental conservation and creating awareness about the importance of preserving nature. People often engage in tree plantation drives and other activities aimed at promoting a greener environment.

Harela is a time for communities to come together, offer prayers, and seek the blessings of the goddess for a successful harvest. It is a vibrant celebration that showcases the rich cultural heritage and agricultural practices of the region.

Exploring the Customs and Rituals of Harela Festival in Uttarakhand

Harela Festival is a traditional festival celebrated with great fervor in the Kumaon region of Uttarakhand, India. Rooted in the rich cultural heritage of the area, this agricultural festival holds immense historical, social, and spiritual significance. In this article, we delve into the history, importance, and significance of the Harela festival, shedding light on its customs and traditions.

History of Harela Festival

The origins of Harela can be traced back to ancient times when agriculture played a pivotal role in the lives of the people of Uttarakhand. This festival marks the beginning of the sowing season, traditionally celebrated to honor the goddess Shakti, the embodiment of divine feminine energy. With its roots deeply intertwined with agrarian practices, Harela has evolved over the years, becoming an integral part of the local culture.

Although the Harela festival comes three times a year-

  1. In the month of Chaitra (चैत्र माह) – it is sown on the first day and reaped on Navami.
  2. In the month of Shravan (श्रावण माह) – it is sown in Ashadh nine days before the onset of Sawan and is harvested ten days later on the first day of Shravan.
  3. In the month of Ashwin (आश्विन माह) – It is sown on the first day of Navratri in the month of Ashwin and reaped on the day of Dussehra.

Harela sown in the month of Chaitra and Ashwin is an indicator of a change of weather. Harela sown/harvested in the month of Chaitra informs about the arrival of summer. So the green sown in the Navratri of Ashwin month informs about the coming of winter.

Harela, which is celebrated in the month of Shravan, has its own special significance socially and is considered one of the most important festivals in the entire Kumaon. Due to this, the festival is celebrated with more pomp in this region. As we all know that the month of Shravan is the favorite month of Lord Bholeshankar, therefore this festival of Harele is also known as Har-Kali. Because the month of Shravan is especially dear to Lord Shankar.

It is well known that Uttarakhand is a hilly state and Lord Shankar is believed to reside on the mountains only. That’s why Harela, which falls in the month of Shravan in Uttarakhand, has more importance. Apart from Uttarakhand, the Harela festival is also celebrated as the Hariyali festival in Himachal Pradesh. The word Hariyali or Harela is very close to the environment. In such a situation, along with cultural events, tree plantation is also done on this day. In which people plant different types of shady and fruitful plants in their surroundings.

Harela Festival in Uttarakhand

Nine days before the onset of Sawan, a plate-like vessel or basket is selected for sowing Harela in Ashadh. Wheat, barley, paddy, ghat, Bhatt, urad, mustard etc. 5 or 7 types of seeds are sown by adding soil to them. For nine days, water is sprinkled in this vessel every morning. It is cut on the tenth day. Only these plants which are 4 to 6 inches tall are called Harela. The members of the house keep them on their heads with great respect. Harela is sown and reaped as a symbol of happiness and prosperity in the house. At its core lies the belief that the bigger the Harela, the better the crop! Along with this, the Lord is also wished for a good crop.

Another story is The month of Sawan is considered one of the holy months in Hinduism. This month is dedicated to Lord Shiva. And Lord Shiva also likes this month very much. That is why this festival is also dedicated to Lord Shiva’s family. And the land of Uttarakhand is called Shiv Bhoomi (Dev Bhoomi) only. Because the abode of Lord Shiva is in this Devbhoomi Kailash (Himalayas). That’s why Lord Shiva’s family is worshipped in the Harela during the month of Shravan. The idols of (Shiva ji, Maa Parvati, and Lord Ganesha) are made of pure clay and decorated with natural colors. Where is it called Dicare in the local language? On the day of Harele, these idols are worshipped with Archana Harele. And this festival is also celebrated as Shiva Parvati marriage.

Importance of Harela Festival

Harela festival holds immense importance for the farming communities in Uttarakhand. It serves as a vital cultural and social event that brings people together to celebrate the agricultural cycle. The festival not only marks the onset of the monsoon season but also signifies hope, abundance, and prosperity for the upcoming harvest. It acts as a unifying force, fostering a sense of community and camaraderie among the people.

Significance of Harela Festival

Harela derives its name from the Kumaoni term “Hara,” which means green. The festival celebrates the abundance of nature and the lush greenery that blankets the region during the monsoon season. The act of sowing barley and other grains symbolizes the reawakening of life and the fertility of the land. As the seeds sprout and grow, they represent the blessings and grace of the goddess Shakti. Harela is not only a festival of agricultural significance but also a celebration of environmental consciousness, emphasizing the importance of preserving and nurturing the natural world.

Harela Festival Significance and Celebration in the Kumaon Region

The Harela Festival holds immense significance and is celebrated with great enthusiasm in the Kumaon region of Uttarakhand. Let’s explore the significance and the manner in which Harela is celebrated in Kumaon::

  • Significance: Marks the beginning of the sowing season and seeks divine blessings for a fruitful harvest.
  • Worship of Goddess Shakti: Reverence and prayers to the goddess for abundance and prosperity.
  • Rituals: Sowing barley seeds, and nurturing sprouts symbolizing new life and agricultural potential.
  • Community Celebrations: Folk dances, music, colorful decorations, and sharing of joys.
  • Environmental Conservation: Tree plantation drives to preserve natural resources.
  • Cultural Preservation: Preserves traditions, customs, and agrarian heritage of Kumaon.

Harela Festival in Kumaon signifies the agricultural cycle, worships the goddess, involves rituals, fosters community celebrations, promotes environmental consciousness, and preserves cultural heritage.

Harela Festival Significance and Celebration in Garhwal Region

In the Garhwal region, the celebration of Harela holds the following significance and traditions:

  • Taking Deity to an Open Place: People in Garhwal and Himachal take their village deities to an open area and engage in singing and dancing in front of the idol. This is done as the deities generally do not travel during the monsoon season.
  • Return of Dev-Dolis: Before the onset of the monsoon, all the Dev-Dolis (portable shrines of deities) are brought back to their respective Mool-Gram (original village) from other locations. This return is followed by celebrations and festivities.
  • Planting Saplings/Plants: In Garhwal, there is a tradition of planting saplings or plants on Harela Day. This act can be performed by individuals, families, or even the entire community. It highlights the importance of environmental conservation and the connection between agriculture and nature.
  • Date of Celebration: Harela is usually celebrated on 16th July, which marks the beginning of the Shravan Maas, the rainy season in the Hindu calendar.

These traditions and celebrations in the Garhwal region reflect the deep connection with nature, the importance of community gatherings, and the preservation of cultural heritage. The festival serves as an occasion to express gratitude for the blessings of the land, seek divine blessings, and promote environmental consciousness.

July Month in Uttarakhand

Customs and Traditions

During Harela, people sow barley and other grains in small baskets or pots filled with soil. These pots are placed prominently in homes or on rooftops as a representation of prosperity and abundance. The sprouts are worshipped with devotion and reverence, symbolizing the presence of the goddess Shakti. Additionally, tree plantation drives are organized as part of the festival, promoting environmental conservation and sustainability.

Harela song (हरेला गीत)

The Harela festival is accompanied by joyful folk songs that celebrate nature, agriculture, and the spirit of the festival. While there isn’t a specific universal Harela song, folk music, and traditional melodies are commonly sung during the festivities. These songs are typically in the local languages of Uttarakhand, such as Kumaoni and Garhwali, and reflect the cultural heritage of the region.

Harela songs often contain lyrics that praise the beauty of nature, express gratitude for the blessings of the land, and evoke a sense of joy and celebration. The melodies are usually lively and rhythmic, encouraging people to dance and participate in the festive spirit.

While the exact lyrics and tunes of Harela songs may vary based on the specific community or region, they generally convey a sense of unity, prosperity, and reverence for nature. The songs serve as a way for the people of Uttarakhand to express their gratitude towards the land, seek blessings for a fruitful harvest, and come together as a community to celebrate the festival.

During Harela, you may hear people singing traditional folk songs passed down through generations, creating a vibrant and joyful atmosphere that enhances the festive spirit of the celebration. On this day the little ones are blessed by singing songs in the Kumaoni language –

जी रये, जागि रये, तिष्टिये, पनपिये,
दुब जस हरी जड़ हो, ब्यर जस फइये,
हिमाल में ह्यूं छन तक,
गंग ज्यू में पांणि छन तक,
यो दिन और यो मास भेटनैं रये,
अगासाक चार उकाव, धरती चार चकाव है जये,
स्याव कस बुद्धि हो, स्यू जस पराण हो।

Preserving Heritage: Harela Festival and its Importance in Uttarakhand

Harela Festival and Its Importance in Uttarakhand: Sowing the Seeds of Tradition, Unity, and Prosperity

Harela, a significant festival celebrated in Uttarakhand, holds deep-rooted cultural and agricultural importance. This article explores the essence of the Harela festival and its significance in Uttarakhand, highlighting its role in preserving traditions, fostering unity, and ushering in prosperity for the community

Preserving Cultural Heritage

Harela festival serves as a valuable means of preserving the cultural heritage of Uttarakhand. Passed down through generations, this festival encapsulates the essence of the region’s agrarian roots and the reverence for nature. By engaging in age-old rituals and customs, such as sowing seeds and offering prayers, the festival ensures that the traditions and values associated with agriculture are cherished and carried forward.

Celebrating the Agricultural Cycle

As an agrarian society, Uttarakhand heavily relies on agriculture for sustenance and economic well-being. Harela festival plays a vital role in marking the beginning of the sowing season and celebrating the agricultural cycle. The act of sowing seeds during Harela signifies hope, as farmers eagerly anticipate a bountiful harvest. The festival acts as a unifying force, bringing together the farming community to collectively rejoice in the promise of abundance and prosperity.

Reverence for Nature

Uttarakhand is blessed with breathtaking natural beauty, and the Harela festival embodies the reverence for nature that is deeply ingrained in the culture. The festival’s name, “Harela,” meaning “day of green” or “day of greenery,” reflects the emphasis placed on the lush vegetation that blankets the region during the monsoon season. Through tree plantation drives and other eco-conscious activities, the Harela festival promotes environmental conservation and highlights the need to protect and preserve the natural resources that sustain livelihoods.

Promoting Unity and Community Bonding

Harela festival brings communities together, fostering unity and social cohesion. It provides an opportunity for families, friends, and neighbors to gather, participate in rituals, and exchange good wishes. The shared experiences and collective celebrations during Harela strengthen the bonds among community members, transcending barriers and nurturing a sense of togetherness.

Encouraging Agricultural Prosperity

The Harela festival serves as a catalyst for agricultural prosperity in Uttarakhand. By invoking the blessings of the goddess Shakti, who is believed to preside over fertility and abundance, farmers seek divine assistance in ensuring a successful harvest. The festival instills a sense of optimism and motivation among farmers, encouraging them to work diligently and cultivate their fields with dedication.

Why Uttarakhand celebrates Harela?

Uttarakhand celebrates Harela due to its deep-rooted connection with agriculture, nature, and spirituality. There are several reasons why Harela holds immense significance in Uttarakhand:

  1. Agrarian Tradition: Uttarakhand has a predominantly agrarian society, where agriculture plays a vital role in the lives of the people. Harela marks the beginning of the sowing season, symbolizing the commencement of agricultural activities. By celebrating Harela, Uttarakhand acknowledges the importance of farming as a means of livelihood and sustenance.
  2. Nature’s Abundance: Uttarakhand is blessed with abundant natural beauty, including lush greenery, forests, and fertile lands. The Harela festival is a way to honor and celebrate the richness of nature in the region. The festival coincides with the monsoon season when the landscape flourishes with vibrant vegetation. It is a time to appreciate the blessings of nature and its role in sustaining life.
  3. Worship of Goddess Shakti: Harela festival is dedicated to the Hindu goddess Shakti, the embodiment of divine feminine energy and power. In Uttarakhand, the goddess is revered as the protector and nurturer of the land and its people. By celebrating Harela, Uttarakhand pays homage to the goddess and seeks her blessings for a fruitful agricultural season and overall well-being.
  4. Cultural Heritage: Harela festival is deeply rooted in the cultural heritage of Uttarakhand. It has been celebrated for generations, passing down traditions, rituals, and customs associated with agriculture. By observing Harela, Uttarakhand preserves its cultural identity, ensuring that the practices and values linked to farming and nature are upheld and transmitted to future generations.
  5. Community Bonding: Harela festival serves as a unifying force, bringing communities together. It provides an opportunity for people to gather, participate in rituals, and share joyous moments. Through collective celebrations and shared experiences, Harela fosters a sense of unity, harmony, and social cohesion among the people of Uttarakhand.
  6. Environmental Awareness: Harela festival also emphasizes the importance of environmental conservation. The festival often includes tree plantation drives and other eco-friendly activities, promoting sustainability and raising awareness about the need to protect and preserve nature. Uttarakhand, being a region known for its fragile ecosystem, recognizes the significance of responsible environmental stewardship during Harela.

Uttarakhand celebrates Harela as a way to honor its agricultural traditions, appreciate nature’s abundance, seek divine blessings, preserve cultural heritage, foster community bonding, and promote environmental consciousness. The festival serves as a reminder of the interdependence between humans and nature, emphasizing the need to cultivate and protect the land for a prosperous and sustainable future.

The Harela Festival is primarily celebrated in the month of July in the Indian state of Uttarakhand, particularly in the Kumaon region. It coincides with the onset of the monsoon season when the land becomes fertile and ideal for sowing seeds. The festival usually takes place on the first day of the Hindu month of Shravan, which typically falls between late July and early August according to the Gregorian calendar. During this time, the people of Uttarakhand come together to observe various rituals, offer prayers, and engage in festivities to commemorate the significance of Harela.

Frequently asked questions about Harela Festival

These are just a few commonly asked questions about Harela Festival. If you have any specific queries or need further information, feel free to ask! Certainly! Here are some frequently asked questions about the Harela Festival along with their answers :

What is Harela Festival?

Harela Festival is a traditional festival celebrated in the Indian state of Uttarakhand, particularly in the Kumaon region. It is a harvest festival that marks the onset of the rainy season and the sowing of new crops.

When is Harela Festival celebrated?

Harela Festival is typically celebrated during the months of July or August, specifically on the first day of the Hindu month of Shravan. The exact date varies each year as it follows the Hindu lunar calendar.

What is the significance of Harela Festival?

Harela Festival holds agricultural and ecological significance. It is an occasion to express gratitude to the deities and seek their blessings for a bountiful harvest. The festival also promotes environmental awareness and encourages people to plant saplings and protect the natural resources.

How is Harela Festival celebrated?

The celebrations of Harela Festival involve various rituals and customs. People wear new green clothes, symbolizing the lushness of nature during the rainy season. They exchange Harela, which are small saplings or seedlings, as a symbol of good luck and prosperity. These saplings are planted in homes, fields, and other significant places. Traditional folk dances, music, and cultural events are also organized during the festival.

Are there any special dishes or food items associated with Harela Festival?

While there are no specific dishes exclusively associated with Harela Festival, people generally prepare traditional Kumaoni cuisine during the celebrations. Local delicacies such as Bhatt ki Churdkani (black soybean curry), Chainsoo (a lentil preparation), and Baadi (dried lentil dumplings) are commonly prepared and enjoyed.

Can tourists or visitors participate in Harela Festival?

Yes, tourists and visitors are welcome to participate in Harela Festival celebrations. It offers an opportunity to experience the rich cultural heritage of Uttarakhand and witness the traditional rituals associated with the festival. Visitors can join the locals in planting saplings, enjoy folk performances, and relish the local cuisine.

Are there any similar festivals celebrated in other regions of India?

While Harela Festival is unique to Uttarakhand, several other regions in India celebrate similar harvest festivals with different names and customs. For example, in Punjab, the festival of Lohri is celebrated with bonfires and dancing, while Baisakhi is a harvest festival celebrated in various parts of North India. These festivals share the common theme of expressing gratitude for a good harvest and welcoming the new agricultural season

The Harela festival of Uttarakhand stands as a testament to the deep-rooted connection between the people, the land, and the divine forces of nature. It serves as a reminder of agriculture’s crucial role in sustaining communities and shaping their cultural identity. Harela is not merely a festival but a celebration of the history, importance, and significance of agriculture, the bounties of nature, and the harmonious relationship between humans and the environment. By honouring the past, embracing the present, and nurturing the future, the Harela festival continues to thrive as a cherished tradition, fostering unity, prosperity, and ecological awareness in the hearts and minds of the people of Uttarakhand.

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