Harela, one of the auspicious festivals of Kumaon is celebrated for welcoming the rainy season, new harvest and to commemorate the wedding anniversary of Lord Shiva. Harela which literally suggests ‘green leaves’ is also referred to greenery, especially during the monsoon season when the rice pads are filled with shiny green leaves. This festival is celebrated for marking the beginning of the sowing cycle of the crop. During this festival, the farmers pray for yielding a good harvest and the locals enrapture in the festivity. People meet their relatives and munch the seeds of the plant after heating them.
The Harela festival is celebrated with utmost gaiety by the agriculture-based communities. Just 10 days before the big celebration, seeds of five or seven different types of grains including maize, mustard, horse gram, barley, wheat, rice, soybeans and other crops are mixed and sown in a pot or a flat wooden pane called ‘chauk’. This pot is then kept inside a dark room where the sunlight doesn’t enters and water is sprinkled on it twice or thrice a day. During this festival ‘Dikare’ or ‘Dikars’, the beautifully sculpted idols of Lord Shiva and Parvati are prepared for worshipping. After puja and other religious ceremonies, the family feasts on mouth-watering dishes that are specially prepared on this festival. Harela or the green shoots are then placed behind the ears of each and every family member. People also greet their distant relatives by sending letters having Harela wrapped in it.
Now every festival is celebrated in an ultra-glam way with pomp and show missing out the original charm. If you will visit the tiny hamlets of Kumaon during Harela, you will find people celebrating it in the traditional way.
This festival brings a pocket full of happiness not only for the elders but for the kids and girls as well. The parents and grandparents give money to their kids and daughters in this festival. They usher blessings on their lovely children by chanting-
“Jee raye jagi raye, Dharti jas aagav,
Aakash jas chakav hai jaye, Surya jas taran,
Syave jasi buddhi ho, Doob jas faliye,
Sil pisi bhat khaye, Janthi teki jhad jaye.”
“जी रये, जागि रये धरती जस आगव,
आकाश जस चाकव है जये सूर्ज जस तराण,
स्यावे जसि बुद्धि हो दूब जस फलिये,
सिल पिसि भात खाये, जांठि टेकि झाड़ जाये”।
Which means- You may get greenery, may you live long and gain consciousness. Have patience like the earth, be as kind as the sky up above, be as radiant as the sun, be as witty as the jackal and grow like the grass. May you live until the time, when you’ll have to grind the cooked rice to eat it and use a stick to go to the bathroom.
Harela festival is celebrated to check the future harvest of the crop and the germination of the plant predicts how the future harvest will be. Harela is planted for bringing happiness, peace and prosperity in the family. It is believed the bigger the Harela will be, the more profit it will reap. Also, some people sow the seeds of different plants on this day and pledge to save the environment.
It is believed that if a branch of any tree is planted on the auspicious day of Harela, after five days it will develop roots and the tree will remain immortal forever. Traditionally, the Harela is planted at home but in some villages, it is planted inside the temples and is offered to the local deity. If a person expires on Harela then the seeds are not sown until a child or a calf takes birth on the same date.