Uttarakhand is not an exception than rest of India’s tradition to celebrate fairs and festivals with great deal of passion and fervor. There are number of temples and famous places for fairs and festivals in Uttarakhand, adding colours to the life of hilly people.
Herala is one of the indigenous festivals which is celebrated in the whole Uttarakhand, especially in Kumaon to mark the advent of the rainy season. The celebration falls on the first day of Shravan (rainy season), and its importance lies in the fact that it gives an opportunity to farmers to check the quality or flaws of the seeds he has in his supply.
This festival has also a major significance when gifts are distributed to women of the family as a customary ritual to honour GoddessParvati. Harela festivals is observed in Bhimtal on 16th or 17th of July, and some other parts of Uttarakhand in the month of Shravan to honour the wedding of Lord Shiva and Parvati and to welcome rainy season and the new harvest. At Bhimtal a colourful fair has been organised with much fanfare. Although the festival is celebrated for one day, fairs continue for 10 days.
The legend says the festival is celebrated to honour Goddess Parvati, the divine consort of Lord Shiva when she returned her father’s home after wedding. It is a customary for Indian women to return to their homes for a few days after their marriage. This festival is therefore a celebration of wedding of Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati.
The origin of this festival is not clear from the historical perspective, but it is celebrated in hills for centuries as this day people make Dikaras, small clay statues of Parvati and Shiva and celebrate the month of rainy season and new harvest.
The celebration falls on the first day of Shravan. The preparations of the celebration start on the first day when women fill their flat wooden plane called chauk with soil and sow seven different kinds of seeds. They water it regularly and religiously take care of the germination every day.
Besides they also make small clay statues of Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati for worship and mock wedding on the 10th day of the festival. Finally at the tenth day they cut the green grasses shoot out from the soil (harela). This is a symbolic harvesting and celebration of the future harvesting. These small shoots are placed in their heads or behind the ears, and also send to friends and families as a token of good wish.
There is also an uncharacteristic custom in the villages when young girls in the family are gifted with some pocket money and sisters and wives are presented with gifts by brothers and husbands respectively. These are the token of love and respect to women as a symbol of Goddess Parvati. On the last day of the celebration there is a kind of mock wedding between Lord Shiva and his consort Parvati is arranged.
Owing to number of sociological, environmental and economic reasons the farms land of traditional cultivation of crops is gradually declining. The festival is a good reason to look after the traditional farming and conservation of conserved due to its religious values. The role of biodiversity conservation is an integral part of Uttarakhand’s people and this festival plays a major role in this effort. The festival is also known for sowing new plants and reveres the follow the ideals originated by descendants for preservation and management of natural resources