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Minjar Festival in Chamba

Minjar Festival in Chamba

Festivals celebrated in Chamba fall into two distinct categories.  While some like Dusserah, Diwali and Shivratri are pan Indian in nature, others like Minjar and Sui Mata festivals are unique to the city. These later group of festivals are integral part of their thousand year old history and have many tales to tell. Among them the Minjar festival is of international repute and attract visitors from all over the world

Legends behind Minjar Festival

Minjar or Maize FlowerIt is believed that the Minjar Festival is almost as old as the city of Chamba itself. If hearsays are to be believed, it was first organized in 936 AD shortly after the establishment of the city by Raja Shahil Varman (920 AD). However, there are three different stories related to the origin of this festival; the Minjar or maize flower being one common link between all of them.

According one of those stories, this festival commemorates the victory of Chamba over Trigarta, now called Kangra. As the king came back victorious from the battle field, the subjects welcomed him with sheaf of maize (minjar), which signifies prosperity. They also organized a carnival in his honor. The king was so touched by this simple gesture that he declared the day to be Minjar Day and the carnival as Minjar Fair.

Another story says that an old lady wanted to meet the king; but she was too poor to take any present for him. Finally she decided take maize flower as a mark of honor to the king. The king was very much moved by this simple honor and declared a carnival to be organized.

However, if the third story is to be believed, this festival originated after 11th century AD because it involves the Hari Rai Temples built in the same century by Raja Salavahana.  It is said that during that period, River Ravi used to flow between Champavati Temple and Hari Rai Temple. Consequently, the devotees had a tough time visiting the other temple. The king asked the saints to try and mitigate this problem. They summoned the Brahmins from the city of Varanasi and soon a yagna or fire sacrifice was arranged. It went on for seven days and as part of the rituals, the Brahmins spun a cord out of minjar.

Nonetheless, as soon as the yagna was concluded a miraculous thing happened. The mighty river changed its course and shifted towards the west. This brought Hari Rai temple on the same shore as rest of the temples. The people began to attribute such miracles to minjar rope prepared by the Brahmins and so the festival that was organized to celebrate the occasion was called Minjar Festival.

Celebration of Minjar Festival in Chamba

Minjar Fair at Chougan

Minjar festival falls in the month of Shravana, which according to Gregorian calendar falls in the middle of July and goes on for one week. Raghuvir Varman, one of the local deities, is worshiped with much fanfare. Special worship is also conducted at the Lakshmi Narayan Temple. 

Minjar Fair Celebration

Before the start of the celebration, gods and goddesses are taken to the Chougan in palanquins. However, the actual celebration starts with the hoisting of the flag of Chamba and distribution of Minjars. Modern Minjars are mostly made with silk; these are worn in the front part of the dress both by the men and women. A week long fair is also held at the Chowgan. During that time the area turns into a bazaar where sellers from far and near come here to sell their wares. Buyers also flock those shops to get a good bargain. Cultural functions are also held in the evening. Residents send fruits, sweets money and a stalk of maize (minjar) to relatives and friends. The stalk is said to be symbol of well being and prosperity.

End of Minjar Festival in Chamba

Minjar Fair in Chowgan

At the end of the seven days the idol of Raghuvir Varman is taken in a grand procession to be immersed in the Ravi River.  Idols of some other gods and goddesses also escort the main idol in separate palanquins. The procession is also accompanied by traditional dancers dancing to the beat of drums. The police and home guards also play their and.  The residents throw a coconut, a fruit, a coin and sheaf of minjar tied in red cloth into the river.

Earlier, instead of coin a buffalo was thrown into the river. If it died it was taken as good omen and if it could swam across the turbulent river, it was a good omen too; for it was taken that all the bad luck has now been banished to the other side of the river.

After the immersion ceremony another gods and goddesses who had accompanied the procession and the flag of Chamba is taken back to the Akhand Chandi Palace. A special puja is held in the Lakshmi Narayan Temple and Kunjari Malhar is sung by the local artists.  With that the curtain on the week long ceremony is drawn.

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