KANDALI is a festival of Uttarakhand that is celebrated by the Rung tribe of Chaudans region in Pithoragarh district to rejoice the defeat of Zorawar Singh’s Army which came to attack the region in 1841 from Ladakh. This festival is also known as kirji festival and is celebrated between August and October in accordance with the blooming of the flowers of Kandali which happens once in every 12 years. The main activities to perform this festival include singing folk songs and extermination of the Kandali plants. This local festival was last held in October 2011.
Kandali’s literal meaning is Stinging Nettle. The plants are reclaimed home as the blemishes of war.
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- According to mythology the soldiers returning down the Kali river looted the villages which were on the way by hiding behind the Kandali plants in absence of the men. In order to resist them from doing this the women started destroying Kandali plants and attacked the soldiers with their swords, rils and spears. The whole scene is re enacted when the festival is celebrated.
- There is another folklore that says that there was a boy who died by applying this shrub on his wound. His mother in turn destroyed all the Kandali plants and asked all the women to do the same so that no-one in the future could repeat the same mistake.So when the plant reaches it maturity the women come together to smash all the Kandali plants of the region.
- The most common story states that once the soldiers of Ladakh attacked this region which used to be the kingdom of women. They used to break-in in the daylight and would hide behindthe bushesof Kandali plant at night. The women were always ready to fight back the soldiers with utmost bravery but some of the soldier managed to hide behind the bushes of Kandali plants for 12 long years and would attack the region again when the flowers of the Kandali plant starts blooming. Observing this women of the kingdom started destroying and smashing all the Kandali plants of their region with their weapons.
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How is Kandali festival celebrated?
This auspicious festival starts with the early morning rituals, the entire family gets up early in the morning and with the help of barley and buckwheat flour mixture they prepare a Shiva Linga to offer him prayers. They used to decorate their home and surroundings with flowers. Victory cries are raised, the people throw rice grains up in the air to wish to always be victorious over their enemies . Throwing of rice grains signifies respect to the almighty. They wear there traditional dresses and gather together after Pooja for mouth-watering community feast.
With a special white cloth they tie and encircle there holy tree and do there rituals in a very beautiful and alluring way followed by offering holy water, grains and other religious items. A cavalcade is formed afterwards. Women lead the parade armed with rils whereas men are armed with swords followed by children. The parade moves forward with singing songs dancing and playing music. The valley located between Kali river and Dhauli river echoes with the sounds of singing and dancing. When the energetic cavalcade reaches the Kandali plant the soft songs are changed into warlike tunes and war cries.
After the victory dance and the uprooting of the shrub, the festival is concluded with the delicious meal.Tourists from across the country and locals from other villages also join to make this festival more captivating and to keep alive these wonderful traditions and customs.
RESEARCH AND WRITTEN BY SHEETAL GAUR