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Minjar- The International Fair of Chamba
The Minjar Fair
The fair begins on the third Sunday of Vikram Sawan or in the month of July every year, symbolizing the victory of the Suryavanshi or Sun dynasty clan and the Sun worship.
It is the time when the tender shoots of paddy or corn come up.
Even before the fair begins, the maize shoots are distributed among the people. The Minjar is worn by the people for the entire week before being immersed in the waters of River Ravi.
The people also adorn their caps with Minjar which is a corncob made of woven silk.
The offerings to the deities include a silver coin, fruits, coconut, Minjar tied with a golden silk in a red silk cloth.
The week long fair begins with pulling the chariot carrying the idol of Lord Raghuvira. About more than 200 local deities accompany the procession in the palanquins carried by the devotees.
On the final day of the fair, a huge procession from the Akhand Chandi Palace goes to Rive Ravi, where the offerings and the Minjar are immersed.
Recalling the Past of Chamba
Chamba is a land of temples immense natural beauty.
As the rainy season sets in, the people of Chamba gather to celebrate the week long Minjar fair.
This annual fair is gaining popularity and along with Dussehra fair of Kullu and Shivratri fair of Mandi, and is among the important festivals of Himachal Pradesh.
There are several stories regarding the origin of the fair.
According to the Persian version, the fair has been in existence since 10th century AD. Minjar in Sanskrit means the shoot of corn or paddy.
The Chamba state never faced the threat of external aggression and was ruled by a single dynasty for about 1400 years.
The fair is organized to seek the blessings of God for a good yield in the coming year.
The Buffalo Sacrifice
There was a tradition to sacrifice the buffalo in the waters of River Ravi to foreknow the coming events of next year.
If the beast gets drowned or carried away in the gushing waters or reaches the opposite shore, it was considered to be a good omen, that the ill luck had got away or drowned or went to another side respectively. The swimming back of the buffalo was considered a curse. But now the custom has become obsolete.
History of the Fair
Once during the reign of Raja Sahil Verman, Chamba was attacked by the ruler of Kangra. Verman retaliated fiercely and defeated the invader in 935 AD. On his return from the battlefield, thousands of people gathered at a bridge over River Ravi, on the outskirts of the town, to welcome the king. They presented him with the shoots of corn and paddy. This historical bridge is no longer in existence, but the ruins are still there. Thus the fair is held to commemorate the brilliant victory of the king of Chamba.
Another legend goes about the beginning of the fair. There was a saint who regularly crossed the river to visit the Hari Rai temple for prayers. Then Rajah Sahil Verman requested him to make the way to temple accessible to everyone. It is said that the saint after performing a week long Yagna, changed the course of the river with a rope made of paddy shoots. Since then the fair is held in respect of the occasion.
The Clutural Heritage
During the Minjar fair one can get a glimpse of the cultural heritage of Chamba valley. The Gaddi or shepherds and the Pangawalas or the people of Pangi valley gather in Chamba town regale the people with songs and dances connected with the worship of Lord Shiva.
Besides presenting a variety of programs, the cultural troops from various parts of the state and even from different parts of India, assemble in the Chowgan or the ground, where cultural nights are organized.
Handicrafts of Himachal
Various sports tournaments are also organized during the fair in which the sportspersons from different parts of India take part. The other attraction at the fair is the exhibition organized by the various state departments in which the local products and handicrafts are displayed.
Earlier the Minjar fair was organized by the royal family of Chamba, but after independence, the fair became the responsibility of the local administration. Now the fair has been declared as an international festival.
The Folk Songs
The festivities comprise of folk dance and music performances such as Kunjari Malhar. The local singers regale the people with Kunjhri songs as,
Ur, ur Kunjhri Barkha de de
Pani meri Jaan ray maan.
Kunjhri is a bird which flies away as the monsoon approaches. In the song, the Kunjhri is urged to fly away so that the rains arrive and the people get assured of a good harvest.
The Women in Minjar Fair
© 2014 Sanjay Sharma