Friday, May 24

Bagwal Mela Commences: Traditional Stone Warfare and Maa Barahi Fair Kick Off on Rakshabandhan

Bagwal Mela Commences: Traditional Stone Warfare and Maa Barahi Fair Kick Off on Rakshabandhan

In 2023, the Bagwal Mela took place in Barahi Dham Devidhura of Champawat district (Uttarakhand), featuring the Kholikhad Durbachaud Maidan Bagwal war. This age-old tradition holds great significance in the region, encompassing both cultural and spiritual aspects.

Every year, on the occasion of Raksha Bandhan, a grand fair known as the “Bagwal” is held in the courtyard of the Varahi Devi temple in Devidhura on Shravani Purnima. The origins of this fair are subject to differing opinions, but it is widely agreed upon that Bagwal is a vestige of a sacrificial tradition.


Bagwal Mela took place in Barahi Dham Devidhura of Champawat district
Bagwal Mela took place in Barahi Dham Devidhura of Champawat district


According to popular belief, the tradition dates back to a time when the local people had to offer a human sacrifice to appease the goddess after freeing the dense forest of Devidhura from the terror of fifty-two thousand warriors and sixty-four yogis. It was decided that the goddess could be satisfied with an equivalent amount of blood, symbolized by the act of hitting someone with stones. Thus, the practice of stone throwing was established and continues to this day. Initially, male sacrifices were offered by the Mahar and Favyarl castes.

Historians suggest that this tradition might have ancient roots, potentially dating back to the time of the Mahabharata. The mountain-dwelling caste mentioned in the Mahabharata, known for their stone-fighting prowess and participation in the epic war, points to the potential antiquity of the stone warfare tradition. Some historians even place its origin in the 8th or 9th century AD.

In the present day, Bagwal is predominantly upheld by the Mahar and Favyarl castes. The participants, known as Dyukas, gather from their respective villages, accompanied by drums and a unique umbrella called Chhantoli made of Kinrgal. With cloth-bound heads, sticks in hand, and adorned with floral decorations, they circumambulate the temple with great enthusiasm. People of all ages, from children to the elderly, take part in the festivities.

The responsibility of worshiping the goddess is divided among different castes. The Bagwal tradition follows specific rules and rituals. The worship events extend for nearly a month, starting from Ekadashi of Shuklapaksha in the month of Shravan until the second day of Bhadrapada Kshanpaksha. The main ceremony is performed by the four Khams (groups of villagers) – Garhwal Chamyal, Valik, Lamgadia, and east-related Khams.

The goddess idol, kept in a sealed box, is the focal point of worship. Different rituals are performed in front of the idol, and the chief of Lamgadiya Kham is entrusted with this responsibility. Additionally, a specific form of worship called Athwar involves the sacrifice of seven goats and one buffalo.

On the full moon day of Shravani Purnima, the Bagwal ceremony takes place in the courtyard of Dola Devi temple. The heads of the four Khams oversee the ceremony, which involves stone throwing under the leadership of the Khams’ leaders. This stone-throwing battle takes place between the different Khams, and the event is accompanied by drumming and chanting. The objective is to fulfill the symbolic bloodshed required by tradition.

Bagwal concludes with the sound of a conch shell, and the participants show mutual affection as they depart from the event ground. Nighttime vigil and a procession on the second day of Shravani Purnima further mark the tradition, with additional sacrifices offered to the goddess.

The natural beauty of Devidhura also attracts tourists from various places who come to witness the unique Bagwal tradition along with the scenic charm of the area.

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