Culture of Himachal Pradesh
Himachal Pradesh has an abundance of natural beauty and is blessed by nature in her purest form. Perhaps the beauty of the Himachal valleys inspires the artisans, musician s and dancers here to create such amazing works of art. Local tribes as well as Paharis, Rajputs, Brahmins and Tibetans residing here all have unique ways of self expression through performing and creative arts. The arts and crafts of Himachal have earned praise worldwide for their uniqueness and stunning beauty.
Fairs and Festivals of Himachal Pradesh
Himachal Pradesh is a culturally rich state with a diverse potpourri of
races residing in it. There are Rajputs, Paharis, Brahmins and 5 types
of tribes residing in the state and each of them have their own type of
fairs and festivals. The best thing about this state is that whenever
you plan to visit Himachal you will find some or the other fair or
festival going on.
Each and every fair of Himachal Pradesh has a story behind it and they reflect the rich culture of this place:
Chintpurni Fair in Chintpurni Village
Chintpurni Fair is a
typical religious fair which is celebrated with a lot of pomp and
enthusiasms. This fair celebrates the beauty and the strength of
Chintpurni Mata or the Earth Goddess. Lots of folk dance forms, musical
programs and religious chants mark the festival. Most people who come to
visit the station called Bharwain on Hoshiarpur Kangra road target
seeing the chintpurni festival as it is conveniently held 3 times a
year. Lots of young girls come for Kumari Puja at this time as legend
has it that Mata chintpurni had come disguised as a little girl. Chaitra
Chintpurni Mela is held between March and April. Sawan Chintpurni Mela
is held between July and August. Ashwin Chintpurni Mela is held between
September and October.
Renuka Fair around Renuka Lake
Renuka Fair begins just after
Diwali and continues for 10 days. It’s one of biggest and most
illustrious festivals of Simaur that signifies the meeting between
Vishnu and Renuka. The hill culture of Himachal Pradesh is aptly
represented in this fair which presents an amalgamation of magic shows,
cinemas, folk dances, plays, wrestling matches, dramas, cock fits and so
many other forms of performing arts. Bhajan Kirtan sessions along with
local music and flute happen in the evening where all the people of the
town congregate to experience the aura of festivity.
Lake which has an important place in the history of Himachal Pradesh
acts as the foreground for this colorful fair. A grand procession
bearing silver palanquin with Lord Parshuram’s idol on it takes place
between Giri River Bank to Jammu village. This fair is held every year
in the month of November.
Chessu Fair at Rewalsar
The beautiful town of Rewalsar in the
Mandi district of Himachal Pradesh forms the setting for Chessu Fair.
This is an important Buddhist Fair in which thousands of Lamas, Monks
and Buddhists from abroad participate. This fair is held every year to
commemorate the birth anniversary of Guru Padma Sambhava who is a sage
from Oddiyana. This sage performed meditation on the bank of Rewalsar
for 15 years before he gained enlightment. Since then he has been
worshipped as the second Buddha. This fair is held every year in the
month of March.
Jwalamukhi Fair in Kangra Valley
Jwalamukhi Fair is Himachal
Pradesh’s answer to Eastern India’s flamboyant celebration of Durga
Puja. This fair is held twice a year and the devotees mostly engage in
rituals that celebrate the Goddess and the eternal flame inside the
earth. There is Jwala Kund or sacred fire prepared and devotees go
around it making their offerings and seeking its blessings. You will see
hundreds of red silk flags fluttering on the fair grounds as a symbol
of the sacred flame. Folk dances, wrestling matches and music is also a
part of this fair. This fair is held every year in the month of October
and March or Chaitra Navrati and Assiy Navratri.
Sui Fair in Chamba
The Sui Fair is the only fair in Himachal
Pradesh which is held exclusively for women. The Sunaina Rani Temple in
Chamba where the erstwhile Rani had sacrificed herself to earn blessings
from the Gods and solve the water problems of the people of the town
has now become a cultural hotspot. Every year a huge fair is organized
around the temple and women from all corners of Himachal Pradesh come to
participate in this fair. Singing, dancing, folk music, road show are
an integral part of this fair. Bangles, dupattas and ornamental
accessories made by local women are displayed in this fair This fair is
held every year in the month of April.
Lohri or Makar Sankranti
This festival is celebrated between
13th to 14th January. Blazing bonfires, distribution of traditional
sweets like gachak, reories etc are an integral part of Makar Sakrati.
Devotees (mostly Hindus) take a dip in the sacred rivers and then treat
themselves to Khichri with Bhajiya and Ghee
All Hindus who worship Lord Shiva take part in this
festival with great interest and enthusiasm. Lord Shiva is worshipped by
young girls who dream of finding a handsome husband one day.
Water and milk is offered to the deity and women generally fast during the day.
The arrival of spring is celebrated in this
festival where all the local people dress up in yellow colored clothes.
Yellow rice and saffron flavored sweets are prepared. The occasion marks
the withdrawal of winter and onset of spring.
Celebrated all over India as the festival of colors, Himachal Pradesh too celebrated Holi with a lot of enthusiasm.
Young boys dress up in their traditional costumes and raid the street with small pails of water, pichkari and packets of gulaal.
Around mid July the people of Himachal Pradesh
celebrate Hariyali i.e. The festival of greenery and fertility. This
festival marks the splendor of the month of Sawan or monsoons. This
festival is celebrated by all castes and creeds in Himachal Pradesh.
This festival is held in mid-April and is equally
participated by Hindus, Sikhs, Muslims and Rajputs residing in Himachal.
The first day in the month of Baisakh i.e. The month of April is
celebrated as Baisakhi. People wear new clothes and organize singing and
dancing competitions. Halwa dotted with rich dry fruits is prepared on a
community scale in this festival.
Lavi Fair in Rampur
Rampur regained its lost glory when the HP
government started promoting the Lavi Fair. This is primarily a trade
fair and is not linked to any festival. Several traders from the
Indo-Tibet border participate in the fair and they come bearing
everything from sheepskins to neckpieces to spices. Every year before
this fair starts water from Sutlej River is churned as an auspicious
sign. Agricultural products and handicraft items are exchanged at the
Lavi Fair and so are woolen garments, dry fruits and woolen pattoos.
is possibly the outcome of the now friendly trade relationship between
India and China and the fair is actually a symbol of good relations
between the two countries.Timing:
This fair is held every year in the month of November
The Birthday of Lord Krishna is popular in
Himachal Pradesh and it is celebrated in various Hindu Dominated places
in August / September every year. Many long musical programs and dance
extravaganzas are organized around this time. The elderly people and
ladies fast during this festival.
The greatest and the biggest festival of India; Dusshera
celebrates the victory of good over evil. The month of Asuaj and the
Shukla Vijaya Dashami is the day in which this festival is celebrated in
Himachal Pradesh. In some places like Chamba and Bilaspur the entire
Ram Lila is enacted for 9 days.
Huge effigies of the evil trio Ravana, Kumbhakarna and Meghnaad are burned in fields amidst huge festivities.
This is a festival typical to the upper climes of India
like Himachal Pradesh. This actually marks Kartik Sankranti when a
barber is involved in the worship rituals along with offerings of Citrus
fruit, stalks of Paddy and ripe walnuts. All offerings are submitted to
nearby rivers as a form of Khad.
This is a festival of flowers which is celebrated in
Kinnaur district in September month. Villagers scour the countryside for
the most beautiful flowers which are then brought to the main square of
the village. The flowers are then offered to the local deity followed
by a feast and dance program in the evening
Minjar Fair in Chamba
Distribution of silk tassels or Minjar
marks the onset of this festival. The Minjar actually signifies the
paddy and maize shoots and it also symbolizes fertility and prosperity.
The whole Chamba town comes alive with lights and music and people turn
out in their best attire. Chaugan near Chamba is converted into a trade
center and people do brisk business with each other. The local leader or
the chief guest throws a coconut, a coin, Minjar and a seasonal fruit
in nearby river to mark the beginning of fair.
of Bete tree and Ittar (perfume) are distributed to everybody who comes
to participate in this fair. Till 1943 Buffalo sacrifice by drowning in
river was a part of this fair but now it has been banned. Police lines
also put up their own program during this fair. This fair is held every
year in the month of Shravana.
The Bhaga Valley in Himachal Pradesh celebrates
the Gochi festival every year in winter to celebrate the birth of male
children. Token marriage ceremonies between kids are also performed
along with snow ball throwing competition.
International Himalayan Festival
Dalai Lama had initiated the
celebration of International Himalayan Festival which is held in Kangra
Valley. All army troupes from Himalayan nations take part in this
festival. Lots of cultural activities organized with the aim of
promoting brotherhood and unity are a part of this festival.
Music in Himachal Pradesh
The music and songs of Himachal have been made popular by many Bollywood movies. The music is soulful and lyrical and has the capacity to mirror the beauty of the lives, trials and tribulations and small joys of the Himachal Pradesh people.
These are a set of songs which are sung at the bride’s place before her wedding. These songs are mostly vocal based and sung by the ladies of the house. These songs speak of the changes and joys in the life of a new bride and also lay down rules about how a bride should behave in her sasural.
These are religious songs played with the accompanying drum and cymbal. These songs are supposed to honor and worship the local deities in the temples.
The Soohadiyan are again a set of folk songs which are sung by the women of the house whenever there is a child birth in the house. Neighborhood women, friends and relatives also join in the singing.
Mohana and Jhoori
These are love songs capturing the essence of romantic love in the beautiful valleys of Himachal. The songs also speak of famous love stories that happened in the surrounding areas. These songs are high on the use of musical instruments like shehnai, nagara and drums.
Harvesting time is festivity time n Himachal and the farmer and his family celebrate by singing Dholru that is a sung praising nature’s bounty and abundance. Tambourine, cymbal, shehnai, drum and string instruments are widely used in Himachal Pradesh.
Dance Forms in Himachal Pradesh
Dance like music, is an integral part of the lives of the local population of Himachal Pradesh. The various areas in Himachal like Kinnaur, Lahaul-Spiti, Kangra, Chamba, Sirmaur etc have different cultures and different forms of expressions through dance.
Kinnaur Dance is performed during the Chinese and Tibetan New Year and on Buddhist special occasions. Namagen is a famous kind of dance which is performed when autumn visits the Kinnaur Valley.
The Chamba Valley is the birthplace of the aggressive Dangi Dance. Another variation of Dangi is the Sikri Dance which happens in the Suhai Fair each year.
This is a dance only restricted to the women born and brought up in Simaur. Girls living in other parts of the valley cannot participate and neither can women who have been associated to Simaur only through marriage. This is also called Gee Dance.
This dance is performed in 13 different styles in the district of Kullu
Devil and Demon Dance
These ferocious forms of dance originated in Lahaul and Spiti Valley. Dancers wear masks designed with the faces of the demon and the guard and a mock fight is represented through dance gestures and movements.
Keekali and Bhangra Dance
Bhangra is a male form of dance which originated in Punjab and has spread to Hamirpur, Kinnaur and Palampur in Himachal. This kind of dance includes the use of sticks and brightly colored turbans.
Kayak and Bakayang
These are religious ritualistic dances that are practiced by Lamas on many important religious occasions. Langdarma execution and the birth of Padma Sambhava are important occasions on which these dances are performed.
Other famous forms of dance in Himachal Pradesh are Mala Dance, Nagas Kayang, Shan and Shabu Dance, Dalshone and Cholamba Dance and Jataru Kayang.
The Art of Painting in Himachal Pradesh
Painting in Himachal Pradesh was mostly done in the miniature form and centered on the lives and loves of princesses and kings. Wars, religion and hunting themes were also commonly represented. The Kangra style and the Basholi style were the two main styles of painting in Himachal Pradesh. These paintings were famous for their intricate coloring and lovely forms. The Himachal Government is taking firm steps to revive the forgotten forms of painting. Himachal Pradesh Government Emporium is a good place to buy these paintings.
If you are interested in Chamba Rumaal paintings then the Chamba Art Gallery is a good place to target. In Dharamshala there are quite a few centers selling authentic Kangra Miniature paintings. You will get metal vases, plates, scrolls and even tiny boxes painted over in the Kangra and Pahari style.
This is the art of making artistic folk lore based paintings. The Kangra style came into prominence under the influence of Bahsoli School of painting n 18th Century. The main centers for these kinds of paintings spread to Guler, Nurpur, Chamba and Bilaspur. Together these styles are grouped together as Pahari Painting.
Rajpur rulers between 18th to 19th centuries were great patrons of these paintings. Beautiful greenery and fields of lovely flowers are represented articulately in these paintings using delicate shades of light pastel shades. The figures of women and men and the facial features are represented in a very beautiful manner.
Night scenes, complex human formations, palaces and gardens are represented in these paintings in a very beautiful manner. Interestingly vegetable and mineral extracts sourced from local Himalayan landscape were used to color these paintings. Kangra Arts Promotion Society located in Lower Dharamshala works towards promoting these art forms.
These are based on the many forms and manifestations of the Goddess and its interpretation of Rasamanjari text. The distinguishing patterns of these paintings are the use of geometrical motifs, colored glossy enamel and brightly patterned colors.
This is also centered on Ramayana and the Bhagavad Purana. Paintings were made on large embroidered pieces of cloths (rumaals) and they were used for ceremonies and functions.
Thangkas and Wall Paintings
the Tibetan Culture, Himachal Pradesh has many skillful artists who
create wall paintings and thangkas which are very popular among the
tourists. Most of these wall paintings have images showing the life of
Buddha. The colors used for creating these wall paintings and thangkas
are organic colors that were made from vegetables and flowers. Thangkas,
the colorful paintings made on cloths are used during Buddhist rituals
Embroidery in Himachal Pradesh
Embroidery in Himachal Pradesh is intricate and focuses on the vivid images found in the valley. Love making scenes, wars, processions, palanquins, parrots, lotus, deer, monkeys and colored fishes are represented colorfully on fine muslin, silk and cotton pieces. There are many forms of embroidery found in Himachal but the principal styles are Kashmiri Stitch and Chamba Embroidery.
The embroidery done is small pretty stitches which appear on both sides of the cloth in a mirror image. The outlines of figures and animals are made in double running stitches that look the same and there are no loose threads on either side. Blanket stitches, colorful darn stitches, herringbone lines, inter lacing stitches, Zig Zag lines and gross stitches are also used in Chamba embroidery. Some rumaals are so finely done that they represent miniature paintings.
Most Rumaals have flowers patterned on all four sides. Exception to this rule is the kerchiefs which have embroidery done in striking geometric patterns and have bagh work or phulkari work. The finishing is mostly done with buttonhole stitch or without any borders. Though the Chamba embroidery is most popularly found in rumaals but skilled craftsmen can replicate the pattern on cholis, hand fans, pillow cases and bed sheets. Table cloths and sofa covers carry the Chamba embroidery is all its resplendent detail.
The colors of Chamba threadwork is inspired from the artwork of Kathiawar and Punjab; red, mustard yellow, black, pink and other resplendent colors.
The State Emporiums of Chamba, Kangra and Basholi are the best places to buy these kinds of embroidery. Chamba embroidery is also done on leather and this fashioned into purses and shoes.
Kinnauri Embroidery originated from the rocky climes of Kinnaur and consists of diagonal lines and sharp lines filled up with colorful threads. This type of threadwork is done on Joothis and Topis and they are some of the most famous collectible items of Himachal. Kinnauri Joothis (shoes) are made of dried straw and the top is embroidered with different colors of threads. The topis are quite affordable and will cost anything from 50-200 INR. In Kinnaur small stalls are set up on the roadsides and they are all filled with wonderful specimens of Kinnauri caps and shoes.
Large numbers of the troubled locals of Jammu and Kashmir have migrated to Himachal Pradesh which is a relatively peaceful state. Migrants from Kashmir brought the intricate and beautiful Kashmiri Stitch in Himachal Pradesh. The motifs here are birds, chinar leaves, lotus, cherry blossoms, mangoes and trees. Chain stitch and two embroidery stitches are used to execute Kashmiri Stitch which is done on wool, cotton, Georgette and silk. Bed spreads shawls, pillow covers, leather threads and sofa covers having Kashmiri Stitch are also found in Himachal Pradesh.
The Kashmiri Emporiums in Manali and Shimla are the best place to buy Kashmiri Stitch items.
Garments of Himachal Pradesh
Garments worn by the Himachali
people are vibrantly colorful. They wear traditional dresses that have
liner or circular embroideries on them. Girls put on scarves which are
very colorful. Mufflers, hand woven socks, caps etc. are the other
accessories that are worn by the Himachali people. Embroidered scarves
made with silk fabric, prayer gloves or gaumukhi, colorful cholis, hand
fans etc. are some of the accessories that are used by the locals and
are made in great numbers to cater the demands of the tourists. Tourists
buy these accessories to take back home as souvenirs.
Himachal Pradesh is famous for the
artistic creations of its weavers. Weaving in Himachal Pradesh is not
only encouraged because of harsh climatic condition but the technology
has been influenced by Tibet and Central Asia and hand woven garments
and shawls of Himachal Pradesh have become famous across the world. Mandi, Hamirpur, Kinnaur and Chamba are the main regions where
sheep are bred to get wools. Angora Rabbits and Pashmina Goats are also
the other sources of wool. Shawls and caps woven in Kinnaur and Kullu
are exclusive and are famous for their uniqueness. Shawls are also woven
in Chamba and Lahaul Districts of Himachal Pradesh.
Shawls of Himachal
Apart from the exquisitely beautiful Kashmiri Stitch Shawls which are now present in all over India; Himachal Pradesh has two types of shawls; Kullu Shawls and Kinnaur Shawls which are famous all over the world for their beauty. Shawls woven in Chamba are also called Pattu. Pangi and Tissa
areas of Chamba are the places where hand woven shawls are woven. Lahaul
Shawls are very colorful and have images influenced by Buddhism
Kullu Shawls are very lively and reflect all the vibrant colors of the Kullu Valley. Weddings, anniversaries and other special occasions are a good time to gift Kullu Shawls as they are supposed to bring in good lock. Regional flora and fauna are represented on the shawls with great finesse and the overall look is that of opulence and finery. Kullu Shawls have embroideries
that are less intricate and many types are colors are used in these
They are available in a variety of materials like Angora, Yak Wool, Pashmina and Lamb Wool. In some shops like the Himalayan Shop in Kullu Valley; shawls are also available in a customized form.
Shawls are also known are Dhoru. They are unique for their innovative
geometrical patterns. The patterns depict religious images. The threads
used for embroidery of shawls are mainly yellow (representing earth),
blue (representing ether), red (representing fire), white (representing
water), and green (representing air). Kinnauri Shawls are usually mono colored and have intricate patterns woven on the edges. The material is hand spun lamb wool, Angora or Pashmina. While grey, sea shell blue and cream are the base colors; the designing is done in red, crimson, flamingo pink, lime green and mustard yellow. These shawls are worn by Kinnauri locals on special and religious occasions and they look very vibrant and beautiful.
Handicrafts of Himachal Pradesh
Over the period of time, this state has developed an unparallel
tradition of arts and crafts. Each of the handicraft items that are
getting created by the skilled and innovative artisans depicts unique
craftsmanship. Whether it is the wood carved showpieces or intricately designed jewelry
pieces, handicrafts of Himachal Pradesh are unmatched.
is also taking interest and encouraging the artists with financial and
other resources. This will lead to brighter future of handicraft and
handloom of the state and thereby have faster economic growth. Most of
the handicraft items created here are exclusive to this state and are
hardly found anywhere else.
Metal Work and Stone Work of Himachal Pradesh
is known for its handicraft items made of different types of metals and
stones. The metals that are mainly used for making various types of
handicraft items are iron, brass, tin, copper and bell metal. Using
these metals, idols of deities are made. Apart from Idols of Gods and
Goddesses, artistic items, bells, lamps, vessels etc. are also made with
these metals and are decorated with stones.
Mandi, Shimla, Kinnaur are some of the places of Himachal Pradesh where
metal and stone based handicraft is very popular.
Wood Craft in Himachal Pradesh
Himachal Pradesh is one of those
states that are famous for wood crafts. The village homes of Himachal
Pradesh showcase traditional wood crafts. The abundant natural resources of Pine and Deodar apart from luxuriant
woods of walnut, birch, chestnut and mulberry. The vast amount of
natural wood available has resulted in artistry in wood being practiced
here amongst artisans in Himachal. The window and door frames,
balconies, door carvings, carved and painted ceilings of traditional
houses of villages are the evidences of wooden crafts of Himachal
Pradesh. Wood craft of Himachal Pradesh is mainly done at palces like
Kullu, Chamba, Kinnaur, Tisa and Kalpa. These wooden items are
intricately designed and vibrantly colored thereby offer very
idols of deities, mirror frames, photo frames, fruit bowls, jars,
storage bowls, baskets, candle stands, jewelry boxes, jars and trays are
some of the wooden items that are crafted in various parts of Himachal
Pradesh. The wooden boxes have different types of geometrical shapes and
have motifs of animals and abstract designs on them. The woodwork of Himachal is quite famous and is specially centered on the famous Lakkar Bazaar of Kullu.
If you want to carry back samples of the exquisite wood work then choose amongst the eclectic range of fruit bowls, carved images, wooden images, cups, glasses, plates, baskets, egg caskets etc. If you have the transportation facility then an intricately carved Himachali door panel will make a great addition to your home.
Rugs and Carpets of Himachal Pradesh
Himachali hand-woven rugs
and carpets have worldwide fame. Most of these carpets and rugs are
embroidered with motifs of trees, Garuda (the mount of Lord Vishnu),
Swastika Sign, lotus, Dragons and flutes. Rugs are made with wool. Soft
rugs or Gudmas, Namdas, the rugs made with beaten wool, thobis (the
floor covers), karchas (sort of mattresses) and varieties of carpets are
made in different parts of Himachal Pradesh and are world famous. For
making soft blankets with natural wool color and edged with red or black
color, Giangi Sheep Wool is used.
Jewelry in Himachal Pradesh
Jewelry in Himachal Pradesh is famous all over the world for its ornate design and intricate work. Some of this jewelry is so unique that you will not find it in other places of India. Silver, white metal and sometimes copper and brass is used as a base metal for this jewelry.
Bindi is a type of Himachali jewelry that has a pendant hanging from the center of the hair parting with silver chains extending to both sides of ear. Shringar Patti is an ornament that consists of a fringe covering one side of the face with stars or other geometrical patterns along with dew drop, floral and leaf motifs. Shangli, Chudamani, Chak and Sirka Chamkuli are other interesting kinds of head ornaments found in Himachal.
Kach, Chandramalang are lovely chunky neck pieces while Kangan and Gokhru are meant for the wrists. If you really love ethnic jewelry then you will have a gala time choosing unique items of jewelry that are available in Himachal.
Traditional Jewelry items of
Himachal Pradesh that made with metal and precious and semi-precious
stones are very popular. Colorful beads and mirrors are also used for
making these jewelry items. Necklaces, bracelets, rings, ear rings and
ear stubs are quite popular jewelry items from Himachal Pradesh.
pendants, motifs of different goddesses are seen. Heavy anklets, silver
bracelets, chokers and coin necklaces are famous jewelry items of
Himachal Pradesh. Semi-precious stones like amber, coral,
mother-of-pearl and turquoise are used for making different kinds of
Leather Craft of Himachal Pradesh
Chamba Region of Himchal Pradesh is famous for its leather craft. The traditional slippers made in Chamba are comfortable to wear and beautiful to look at. These slippers are made with leather and have intricate embroidery works done with golden thread or zari or other colorful threats. Other leather items quite popular are shoes and belts of different types.
List of Handicraft and Handloom manufacturers in Himachal Pradesh:
Here you will get the list of some of the manufacturers of handicrafts and handlooms of Himachal Pradesh:
Maharaja CarpetsKartikay InternationalAddress:
Plot No. 9
Here is the list of Exporters of Handicrafts of Himachal Pradesh:Himachal Commercial CorporationAddress:
Kangra Mahila SabhaAddress: