Centuries-old fair symbolising maize blossom begins in Himachal

Chamba:The eight-day-long, centuries-old Hindu fair that symbolises the blossoming of maize began on Sunday in this historical Himachal Pradesh town located on the banks of the Ravi river. It was to be inaugurated by Governor Acharya Devvrat but his helicopter couldn't reach Chamba town, some 450 km from the state capital, owing to inclement weather. The fair opened with the hoisting of the 'minjar', depicting the silk tassels that glow like maize blossoms in the sun, flag at the Chowgan or the public promenade in the town and will conclude on July 31. The locals, mainly farmers, gather at the historic Lakshmi Narayan and Raghuvira temples during the festival and offered holy 'minjars'. These are exchanged among friends and relatives before they are finally immersed in the river as an offering to Lord Varuna. Old-timers say the fair is associated with the monsoon, in which the farmers pray for heavy rain for a good harvest. The fair will conclude with the immersion of 'minjars' in the river. The fair is believed to have first started in the 10th century to mark the victory of ruler Sahila Varma over the ruler of Kangra. At that time this town was founded. The defeated ruler had presented blossoms of maize and paddy to Varma. Another tale has it that a sage in the Champavati temple on the banks of the Ravi performed a week-long 'yajna' that changed the course of the river and enabled the people to visit the Hari Rai temple across the river. During the fair, people adorn themselves with 'minjars' on their colourful costumes and pray for timely rain and a bumper crop. The embroidery on the 'minjars' is done mostly by the local Muslims. Deputy Commissioner Sudesh Mokhta, who is the chairperson of the Minjar Fair Celebrations Committee, told IANS that cultural evenings would be organised every day. Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh would preside over the concluding ceremony.