Covid dampens Himachal’s ‘rain of stones’ spirit : The Tribune India


Shimla, November 15

There was no ‘rain of stones’ ritual on Sunday in a century-old festival that falls a day after Diwali and observed in the former princely state of Dhami, some 33 km from state capital Shimla.

Owing to Covid restrains, this unique practice was done away with amid the pandemic.

Old-timers say as far as their memory and knowledge goes this is for the first time that the ritual of pelting stones associated with the ‘Pattharon ka Mela’ (festival of stones) was cancelled.

“As per my memory and memory of my parents, this is for the first time the ritual of pelting one another with small stones was not exercised,” said local resident S.R. Verma.

The 50-year-old told IANS that the local administration had also banned other rituals relating to day-long festival like carrying out procession, gatherings in a local temple and holding an exhibition of artefacts and farm implements, the main attraction among the locals.

As a ritual, the pelting of stones is between two groups — one representing the royal family of the erstwhile princely state of Dhami and the others comprising the commoners — over a circular structure in the town, where a ‘rani’  or queen had committed ‘sati’ or the former practice of a widow throwing herself on to her husband’s funeral pyre.

Residents say it was a bloody affair in the past.

The pelting of stones was introduced centuries ago to shun the tradition of ‘narbali’ (human sacrifice) that was prevalent in Dhami too,” octogenarian Ashok Verma recalled.

Earlier, there used to be a bloody affair. “For quite some time the stone pelting has become mere a ritual and the participation that now comprises the youth only is falling with every passing year,” he said.

A local committee, mainly comprising descendents of the estwhile royal family, is the ritual organiser.

The ‘battle’ of stones commences after the chief deity of the Narsingh temple in over 250-year old Halog, the crumbling palace, arrives at the Kali temple also located in the town in a tastefully decorated palanquin amid the sounding  of trumpets and drums.

The stone pelting exercise takes place between the residents of Halog, the erstwhile capital of Dhami estate, and neighbouring village Jamog.

As per the belief, a devotee who gets injuries in stone-pelting is considered a devout of goddess Kali. The oozing blood is applied as a ’tilak’ to appease the goddess.

This time only former ruler of Dhami, Jagdeep Singh, and a few members of the festival organising committee were allowed to perform worship at the Goddess Kali temple.

On normal occasions, the locals buy farm implements on this day to ensure prosperity and protection from natural calamities. Also it generates income for the rural artisans and the potters.

“On this auspicious occasion we missed an opportunity to buy the new implements,” rued farmer Ram Parkash, adding “this happened for the first time; not a good sign”. IANS

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