September 19, 2017; Day 3, Spiti Festival:
It’s the third and final day of the Spiti Festival in Kaza. Today’s chief guest is the Tehsildar of Spiti. After the traditional welcome, he was escorted to the stage from where he addressed the gathering. The festivities then began with an award ceremony, wherein awards were presented to winners of the various sports activities held during the three-day festival. The sports events saw participation from different villages across Spiti, and also a Kabbadi team from Rekong Peo in Kinnaur. Memenṭos were also presented to all the volunteers who had helped organise the festival. The chief guest was then seated in the midst of the audience, as per usual practice. Singer Chunnit Chicham took the opportunity to launch her latest album in front of the massive Spiti gathering.
The first performance of the evening was a martial art dance wherein men dressed in traditional finery danced while wielding swords (much like the martial art movies we have seen groing up). As the beats started, the performers started moving their bodies very slowly but elegantly taking small steps forward, moving in a circle around the stage. With time, the beat also picked up as the performers steadily kept pace with it, building to a very fast pace. The performance ended to rousing cheers and thunderous applause.
The next performance was by the women of Mahila Manḍal Ṭangti, (Tangti is a village in Pin Valley). The troupe performed a traditional Spiti folk dance. This was followed by the performers from the Mahila Manḍal Sagnam (Pin Valley), all dressed in traditional Spiti costumes and finery, capped with different and vibrant coloured shawls around the shoulders. This performance was followed by a Dandiya performed by school children showcasing the popular dance form from Gujarat.
Meanwhile, refreshments were doing the rounds around the ground. Apart from the ‘feri walas’ selling munchies to the crowd, there was also a self-help group from Lidang who had set up a stall in one corner of the ground and they were selling hot momos and tea.
Up next was a performance by a school girl who danced to local songs beautifully sung by a young lad. They were followed by a troupe of girls from Lossar, and what struck me was their attire which was different from what we had seen so far. After the Lossar performers came a dazzling performance by the Mahila Mandal Chicham, a small village across a deep gorge from Kibber. A bridge has been recently constructed over the gorge between Chicham from Kibber – till last year this gorge was crossed using a span suspended hundreds of meters above the river, a journey not for the faint hearted. The finale came from Phurbu Negi whose soulful renditions got the crowd to its feet, as they danced and cheered in abandon.
The Spiti Festival has been an amazing experience for me. It gave me an opportunity to get an insight into the centuries old culture of this amazing part of India and it also showed the diversity and harmony among the the people here and how humble they really are. I have been to Spiti several times in the past couple of years, and this time around when I met and interacted with so many people from different walks of life in a social setting, I have come to realise that it is not just the landscapes that makes Spiti beautiful – it is the beautiful people that live here that makes the land beautiful.
I will eagerly wait for next year’s festival, till then it’s ‘see you soon’ from Kaza.