Culture

The Wayfarer Diaries: Kamru Morning

0922 hours, 13-01-2018, Kamru, Kinnaur, Himachal Pradesh, India:

The weather is clear today and the sun is beating down hard; the cold winds blowing across the Sangla Valley is, of course, taking the sting off the heat, reminding us it is very much winter and thus forcing one to keep your body covered as much as possible.

Kamru lies in a sunny area, so keeping oneself warm is easier and so less fire wood is consumed. It is different for the other nearby villages such as Chasang, Batseri and most of the villages on the other side of the Baspa River, which are beret of the direct rays of the sun and only receive its warmth for a few hours of the day, making it very difficult to perform daily activities in the harsh cold.

As there hasn’t been any snowfall for the past 8-9 days, the haze and the smoke coming off the fires have disrupted the view to some extent though it still isn’t as bad as it is in Shimla or any other city these days.
Incidentally, today is Lohri, a festival celebrated by Sikhs and Hindus in Punjab and parts of Northern India, to mark the end of the winter according to the Bikrami calendar. It is celebrated the night before the Hindu festival Makar Sankranti. Since morning I have been getting Happy Lohri messages from friends across India.

In Kinnaur, people celebrate Makar Sankranti which will be tomorrow. Makar Sankranti is a Hindu harvest festival. It marks the transition of the sun into the zodiac sign ‘Makar’ or Capricorn on this day, marking the end of the month with the  winter solstice and the start of longer days. Makar Sankranti is one of the few Hindu festivals observed according to Solar cycles (most festivals are set by Lunar cycle of the Hindu calendar).

It is known by different names in different parts of India (Magh Bihu, Bhogali Bihu in Assam, Pongal in Tamil Nadu, Makara Sankranthi, Makar Sankranti, Poush Sankranti, among others).

It is a joyous occasion with many different festivities, mela (fetes), kite-flying bonfires, and social interactions.

Sangla Valley

Sangla Valley covered in haze and smoke as the day progresses; Photo: Abhinav Kaushal

Baspa Through Sangla Valley

View of the greenish water of the Baspa Rriver with the mountains towards Chasang; Photo: Abhinav Kaushal

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