Amidst fear of ‘Lumpy’ disease, festival of farm animals ‘Khatarua’ celebrated in Kumaon
B.D.Kasniyal & Prem Prakash Upadhyay ‘Natural’
Bageshwar/Pithoragarh, Sept 18
Amidst reports of ‘Lumpy’ diseases spreading in cows even in the hill state of Uttarakhand, ‘Khatarua’, a special festival of pastoral- agricultural Kumaon society of Uttarakhand was observed on Saturday. The festival is observed annually on the first day of Ashvin, the seventh month of the Hindu calendar. The festival honours farm animals and is believed to protect rural livestock from all evil.
A special festival of the pastoral and agricultural community in the Kumaon region, ‘Khatarua’ is observed in mid-September to mark the onset of autumn and winter. During the festival, large quantities of fire-wood and dry grass are stacked at cross-roads or open grounds and bonfires are lit in the evening.
As per traditions in Kumoan region, on the last day of the Hindu calendar month of ‘Bhadon’, the cowsheds are cleaned. Not only green soft grass laid out for them but even they are fed special dishes. According to historians, the festival is celebrated in Kumaon, Garhwal and some areas of Nepal for the well being of the farm animals.
People bury a long wood plank in their courtyards and collect dry grass, wood bush, pine leaves and give it a shape of an effigy which is called ‘Khatarua’. The farm animals get the best service on this day as they are given green nutritious grass along with other eatables. Women sing folk songs while feeding grass to the cows and other farm animals.
The meaning of the folk songs are; “I will find good nutritious food for you from the forests and fields. Long live you too and may your master also live long..May your descendants grow so much that the entire Goth (the place where the cows live) is filled and the children of your master also have a long life”.
Later in the evening the ‘Khatarau’ erected in the courtyard with pine wood is set on fire after cleaning of the cowsheds amidst singing of folk songs dedicated to the well being of the animals
The festival also marks the end of rainy season and start of winter months. The festival also showed the utmost concern of the mountain people towards their farm animals. After setting fire to ‘Khatarau’ in their courtyards, people dance around the fire. After the fire is doused the ashes considered auspicious are taken home and applied on the foreheads of animals and humans alike.
Young Girl killed by leopard during festival celebrations
Pithoragarh: Tragedy struck the family of pan singh mahra whpo was celebrating Khatarua festival at his home , when his three and half years old baby girl was taken away by a leopard in Chachret village of Berinag sub- division of Pithoragarh district last evening..
“While the family of Pan Singh, was celebrating ‘Khatarua’ festival at their home, the baby girl was on the back of her mother Kavita, when suddenly a leopard puanced upon her from a nearby bush and snatched the girl from her mother’s back,” said Chandra Mehra, a forest officer of Berinag range of Pithoragarh division of forests.
According to the forest officer, while the parents screamed in disbelief, the villagers ran after the leopard, who left the body of the girl some 150 meters away from the victim’s home.