Uttarakhand’s famous ‘stone-pelting’ fair in Champawat in which two groups hurl stones or fruits on each other will not be held this year.
The fair called Bagwal, held in Champawat district, every year has been cancelled this year due to the Covid epidemic. The decision in this regard was taken in a meeting of the local administration and the temple and fair committee of Devidhura on Thursday, an official said.
This fair is held every year on the occasion of Raksha Bandhan on the premises of temple dedicated to Goddess Varahi Devi in Devidhura area, a tiny hamlet around 75 km from the district headquarters. Earlier, it was decided to hold a symbolic Bagwal to mark the age-old tradition, but now it will be not held at all.
“There will be no fair or Bagwal this year. Only prayer will be held by the committee members in the temple, while maintaining social distancing,” said SN Pandey, district magistrate, Champawat.
Devidhura’s Bagwal fair is different from other traditional fairs in Uttarakhand due to its ritual of hurling stones. Earlier, stones were used to play Bagwal, but after the intervention of the state High Court in 2013, the fair committee decided to play it with various kind fruits of like apple, guava peach, lemon and flowers instead of stones to avoid injuries.
Kriti Bhallav Joshi, chief priest of the temple, said, “Bagwal is an ancient religious practice of Kumaon. Though there is no document about it, but it is said that Bagwal used to be played in Katturi regime in the Kumaon region in the sixth century. According to folklore, there was a tradition of offering human sacrifice once a year to goddess Varahi. As time passed, it was converted into Bagwal.”
“It is played between Chamyal, Walik, Gaharwal and Lamgariya Khaam (clans) of the seven local villages. They split into two groups at the time of Bagwal and as the chief priest gives a signal by blowing Shankh (conch), they start pelting stones at each other. After a few minutes, the priest again gives a signal to stop Bagwal. Devotees try to offer their blood to Goddess through this practice,” he added
Joshi said in the present situation it is very important to check Covid-19 outbreak. “Large gatherings could spread viral infection so we decided to cancel the fair this year. Thousands of devotees and people used to gather to witness the event from across the country”, he said.