A Confluence Of Fairs And Sights: Rampur Bushehr
Traveling is important to humans. We are communal creatures that all belong to the same species, but our location determines society’s actions based on cultural and governmental laws. Traveling is important for human happiness and mental health. Studies show that travel can be a great mental and physical stimulant in today’s very demanding world where individuals are constantly dealing with the stresses of work, relationships and maintaining a family. It can be incredibly daunting to travel to places with language and cultural barriers, to learn emotional rules, and more. The military is one of those wonderful organizations that draws on the practical experience of its personnel to overcome the challenges posed by the vicissitudes of terrain, people, languages and cultural diversity, thereby building mental resilience. and physical by its very nature to post them all. across the country and even abroad. This ability of an individual to take on all the above imponderables in their stride while traveling imprints in their psyche for the duration of their life and ultimately shapes their personality. In one of my previous articles, I had dwelt on the royal domain of ‘Rampur Bushehr’ in general, but the present article focuses in particular on the fairs (melas) and tourist places which are like jewels in the collar of one of the once great estates of today’s Himachal Pradesh, as I remember them.
Having had the opportunity to serve in the general area of ’Kinnaur’ in the mid 90s, I had the good fortune and the opportunity to travel to many places of interest including ‘Rampur Bushehr’ my current subject of interest . As mentioned in one of my previous posts on Rampur Bushehr, since it is one of the largest royal estates in HP which came into existence in 1948 as a union territory, the place still has an air of old world charm, intrigue, fairs, temples, and places of tourist interest that have yet to be put on the tourist map. Fairs and festivals are an integral part of our ancient civilization which we cherish endlessly. They act as bridges of humanity for posterity. An important way for young people to help display their handicrafts, arts/artifacts as well as the cultural happenings that come with such events.Himachal Pradesh has been bequeathed with an unparalleled number of fairs and festivals with an itinerary throughout year round for an avid traveler to explore, which act as a catalyst for its people to show off their talent. The evolution of times and of the socio-cultural environment has of course affected the brilliance of these events, but congratulations to the inhabitants who have been the “flag bearers” by often maintaining the essence of these fairs and festivals through their unfailing involvement.
Rampur Bushehr mainly has three (3) main fairs of importance with which he can identify his very being, i.e. ‘Faag Mela (fair), Lavi Mela and Dusshera mela of Sahara. ‘Faag Mela’ was the main fair which was the exclusive domain of the royal house of Bushehr for its conductance and eventual survival through time and tide of events. When the estate was merged with HP, the Rampur City Council took it upon itself to maintain the same rhythm of celebrations year after year. The day following the ‘Holi’ festival is commonly known as ‘Faag’ and in ancient times the revelry was a joint spectacle of bonhomie and camaraderie between the ruler and the governed. During these festivities, the “local deities” in human forms, a peculiarity of Rampur Bushehr, were invited with their dance troupes who danced merrily for three days. On the second day of Faagmela, these local deities took to the streets, alleys and alleyways of the city with their musical instruments in tow. The same standards of celebrations are maintained even today. Bushehr is famous for maintaining the age-old ritual of local deities who all eventually gather at the ‘Padammahal’ where the royal house of Bushehr and the city council distribute largesse in the form of hard cash and goods in kind. Formerly, the ‘Rajmata’ (queen mother) of Rampur Bushehr used to invite all those personalities who were associated with royalty to participate in the final celebrations at the Padammahal. While focusing on the second most important fair in Bushehr i.e. Lavimela, it will be interesting for a reader to know that this fair was initially a mark of “friendship treaty” between the former state of Rampur Bushehr and Tibet which was sealed in the year 1681. But the Sino-Indian conflict of 1962 pushed this famous Lavimela to its margin of existence.
Readers will be surprised to know that even today this Lavimela is known as the largest mela/trade fair in North Delhi with an eye to the myriad of business transactions that take place in the mofussil areas of the hilly terrain of all of Himachal Pradesh, Uttranchal combined. The word “Lavi” originates from the local word “Lai” (wool blanket) which, due to the passage of time and usage, has become deformed into today’s “Lavi”. Every year from November 11 to November 14, this festival/fair is celebrated with the usual pomp and show. The mela was granted state recognition in 1984 with an international label in 1994 by the late CM of HP Mr. Veer Bhadrsingh. It was during the time of Maharaja Kehrisingh (1639-1696) that a treaty of friendship was signed between Rampur Bushehr and Tibet, which was also an act of serendipity. Maharaja Kehrisingh is said to have gone with a sizable size of his force to infiltrate via the Shipki La pass deep into Tibet where he was confronted by the Tibetan general resulting in a brief skirmish. This skirmish then paved the way for an armistice treaty which was eventually converted into a treaty of friendship. According to an official Tibetan document named “Namgya” consisting of 45 lines, this friendship treaty eventually gave shape to a trade environment between the two states that went further and established a permanent culture of trade ties culminating in the current “Lavimela”. .
Lavimela attracts trading partners from distant places like Kullu, Shimla, Lahaul & Spiti as well as the tribal areas of Kinnaur with their cultural troupes in all their glory. The mela has been very active in promoting and dealing in items like Pashmina wool, woolen pattus, Gudum, Chilgoza, Khurmani, almonds, etc. Lord Dalhousie, then Governor General, had a road built in 1850 to facilitate the transit of these goods across the border. in the hinterland of India and vice versa. The same road now bears the name “Hindustan-Tibet Highway” or NH-05 with a dual purpose in mind by Lord Dalhousie, namely to keep an eye on the border areas of India as part of the “Great Game and also promote the border. development of the area in terms of business relations between neighboring states/countries. Rampur Bushehr has also been quite famous for its fascinating tourist escapades which have sadly fallen into oblivion due to a general feeling of apathy and a lack of publicity to boost its USP.
Since the valley of Rampur Bushehr is full of Doedar, Kail, Texas Baccata trees, the flora of the region is further enriched due to the heavy snowfall which starts from October and lasts till May. Tourists here can indulge in trekking, fishing, rafting as they please. The region is famous for a wide range of temples and religious places which are carved in the famous ‘Nagar’/Pahari style of architecture. These religious places have not only been a tourist attraction but also attracted experts in the fields of architecture and engineering, art and sculpture from all over the world for their research and doctoral studies. . Padam mahal of Rampur Bushehr is the epitome of an architectural marvel with a very high class of wood craftsmanship, stone craftsmanship and marvelous carving works. The entire palace was made of wood and stones from the villages of Munish and Dhamred. Mr. Gurmel singh of Rampur was the chief architect of this Padam palace. His son Mr. Gurudev Singh has been the life of this royal estate due to his multifarious pursuits and philanthropic pursuits. Mr. Mansa Ram has been ‘Man’s Friday’ when it comes to the color scheme of this palace. The stone wall around Padam Palace was made from stones brought from the village of “Kanheri” which were then chiseled into a definite shape by a group of about 4 to 5 workers. A special paste based on ‘Mash pulse’ was used to create a mortar for masonry. About 42 km northeast of Rampur Bushehr near ‘Sahara’ is the exquisite temple of ‘Bhimakali’ which is related to the ancient capital of Shonitpur as explained in our Hindu scriptures.
The Saharan Bushehr is about 7,500 feet above mean sea level, surrounded by lush, verdant forests, lakes and gurgling hillside streams. This place is famous since ‘Dawparyug’ as mentioned in our Hindu mythology. It has an excellent hotel maintained by Himachal Tourism as “ShriKhand Hotel” from where excellent lofty peak of ShrikhandKailash rising about 18,000 feet can be seen. From the Saharan one can also go to the famous “Nalati stadium” which was built in 1917. Nearby is the breeding center of the HP state bird – the Monal. A marvelous hot water sulfur spring is known to exist at a place called ‘JUERI’ which due to its location beside the Hindustan-Tibet highway is all the rage. I had the opportunity to have a quick dip in one of these sulfur springs on my way to Rupa Valley from Shimla. According to Hindu mythology “Bheem”, one of the Pandav brothers had drawn water from this place for his mother “Kunti”. It is given to understand that all skin problems are cured by these medicinal waters that constantly flow from Jeuri. Jueri is also known to be famous as a pilgrimage center with thousands of pilgrims gathering at Makarsakranti. Slightly northeast of Rampur Bushehr is the 3000 meter high ‘Sharaikoti’ peak which houses an excellent temple of Goddess Durga in all her finery and temporal existence. From here one can see the fascinating scenes of ‘Narkanda’ and the British era rest house at Daranvalley.
Although an article of the size of about 1600 or 1700 words is insufficient to cover all the finer points of travel and tourism as exposed in places as pristine as Rampur Bushehr, but sometimes a written word is needed with plenty of detail for avid travelers to take the road less traveled to such offbeat places. The need is to unravel these places to their full potential for the outside world. As Ibn Batuta rightly said centuries ago —- “Travelling leaves you speechless, then turns you into a storyteller.” You can only tell a story if you have travelled.
(The author is a retired army officer and a regular Rising Kashmir columnist. Email: [email protected])