Uttarakhand, the land known for its sanctity and religious fervor, is a cauldron of religious festivity. The unique cultural tradition in this Himalayan state invites people from every section to witness the wonderful saga of cultural and religious merriment. One of these traditions in the state is an inimitable festival called Bagwal where people dance and sing and pelting small pebbles to each other to express their joy.
Bagwal literally means "fight with stones". This unique festival is celebrated in Devidhura village, which is located at a distance of 75km from Champawat district town. The hamlet is located at the tri junction of three districts Nainital, Almora and Champawat and easily accessible from any of these places.
In ancient time, Bali (a man as a gift presented to god for appeasement) presented to goddess Barahi every year, which became a tradition among people in that part of the world. Every year a man was gifted to Maa Barahi from a group of people called Kham. One year, an old woman's turn came, but she was helpless because she had only one grandson and she was reluctantly sacrificed him to goddess.
Goddess Barahi granted to leave her grandson but gave an option of gifting blood equal to the blood present in the body of an average man. The Bagwal festival was originated from this exception day an since the time it is celebrated in particular place every year. Although it sounds an unusual story, but people of Uttarakhand have deep faith in the legend and goddess Barahi.
The Bagwal festival is celebrated on the day of Rakshabandhan, on the month of Sravan. On this day the chief of Kham along with the priest of temple, they worship Maa Barahi. After the puja, Prasad is distributed among devotees and four people were prepared for fight.
The fighters enter the temple complex with sticks and a cover (farra) and revolve around the temple like a dance movement and sing devotional song. Some people beat drums, and some sing folk songs. Two groups then start throwing stones to each other and no matter how much injury has taken place, they won't stop until the priest ask them to do so after inspecting the proper amount of blood is shed for the goddess.
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