Kumaon’s melodious “Baithki Holi” retains its traditional fervour and warmth
Hill homes will soon come alive with the sounds of classical music
Holi is a festival that stretches over months in the hills of Uttarakhand. It is extremely interesting to note that while preparations for Christmas can be seen all around in the country, it is only in Uttarakhand that very soon, the celebrations of Holi will begin in the Kumaon region of the State and in Kumaoni homes everywhere.
In the Doon valley too. Also, Kumaonis who live in other parts of the country begin to hold baithhaks of classical music whenever possible.
At the height of winter, on the first Sunday of the Indian month of Paush (which falls on December 23 this year),begins the traditional “Baithki Holi” of Kumaon which helps to bring a lot of warmth to homes and hearts with its musical “mehfils” that brighten up the winter evenings in the hills every year.
Though the Holi celebrations of Mathura and Vrindavan are very well-known, the special celebrations of Kumaon, though not so widely known, have features which are very different from Holi celebrations anywhere in the country. Holi in Kumaon is a festival of rhythm and melody, of songs and music. Kumaon’s “Baithki Holi” is unique and nothing similar to it is found in any other part of the country. Folk songs, of course, form a part of Holi celebrations elsewhere but ragas of Hindustani classical music make the Kumaoni Holi so different and fascinating.
“Baithaks” begin in households in the region and various ragas are sung. Most of these Baithaks are attended by men folk.” Mahila Holi” begins after the festival of Basant. In this, women visit their friends and inside the homes, they sing and dance to the accompaniment of folk music instruments like the “dhol” and “manjeera”.
For the rest of the country, Holi may be just a festival of colours but for the Kumaoni folk, it acquires another, extremely rich, dimension when it is linked to the ancient Hindustani Classical Music tradition. Raagas lend their depth and melody to the festival long before Holi is actually played. Amid the severity of the winter comes this melodious promise of spring when the hills are covered with flowers of various hues and “Phagun” finally arrives.
The Baithki Holi is also known as “Nirvan Ki Holi”. The Baithki Holi begins from the premises of temples, where Holiyars (the professional singers of Holi songs) as also other people gather to sing classical ragas. Ragas and raginis are the colours with which Baithki Holi is celebrated. It is one of the most fascinating aspects of Kumaon’s cultural heritage.
At noon, songs based on Peelu, Bhimpalasi and Sarang ragas are sung while evening is reserved for the songs based on the ragas like Kalyan, Shyamkalyan and Yaman. The compositions are sung in Hindi, Brajbhasha and Kumaoni languages. A spiritual touch is evident in the choice of songs.
The harmonium and tabla are important for the Baithki Holi. “Baithaks” are held in all Kumaoni households and are accompanied by a lot of festivity and cheer. Some people get together in groups in the villages and sit around bonfires to sing ragas all night. Such bonfire Baithaks are a special feature of this Holi.
The origin of the musical tradition of Holi goes back to the 15th century Champawat court of the Chand Kings (1400 to 1790 AD) and the adjoining regions of Kalikumaun, Sui and Gumdesh where the musical traditions of Braj mixed with Kumaoni musical traditions prevailed. With the spread of Chand rule and integration of Kumaon under them, the Holi traditions spread all across Kumaon and acquired their distinct Kumaoni flavour. Interestingly, the Baithhaki Holi was strengthened by the efforts of renowned musician Ustad Amanullah Khan who came to Almora from Rampur somewhere in the decade of 1850-60. The songs that are rendered in the Baithhaki Holi include the verses composed by Surdas, Meera, Kabir and Tulsidas as well as those by Kumaoni poets Charu Chandra Pandey and Maheshanand Gaur.
After the Baithki Holi begins the “Khari Holi”, a week before Holi, and this makes the shift from sitting to getting up and dancing to celebrate the advent of spring in the hills. The Khari Holi is mostly celebrated in the rural areas of Kumaon. The songs of the Khari Holi are sung by the people, sporting traditional white kurtas and churidar pajama dancing in groups to the tune of ethnic musical instruments.
“Mahila Holi” also begins around this time. A week before the festival, Kumaon is steeped in dance and music.
On the actual day of Holi,” Holiyaron Ki Tolis” consisting of young and old visit all the Kumaoni households and give their blessings.
In cities, several days before the festival, professional dancers and singers stage programmes which are attended by Kumaoni people in large numbers. Kumaonis residing anywhere in the country or abroad religiously celebrate the “baithki”, “khari” and “Mahila” Holi.
Among the popular songs of Kumaon Holi are “Jhankaro, Jhankaro, Abke Phagun arj karat hun, dil kar de matwaro,tum ho braj ki sundar gori, main mathura ko matwaro” and “ han hanji haan, Seeta van mein akeli kaise rahi hai, kaise rahi din raat, seta van mein, kantak charan chalai seta van mein”.
Most of the songs are related to the life of Ram and Seeta and Radha and Krishna. Their spiritual nature gives the name “Nirvan Ki Holi” to Baithki Holi. Read more posts…
Thursday, 13 December 2018 | JASKIRAN CHOPRA | Dehradun–
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