Festivals in Spiti Valley- A Whole Guide

 In Festivals, Spiti

Due to its geographical location, Spiti Valley has its roots deeply intertwined in Tibetan Buddhism and Hinduism.  Spiti is home to Indigenous communities who have preserved their age-old customs and unique heritage with great reverence and adherence. Religion plays a major part in their everyday lives and focuses on monasteries and daily prayers and offerings. 

From daily rituals to colourful festivals, every aspect of their daily life reflects a deep-seated connection to their land and its cultural heritage. Spiti Valley comes alive with a number of festivals and celebrations that offer a glimpse into its vibrant culture. From the joyous Losar festival to the mystical Cham dances, each event signifies the region’s rich cultural heritage.

List of Festivals in Spiti Valley

spiti-festivals

The best way to experience the heritage and culture in Spiti Valley is by being a part of their festivals and fairs. Spiti Valley has a number of festivals and fairs that are vibrant and culturally rich and there is always one no matter when you are visiting it. Spiti Valley enthralls everyone with its picturesque beauty surrounded by rugged mountains, pristine lakes, and remote villages.

Having a glimpse of the rich and authentic culture of this Valley will surely make your journey more special and the names of the festivals in Spiti Valley can be listed below:

  1. Dechhang Festival in December/January
  2. Losar/Halda Festival in February
  3. Gothsi/Gochi Festival in February
  4. Fagli In February
  5. Tshechu Fair in June
  6. La Darcha Festival in August
  7. Tribal Fair in August
  8. Pauri Fair in August
  9. Gataur Mela in September
  10. Chakhar Mela in September

Suggested Read: Photography Spots in Spiti Valley

Festivals in Spiti Valley in January

Winters in Spiti Valley are very harsh and tough, when the temperatures drop to -35 degrees C. Electricity and water become a luxury in these months and the entire valley gets buried under a thick blanket of snow, thus bringing life to a complete standstill in Spiti Valley. 

Roads are not accessible due to heavy snowfall and blockages and the Valley remains cut off from the mainland for the entire winter months.

Surprisingly, this is the time when a majority of the festivals are celebrated in Spiti Valley. This is mainly done to keep the local people engaged with something significant and to deter any monotony that comes along with long no interaction periods of seclusion and dark gloomy weather where everyone is confined inside their homes.

Dechhang Festival

dechhang-festival

Dechhang Festival is celebrated in Spiti Valley in January with a lot of excitement and fun although it is extreme winter during the months of January and temperatures go below -20 degrees. 

Local dancers dress up in traditional clothes to perform mask and sword dances. Some of the other highlights of this festival are comic charades, community bonfires, and archery games organized among the villagers. The festival is held for a total of 7 days with a lot of enthusiasm. As a sign of celebration, a sweet dish called Desil is prepared which is basically made out of rice, yak butter, raisins, and almonds and the younger generation distributes it. 

Dechhang Festival in Spiti Valley marks the peak of the winter festival and Arak which is a local barley beer is offered to Mother Earth for the good fortune and well-being of all.

Men in the villages carry a bow and arrow which they shoot in the sky in the direction of a snow mound which is kept in a distance. All village folks dance, rejoice, and celebrate while enjoying the local drink Arak to keep them warm.

The celebration often continues into the whole night with singing and dancing.

Suggested Read: Losar Village

Losar/Halda Festival

halda-festival

This festival marks the celebration of the new year and is celebrated in the month of February in all the monasteries of the valley.  The prime attraction of the festival is the stylized Chham dance, with elaborate costumes and masks; performed by the lamas.

Losar Festival in Spiti Valley is one of the most widely celebrated festivals all over Spiti and Lahaul Valley. In India, it is also celebrated in Ladakh, Arunachal Pradesh, and Sikkim wherever Buddhism is followed and practiced. It is a 3-day long affair and the dates are decided by the lamas in accordance with the lunar calendar. 

The ceremonies comprises of synchronized Chaam dance, with dancers wearing intricate outfits and masks. Losar or Halda festival is quite similar to the Hindu festival of Diwali.  A lot of religious activities such as prayers, debates, dances, and food are available.

Losar is basically celebrated to memorialise the assassination of the cruel Tibetan king, Lang Darma. During the period, members from local households step out with lighted cedar twigs near the Chandra and Bhaga rivers. Lamas assign the designated places for prayers. The branches are collected to form massive bases for the bonfire, which is then immersed into the rivers. On this festival, Shiskar Apa, people worship the goddess of wealth, and the dancing continues for a couple of days.

Gotchi/ Gothsi Festival

gochi-festival
Image Source : Zee Fest

Gotchi or Gochi, is one of the most prominent festivals of Lahaul Spiti region of Himachal Pradesh during the month of February. It is mainly celebrated by the members of those households, who have been blessed with a baby boy in the past year. The people gather in these houses, and drink a sort of wine named Chhang. 

Primarily celebrated in the Bhaga valley in February, villagers gather in the morning for prayers and festivities last late into the night and the villagers share Chhaang (Local drink) to celebrate the occasion. Lambda Gpa, the village priest, offers obeisance to God with a bow and an arrow and Lohars beat drums during the ceremony. Families visit village houses after offering their prayers and proceed to celebrate a large party. 

Another activity which takes place during the day is token marriages of children below the age of six. To do so, children throw snowballs at each other to express their confirmation of their interest. It is a significant tradition in the villages of this region, selecting a suitor whom they will eventually marry later in life. 

Suggested Read: Monasteries in Lahaul Spiti

Fagli Festival

fagli-festival
Image Source : Quora

The Fagli Festival in Lahaul Valley and Spiti is not just a celebration. It’s a vibrant expression of tradition and community spirit which marks the onset of Phagun or Spring. This Festival in Spiti Valley is a cultural extravaganza that ushers in the New Year, signaling the transition from winter to spring. It is celebrated in February on a moonless night and holds profound significance, especially in the Pattan Valley.

Fagli serves as a New Year festival that aligns with the Tibetan or Chinese calendar. The celebration takes place on Amavasya night, ie, a moonless night, throughout the valley. It is also locally referred to as Kus or Kuns. The festival paints the valley in vibrant hues as houses glow with the warm light of oil lamps, reminding of Diwali. 

A main ritual involving this Festival in Spiti Valley is constructing a figure made out of bamboo sticks and a white sheet representing an angel dressed in white, known as Baraza, a symbolic figure adorned with jewelry and marigold flowers. Delicacies are offered to the angel, incense is burnt and families come together for the divine offering of totu, a special dough made of roasted barley flour and buttermilk.

Local men who take part in the celebration wear headpieces made out of fresh flowers and a hand-knitted tunic made of dry leaves. To complete their look, they also wear hand-carved masks which have been passed down through generations. They dance and gently move to the rhythms of drum beats and trumpets, thus creating a very vibrant atmosphere surrounding the entire place of the festival.  It is indeed one of the most beautiful experiences to witness in Spiti Valley. 

Suggested Read: Homestays in Spiti Valley

Festivals in June-August

Come summer, Spiti Valley is bursting with action. It is literally waking up from its deep winter hibernation and everything is vibrant and alive. Roads are cleared up, the villages are prepping up for the upcoming tourists, and nature is also gearing up leafing out fresh growth and spreading life out after a long winter slumber.

Amidst all of this, how can celebrations be left behind? The local people of Spiti Valley are one of the most resilient communities and are known for surviving the harshest of climates and still opening their homes and land to tourists with one of the warmest smiles ever. Therefore, the months of April to September are not only a time for business but also a number of festivities lined up.

Tshechu Fair

tshechu-fair

The Tshechu fair is held every year in June in Shashur, Gemara, and Key Monasteries, KardangTabo, and Mane. During this fair, a vast crowd of followers/people’s gathering takes place . It is usual for Lamas to perform Devil Dance while dressed in elaborate costumes and sporting masks of various birds and animals from Tibet.

This festival serves as a bonding event amongst villagers and reconnecting them with neighboring villages after many months of winter and limited movement.

This fair Indicates the start of summer and is one of the most awaited and anticipated ceremonies of Spiti Valley, as it signifies increasing prosperity in the times to come. Lamas participate in the Cham Dance in colorful and vibrant costumes while the entire valley comes alive with the festivities. The event involves performing cultural dances, and wearing bird and animal masks from the region to arouse the spirit of folks for the flourishing times ahead.

Suggested Read: Spiti Valley Bike Trip

La Darcha Festival 

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The La Darcha Fair offers a glimpse into the undiscovered and unspoiled culture of Spiti Valley, its artifacts, handicrafts, and a myriad of other exquisite goods produced in this region.

This festival has been celebrated in these parts since time immemorial. The La Darcha Fair is also the perfect reminder of the historical proximity between neighborly states and the kinship shared between the Himalayan cousins. 

It is one of the biggest festivals celebrated in the higher Himalayan regions which offers you the rare opportunity to experience the traditional and authentic and eye-pleasing music, dances, and dramas of the remote Himalayan destinations. Earlier, the fair would be held in Kibber Village maidan in Spiti Valley and attract traders from Ladakh, Rampur Busher, and Spiti. Now it is celebrated in Kaza, the sub-divisional headquarters of Spiti.

The La Darcha Fair with its vast array of scrumptious Tibetan dishes, exotic artifacts, and authentic handicrafts is definitely an event worth experiencing. You can either shop for various artifacts, artistically crafted by the skilled craftsmen from the Tibetan Institute of Performing Arts or simply explore the diverse range of paintings, religious beads, jewelry and other colorful items.

Special Highlights of the La Darcha Festival:

  1. Apart from the massive shopping fair and exhibition, the Chaam and Buchan Dance, special Buddhist sermons, and archery competitions are some of the other special attractions of La Darcha Fair.
  2. La Darcha Fair is primarily a festival of trade and business. Hence, it attracts a host of domestic and international traders, brokers, and merchants.
  3. The fair was abandoned in 1962 on account of the Indo-China War. However, it was started again later in 1980.

Tribal Fair in Keylong

tribal-fair-in-keylong

The district’s capital, Keylong, celebrates a three-day tribal fair from August 14th to 16th, which coincides with the country’s Independence Day. People from around the Valley come together to see the fair, attracting many people.

Held at the Police Ground in Keylong, the fair features the best of the region, including folk dances, local music, and an incredible show of colors.

This is also popularly known as Kumbh of Spiti Valley. The fair is important in the valley not only for business purpose, but also because it draws people of different cultural backgrounds together. Even though it is held for the trading aspect, it connects locals with tourists and artists as well.

Thus, in addition to the local artists, performers and cultural artists from Chandigarh, Dharamshala, Leh, Chamba, Kullu, and Spiti are invited to take part in this Fair.

Suggested Read: Keylong Market

Pauri Fair

pauri-fair

Pauri (also known as Pori) fair is celebrated during the 3rd week of August every year. This festival has been the most prominent fair of the Lahaul Valley for a long time. 

Representatives from the entire Himalayan terrain are present during this fair which combines pilgrimage and festival. From a religious point, locals start the preparations a week before the event. Hindus pay respects to Trilokinath Temple, while the Buddhists pray to Avalokiteshvara. The Mantra, OM MANI PADME HUM, is recited every morning and evening during the festival.

After the rituals are over, the fair starts with lots of temporary shops, stalls, etc. being established. Once evening dawns, pilgrims dance in a huge circle to folk songs. On the second day of the fair, a procession occurs, which is headed by the Thakur of Triloknath, riding on a decorated horse, leading up to the spring area where one of seven gods of Triloknath had appeared. After paying respects, the procession returns to the fairground for more festivities.

Festivals in September 

chham-dance

Gatuar Festival

Gataur Festival is celebrated every year in the last week of September. During this festival in Spiti valley, Lamas worship God Chaugayal, and the next evening, saur is thrown into the fire while performing the Chham dance.

Chakhar Mela

Chakhar Mela is held every 3 years around the same time as Gataur Mela in the last week of September. During this Mela,  Lamas worship Lord Chikchait for six days and throw away the Chakhar in the fire on the 7th day. After this ritual Chham dance is performed by the Lamas to commemorate the Festival in Spiti Valley.

Suggested Read: Reasons to visit Spiti Valley

Is there any special accommodation available during festival times in Spiti Valley?

Spiti Valley has a number of options for accommodation and you can book them in advance to avoid last-minute rush and nonavailability.

What types of food are typically prepared during Spiti Valley festivals?

A lot of Spitian and Tibetan delicacies are prepared during Festivals in Spiti Valley. Some of them are Aktori, Chaang, Arak, Diesel, Butter Tea, etc

Is there a specific festival season in Spiti Valley?

Most festivals are held in the summer months between June, August and September when the weather is great and the entire Spiti Valley is open for tourists and locals alike.

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