Theme: Documentation of Intangible Rural Traditions and Practices
by Ms. Barjesh Kumari
HeritageForAll Intern (Call 2019) from Bilaspur, India
Internship Program “Rural Heritage and Traditional Food”
M.A. in Tourism Administration, Himachal Pradesh University
Heritage includes both tangible and intangible aspects that still exist. Intangible heritage of culture are the traditions, rituals, knowledge that is still alive in a way or other. It is people way of living that is followed from generations. Traditions, rituals are the local beliefs of community. This article is a small effort for documenting a famous, an age old trade and cultural fair of people from upper Himalayan region in the state of Himachal in India. It is through fair and festivals that people are living their cultural heritage. It is on these special occasions that people swing on traditional music and present the traditional performances through stage. It is only through these special occasions, festivals, and fairs the cultural heritage of a community is promoted, preserved and kept alive.
UNESCO WHC, through its mission, approves that “heritage is our legacy from the past, what we live with today, and what we pass on to future generations. Our cultural and natural heritage are both irreplaceable sources of life and inspiration”. In addition, UNESCO ICH committee asserts defining the main features of intangible cultural heritage that “cultural heritage does not end at monuments and collections of objects. It also includes traditions or living expressions inherited from our ancestors and passed on to our descendants, such as oral traditions, performing arts, social practices, rituals, festive events, knowledge and practices concerning nature and the universe or the knowledge and skills to produce traditional crafts.”
The Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage defines intangible cultural heritage as the practices, representations, expressions, knowledge and skills – including the instruments, objects artifacts and cultural spaces associated with them – that communities, groups and individuals recognize as part of their cultural heritage. This intangible cultural heritage is transmitted from generation to generation and is constantly recreated by communities and groups in response to their environment, their interaction with nature and their history, and provides them with a sense of identity and continuity, thus promoting respect for cultural diversity and human creativity.
As per UNESCO Documentation consists of recording intangible cultural heritage in tangible forms, in its current state, and collecting documents that relate to it. Documentation often involves the use of various recording means and formats and the collected documents are often preserved in libraries, archives or websites, where they may be consulted by the communities concerned and the larger public. But communities and groups also have traditional forms of documentation such as songbooks or sacred texts, weaving samplers or pattern books, or icons and images that constitute recordings of intangible cultural heritage expressions and knowledge. Innovative community self-documentation efforts and programs to repatriate or disseminate archival documents in order to encourage continued creativity are some of the proven safeguarding strategies increasingly being used.
A fair is a gathering for entertainment or commercial purpose. It is an event in which a large number of people participate. Different stalls or activities are planned for such event. They can be educational- a book fair; corporate- trade fair, job fair. In country like India where there are people from different religions, ideologies, and a country full of heritage and culture fairs are just more than an event for entertainment or commerce. There are different types of fairs that are celebrated for different reasons like fairs of mythological origin, fairs connected with festivals, and fairs for different seasons. People sing, dance, carry deities, worship, perform rituals, eat and enjoy in these events. Fairs were basically a mean of communication, organization, entertainment in ancient times for people prior to the era of technology and advancements. All people gather in flocks ‘hundreds of them’ to participate while ‘Kumbh Mela’ is a mega event that it was recorded as the largest public gathering visible even from space. It is also listed in representative list of intangible cultural heritage of humanity. Melas (Fairs) and Festivals have become very significant mode of promotion of culture and heritage of particular region. (Gupta et. al., 2007).
Lavi Mela is an annual fair that is held in Rampur every year. ‘Mela’ is Hindi word for Fair. On etymology of the word ‘Lavi’ for the name of fair, no clear indications are known why people say it has come from the word ‘Loi’ that means to take something and in this fair people buy things of all purpose. Lavi is now also being organized in other places like Seraj and Reckong Peo as well.
Rampur the venue of this historic fair, is 130 KM from Shimla the state capital of Himachal Pradesh. Rampur Bushahr a town and municipal council was once the capital of Bushahr a hill state in British colonial period. It is situated at the bank of river Satluj. It enjoys good road connectivity as National Highway 22 connects it with the other parts. Bushahr is considered one of the oldest hill state after Kshmir founded in the 15th century. The state included regions from Kinnaur and Shimla districts of Himachal State.
This region is located in Himalayas and is dominated by tribal people. Kinnaur borders Tibet. This particular region of Shimla and Kinnaur of Bushahr state is very much influenced by Tibetan culture. Shipkila Pass in Kinnaur connects the region with Tibet. It is where the Satluj river that originates from Mansrovar lake in Tibet enters India. Tibet and Kinnaur had good trade links in ancient times. It was through Hindustan- Tibet Road the ancient silk route. Lavi fair was started around 300 yrs ago to enjoy this trade interest. A historic treaty was signed between Bushahr and Tibet in 1681 during the rule of Raja Kher Sing (1636-96). This fair is believed to be celebrated to commemorate this treaty. Fair as held in Rampur the state capital of old Bushahr state. Rampur is believed to be gateway to Kinnaur. This place strategically lies on ancient Hindustan Tibet Road route. National Highway 22 is one of the dangerous high altitude road in Kinnaur District that passes through Rampur.
Lavi mela is celebrated every year from 11th to 14th November. This fair is organized by local Municipality. It is now a major interest for tribal people. They participate in this fair with all their pets, handicrafts, dry fruits etc. People from upper regions buy eatable products in volumes for upcoming winter months. Earlier it was an international fair where people from Tibet, China used to participate. Now these merchants are replaced by traders from plains and locals themselves. It is a state level fair of Himachal State. It is a beautiful three day fair that is enjoyed by people where in day time people enjoy trade, selling, and buying activities. Nights are filled with cultural music, and dance performances where local artists and celebrities from Indian Cinema perform.
Earlier in history this fair was organized by the kings and royal family while now the local municipality organizes this event every year. Preparations begin well in advance. Fair Ground is decorated. Stalls, lighting, stage etc are set up. Fair begins with traditional rituals.
Goods’ Stalls: Different stalls of all type of products for sale are set up. These stalls are full of woolen products. Different wooles are also brought by people from Kinnaur for selling. Other than that you can find traditional attire- caps, jackets, pattu, shawl etc. people sell quilts, blankets. Other than textile and handloom people from upper regions bring dry fruits- walnut, chilgoza, apricot, almonds. They bring potato, kidney beans for trading. Traders also bring different jewelry particularly stalls are flanked with Tibetan and Budhism style of metal jewelry, religious painting and idols. Among other things in stalls include traditional musical instruments, utensils, mats, etc. handlooms and handicrafts are sold in this fair.
Horse Trade cum Exhibition: People bring their livestock for trade in the fair. Horse sales begins few days before the fair.
Chamurthi Horse ‘the major attraction’: Among the livestock tribal bring to the fair, Chamurthi Horse also called ‘the ship of the cold desert’ is the major attraction. This animal originates from Tibet region. In India it is only found in the villages bordering China.
Eating Stalls: people earn through setting up eating stalls of different snacks and local cuisines.
Fun Rides: people enjoy the fun rides of Mela. There are so many small to huge swings set up in Mela where children, youngsters pay and take rides and enjoy.
Entertainment Activities and Street Shows: many stalls have entertainment activities such as open circus and fun games like shooting where the winners are given gifts as well.
Dance and Musical Nights: in evening people are entertained through dance and music performances. It is a very good initiative to promote the folk art of the region as local artists perform the local folk dance, folk songs to which the audiences swing in fun. Colorful stage is set up for this. Not only the local artists the nation known singers are also invited.
Kavi Sammelan and Bonfires are one another activity that takes place in which poets recite their compositions. People also enjoy bonfires in nights; they eat, drink, and dance to the folk tunes.
Exhibitions of Various Government Departments: different government departments functional in state like- education, Tourism, Fisheries, agriculture, horticulture, electricity, pollution board, Indian Post, women and child development also participate in the event showcasing their products, schemes, awareness campaigns in the fair.
Exhibitions by Different Organizations: other NGOs, corporations, and organizations like red+cross, Bhuttico, Banks also present through their stalls their message to the general public participating in the fair.
Ministers’ and Governor’s Address to the Public: on the commencement and closing of the fair the ministers, governors and dignities are invited in the fair.
Lavi Fair is an example of our great social, cultural, and economic history and legacy of people that it is celebrated every year with great enthusiasm and vibrancy even today. Fair is helpful in safeguarding the heritage that is still alive in its present form. It provides a great opportunity for local tribal people to participate, to sell, to buy and enjoy. Tribal people take part in trade activities, local artists find a stage to perform. Although the historic records of the fair are very few but this is a great living heritage for people to cherish.
- Major Fairs of State Level. Retrieved November 20, 2019, from https://shodhganga.inflibnet.ac.in/bitstream/10603/121389/12/12_chapter%207.pdf
- Gupta, D. Kulshrestha, S. Thapa, P. (2007). Rural Tourism: Scope and Potential in and around Trikuta Hills. In Bansal, S.P. Gautam P. (Eds.), Cutting Edge Research in Tourism New Directions. Chandigarh: Abhishek Publications, p. 224-228.
- D D News (n.d.), Lavi Mela: The Annual International Fair in Rampur (Himachal Pradesh). Retrieved November 20, 2019, from https://youtu.be/3aVeya9xmq0
- Beauty of Himachal (n.d.), Rampur International Lavi Fair 2019, Shimla, Himachal Pradesh .Retrieved November 20, 2019, from https://youtu.be/xpfklL-tb6c
- Shimla—Himachal Tourism Official Website. Retrieved November 20, 2019, from https://himachaltourism.gov.in/destination/shimla/