Pathron Ka Mela – A Strange Festival of Himachal

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In a land where festivities and fairs are common occurrence, discovering bizarre and queer traditions seems perfectly tenable. Pathron Ka Mela (Festival of Stones) from Himachal Pradesh is also part of this league. It represents a strange gathering, where people pelt small stones at each other in a spirit of celebration. They get injured and the blood that pours from their wounds is used to smear a “tilka” on the forehead of Goddess Kali. 

The fair is held in the Halog village of tehsil Shimla, capital of erstwhile Dhami state. Halog is at a distance of 4kms from the 16-meel ka mod on the Shimla – Bilaspur road. The festival is celebrated generally on the day following Diwali.

Dhami Princely State Ruled by Chauhans - Himachal Pradesh
Dhami Princely State Ruled by Chauhans | Image Credits:

The fair is a unique feature of Dhami’s cultural life.

There are many customs and legends behind the celebration of the event.

According to one legend when Narbali i.e. human sacrifice, was offered to appease Kali Devi in the state.

A sadhu walks past a clay idol of Goddess Kali, the goddess of power in Dhami
A sadhu walks past a clay idol of Goddess Kali, the goddess of power in Dhami | Image Credits: AFP

Later, Rani of the state of Dhami put an end to this cruel custom. In lieu of the human sacrifice, a new tradition of throwing stones at each other was started and one who got wounded, his blood was applied as a Tilak to the Devi.

Fair Enough! At least as a human-sacrifice substitute!

However, according to another legend, the story behind the fair relates to a girl of Halog, who was engaged to Prince of Rangoili. Due to enmity, people of Jamog poisoned the Prince just before the marriage. The girl burnt herself at the pyre of her would be husband and became a sati.

Sati Pratha - India (Gone for Good)
Sati Pratha – India (Gone for Good)

Villagers from both sides then took positions against each other and fought with stones. Since then this event is observed every year in the form of festival of stones.

According to custom, the stone pelting exercise takes place between residents of Halog and Jamog. They line up on either side of the circular structure where the girl has committed sati and throw a virtual shower of stones at each other. These stones are not very large. The fair begins when the priest of Narsingh Devta temple, housed in Dhami’s crumbling Palace walks to the Kali Devi temple accompanied by a team of musicians.

Being injured is considered auspicious and one who bleeds during the pelting of stones is considered an honored devotee of the goddess Kali. His blood is smeared on the forehead of the goddess.

People dress themselves in new attires for the festive celebrations. They line along grassy slopes and throw stones at each other after the arrival of the deity of Nara Singh temple. Thousands of locals from neighboring villages gather here to witness the legendary event.

Earlier, trade of farm equipments formed an integral part of the celebrations to ensure round-the-year prosperity. Now, multinational companies come here every year with electronic goods, modern gadgets and other items.

The local administration and Human Right activists have been discouraging the villagers from participating in the ritual by highlighting the cruelty inflicted upon humans. And, yet the fair is annually celebrated with great fervor and pomp.

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