By Vishal Gulati
Dhami: This Himachal Pradesh town, once a hunter’s paradise of British India, is known for a unique cultural life – a virtual shower of stones to appease Hindu goddess Kali.
A day after Diwali, the festival of lights, male adults of the town in their colourful best gather in the former princely state of Dhami, some 25 km from state capital Shimla, and pelt one another with small stones.
At least, six people were injured on Thursday and the pelting lasted for more than 15 minutes. It was subsequently stopped as one of the participants started bleeding profusely, says a government official.
In local parlance the ritual is known as ‘pattharon ka mela’ (fair of stones).
The pelting of stones is between two groups – one representing the royal family of the erstwhile princely state of Dhami and the others comprising the commoners – over a circular structure, where a rani or queen had committed ‘sati’ or the former practice of a widow throwing herself on to her husband’s funeral pyre.
Old-timers say it was a bloody affair in the past.
“The practice was introduced centuries ago to shun the tradition of ‘narbali’ (human sacrifice) that was prevalent here also like other parts in the state,” describes octogenarian Dhyan Chand.
Earlier, there used to be a bloody affair at the stone pelting ritual, he said. “Nowadays with the intervention of human rights groups and the deployment of adequate police, it has become more a ritual exercise and the participation is getting lesser each year.”
A local committee, mainly comprising descendents of the erstwhile royal family, is the ritual organiser.
To avoid bloody clash, the government deploys adequate police and medical teams.
The ‘battle’ of stones commences after the deity of the Narsingh temple in over 250-year old Halog, the crumbling palace, arrives at the Kali temple also located in the town.
The stone pelting exercise takes place between the residents of Halog, the erstwhile capital of Dhami estate, and neighbouring village Jamog.
As per the belief, a devotee who receives injuries in stone-pelting is considered a devout of goddess Kali. The oozing blood is applied as a ’tilak’ to the goddess.
The one-day fair is attended by locals and tourists in good strength.
On this day, the locals buy farm implements to ensure prosperity and protection from natural calamities.
“We normally buy implements on this auspicious occasion,” farmer Bhim Sen said.
Goddess Kali personifies ‘Shakti’ or divine energy and considered the goddess of time and change and is widely worshipped in Hinduism.