Harela & Bhituli Festival
On the first day of the navaratris (nine day holy period) of the month of Chaitra women fill baskets with soil and sow seven types of grains in them. The grains germinate symbolizing the future harvest. These yellow leaves, called Harela, are cut on the tenth day and people put them on their heads and behind their ears. During the month of Chaitra (March-April) brothers send presents to their sisters. These presents are called Bhitauli.
Harela is curiously a Kumauni festival celebrated to mark the beginning of the rainy season or the monsoon. The celebration falls on the first day of Shrawan and ten days before the due date kernels of either five or seven kinds of grains are mixed together and sown in clay pots inside a room, using tiny baskets filled with fertile soil. This ceremonious sowing is done either by the head of the family or the family priest. Holy water is sprinkled on every family member after the worship is over for peace.
The grains which germinate symbolize the bountiful future harvest of a farmer. The connotation of Harela lies in the fact that it offers an occasion to the farmer to test the qualities or defects of the seeds he has in his store. The festival becomes an occasion to give token monetary allowances or pocket money to the young girls of the family. The tender green shoots (hence called Harela) that germinate are cut off on the tenth day and people put them on their heads and behind their ears.
Bhaitauli, on the other hand, falls in the month of Chaitra of Hindu calendar. It is celebrated on the first day of Saavan with lots of pomp and splendor everywhere. On this day the fathers (and after their demise, the brothers) visit the conjugal home of their sisters with lots of gifts. It is basically to see if their sisters are happy and content there or not. The religious rites and rituals during this festival are feted with much admiration.
The significance of Harela lies in the fact that it provides an opportunity to the cultivator to test the qualities or defects of the seeds he has in his store. Another significance is that the festival is the occasion to give taken monetary allowances - pocket money to the young girls of the family.