Celebrating Shiva in Rewalsar

Unsettled weather has deterred us from going further north into the mountains so we’re staying in Rewalsar a few more days until temperatures warm up and the rain stops.  During sunny spells, we walk out of Rewalsar, into the terraced fields below the town – along winding paths literally through farmers’ yards. Quite different from the country walks in Sarahan, but nevertheless, country.  The land seems so old, with its criss cross cow paths on the steep hillside, and every inch of tillable soil utilized.  Only the invasion of plastic wrappers brings us into the 21st century. Just about everybody meets us with a smile and “namaste”.
 
Just as we thought Rewalsar had settled down from the Dalai Lama’s visit, it became host to a three day long Hindu Shiva festival, celebrated in the Punjab and for some odd reason here as well. Surprisingly, the Sikhs also participate in their own way, providing a free langar at the gurudwara. It is not clear to us why or what they’re celebrating.
The blurred line between sacred and profane is no different at this festival.  In the early morning the dedicated take a dip in the murky cold waters of Lotus Lake. All the while the women are chanting in the temple close by.  Decorated Shiva statues are paraded through the narrow street, accompanied by drums and horns. 


The lake is ringed by hundreds of stalls, targeting women with everything from bed sheets, steel cooking utensils to bras and nail polish.  Mounds of glazed deep fried yellow dough and other sticky sweets keep sugar levels high.  Fortune tellers, orange robed sadhus compete with deformed beggars for rupees.  A young girl walks and pirouettes on a rope tied not so tightly from one tree to another, while her little brother performs cartwheels and backbends.   A transvestite danced on an oriental carpet to drums and cymbals in the entry way of our guest house to an entranced audience of entranced women and children.  As evening descends, the temples and gurudwara light up like Christmas trees, and the drumbeats continue well into the night.
Two days later, everyone leaves and the town returns to its familiar self. 

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