Edmolin.com

Informed Today Influential Tomorrow

Tours Travel

The locals of Parengtar, a village on India-Bhutan border, are reviving the ancient practice of Kholey Dai

Parengtar — a quaint hamlet on India-Bhutan border in West Bengal’s Kalimpong district
| Photo Credit:
Special Arrangement

Dotted with green trees, the grid-shaped, sienna-toned paddy fields of Parengtar — a quaint hamlet on the India-Bhutan border in West Bengal’s Kalimpong district — overlook the blue-grey mountains. The nip in the air and a sudden burst of activity augurs the advent of the harvest season. Villagers, mostly comprising the Rai people, are making cloth banners, poplin-roof shacks, traditional food and stacking up the harvest for the grain to be sifted from the chaff. The preparations for the third edition of the community-driven, zero-waste Kholey Dai Harvest and Music Festival are in full swing.

Past forward

In December 2021, Parengtar Nawlo Umange Welfare Society, community tourism organisation Muhaan, Cafe Kalimpong and Backwoods Adventure Camp curated the festival’s first edition.

In December 2021, Parengtar Nawlo Umange Welfare Society, community tourism organisation Muhaan, Cafe Kalimpong and Backwoods Adventure Camp curated the festival’s first edition.
| Photo Credit:
Special Arrangement

In December 2021, Parengtar Nawlo Umange Welfare Society, community tourism organisation Muhaan, Café Kalimpong and Backwoods Adventure Camp curated the festival’s first edition. It saw a daily footfall of nearly 400 visitors. The number rose to 2,000, in the second edition.

“Previously, through Parma, a type of barter of labour, people would gather to work together in each other’s fields. Many travelled between India and Bhutan border during the harvest time. To separate the grain, they would dance over the harvest. It is believed that many, in those times, found their partners during such dances,” begins Roshan Rai, president of Parengtar Nawlo Umanga Welfare Society.

Farm labourers also make the cattle walk over the harvest while winnowing and threshing

Farm labourers also make the cattle walk over the harvest while winnowing and threshing
| Photo Credit:
Special Arrangement

However, the Gorkhaland movement of 1986 and ethnic tensions in Bhutan in 1991 impacted the lives of those who frequented the village as farm labourers. “This also reduced the manpower. And slowly, the tradition started to fade. In the ’90s, the elders of the village decided to restart the practice. They called the village children to play on the yield and served them porridge made with freshly sifted rice. Eventually, this practice faded too; but, it is an inspiration for our festival: etymologically, Kholey Dai comes from Kholey, meaning porridge, and Dai, which refers to the post-harvesting process of rice,” he explains.

Girls dress up in traditional attire to perform the Rai Silli dance

Girls dress up in traditional attire to perform the Rai Silli dance
| Photo Credit:
Special Arrangement

What’s in store?

Dance troupe performs Maruni dance at the Kholey Dai Festival

Dance troupe performs Maruni dance at the Kholey Dai Festival
| Photo Credit:
Special Arrangement

While winnowing and threshing are the cynosure of the three-day festival, it is also packed with folk music and dances rooted in the culture of the region. This year’s line-up includes nearly 15 musicians, including Bipul Chhetri and the Travelling Band, Mookhuri, Purna Rai, Ghugu Mugu and Shreedhaya Sisters. There will be eight folk dance performances too — Lepcha folk dance, Damai Naumati Baja, Maruni dance and Rai Silli dance, to name a few.

Bipul Chhetri and the Travelling Band

Bipul Chhetri and the Travelling Band
| Photo Credit:
Special Arrangement

“Besides, there are 24 food stalls serving local delicacies of Kalimpong and Darjeeling, like wachipa (a traditional food of Kiratis made of burnt chicken feathers and rice), kukhura ko jhol (local chicken soup), kodo ko roti (millet chapati), corn rice and sel roti. Don’t miss the local millet beer, tongba. These will be served in plates made of leaves and containers made of bamboo,” says Arunavh Dam, founder of Muhaan.

Locals dish out traditional cuisine at the Kholey Dai Harvest and Music Festival

Locals dish out traditional cuisine at the Kholey Dai Harvest and Music Festival
| Photo Credit:
Special Arrangement

For nature lovers, the festival offers hikes to nearby rivers, like Jaldhaka, where they could engage in fishing or birdwatching. “There will be about 15 stalls selling traditional bags, clothes, crochet items, paintings, bamboo products, terracotta and handicrafts, second-hand books and local organic produce,” adds Arunavh. While the funding for the festival comes from crowdsourcing, Arunavh shares that the administration and small organisations too have started pitching in. “All the earnings are pumped back into the festival,” he states.

The festival offers hikes to nearby rivers, like Jaldhaka, where they could engage in fishing or birdwatching

The festival offers hikes to nearby rivers, like Jaldhaka, where they could engage in fishing or birdwatching
| Photo Credit:
Special Arrangement

Boarding and lodging

Bagdogra International Airport is about 11 kilometres from Siliguri, which is 112 kilometres (four hours) from Parengtar. Toreach the village, you can take a shared taxi from Siliguri between 1pm and 3pm. “There are 15 to 20 homestays run by locals of the village, starting at ₹1,500 per day. Our festival passes offer stay and entry tickets, which include bed and breakfast. You could also stay in tents, priced ₹1,500 per person,” informs Arunavh.

Visitors rest in thatched-roof gazebos on the festival’s premises

Visitors rest in thatched-roof gazebos on the festival’s premises
| Photo Credit:
Special Arrangement

So, if you like to live off the grid and have an appetite for all things folksy, Kholey Dai Harvest and Music Festival comes calling from Dec 15 (8am) to December 17 (11:50pm). Who knows, you might even find your future partner while dancing and threshing! Tickets start at ₹1,025 on www.muhaan.in/eventpasses.

A sneak peak into the country’s biggest events and festivals before they happen. So, you want to travel more? Watch this space.

LEAVE A RESPONSE

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *