Almora: Phool Dei, also known as Flower Festival, is a unique and vibrant festival celebrated in Uttarakhand. It is an important part of the region's cultural heritage and is observed by the local communities with great enthusiasm and fervor. The festival marks the arrival of spring and is celebrated on the first day of the Hindu month of Chaitra (March-April) every year.
The word 'Phool Dei' is derived from two Hindi words, 'Phool' meaning flowers and 'Dei' meaning worship. As the name suggests, the festival is all about flowers and involves the exchange of baskets filled with colorful flowers and sweets between neighbors and friends. The festival is especially significant for the women of the region who prepare these baskets and offer them to their neighbors and loved ones.
Preparations for the festival begin well in advance with the gathering of flowers and the making of special sweets like bal mithai, singhori, and til ke laddoo. On the day of the festival, young girls and women dress up in their traditional attire and carry baskets filled with flowers, sweets, and other small gifts to their neighbors' homes. The recipients of these baskets welcome the girls with open arms and offer them blessings, food, and sometimes even money.
The festival is celebrated over a period of several days and each day has its own unique significance. The first day of the festival is known as 'Satudi', which is considered to be a day of purification. On this day, people clean their homes and sprinkle cow dung mixed with water at the entrance of their houses to ward off evil spirits.
The second day of the festival is called 'Gauri Tritiya', which is dedicated to the worship of the goddess Gauri. On this day, women fast and offer prayers to the goddess for the well-being of their families and loved ones.
The third day of the festival is known as 'Ashtami', which is the main day of the festival. On this day, girls and women visit their neighbors' homes and offer them baskets filled with flowers and sweets. The day is also marked by the singing of traditional songs and the playing of musical instruments like dhol and damau.
The final day of the festival is called 'Ram Navami', which is celebrated as the birthday of Lord Rama. On this day, people visit temples and offer prayers to Lord Rama and seek his blessings.
Phool Dei is not just a festival, but a way of life for the people of Uttarakhand. It is a symbol of love, unity, and harmony that brings the community together and strengthens their bond. The festival is also an important tourist attraction, with visitors from all over the world coming to witness the colorful and vibrant celebrations.
In recent years, efforts have been made to promote Phool Dei as a sustainable tourism destination. Local communities are being trained in eco-tourism practices and efforts are being made to preserve the region's natural and cultural heritage.