Chidiyan ra vrat || An interesting fast that all artists will find very interesting

We happened to visit our village in Himachal last week and it was then that I came across a fast known as "chidiyan ra vrat" (tr. fasts of the birds). The objective of this fast is similar to many other fasts - married women observe it to maintain peace and happiness in their married life and single women observe it to ensure they get a good husband. However, what makes this rather unique are the preparations that start from almost a month before the fast and continue till the actual day of the fast.

We happened to visit our village in Himachal last week and it was then that I came across a fast known as "chidiyan ra vrat" (tr. fasts of the birds). The objective of this fast is similar to many other fasts - married women observe it to maintain peace and happiness in their married life and single women observe it to ensure they get a good husband. However, what makes this rather unique are the preparations that start from almost a month before the fast and continue till the actual day of the fast. 
The fast is said to be inspired by the years-long कठोर तपस्या that Mata Parvati performed in order to win over Lord Shiv as her groom. One interesting anecdote related to this fast is that after years of this तपस्या, instead of Lord Shiv, Lord Vishnu got impressed and approached Mata Parvati's father for her hand in marriage. Mata Parvati's father was delighted beyond belief and immediately agreed.

The fast is said to be inspired by the years-long कठोर तपस्या that Mata Parvati performed in order to win over Lord Shiv as her groom. One interesting anecdote related to this fast is that after years of this तपस्या, instead of Lord Shiv, Lord Vishnu got impressed and approached Mata Parvati's father for her hand in marriage. Mata Parvati's father was delighted beyond belief and immediately agreed. 

However, Mata Parvati had been performing this तपस्या for Lord Shiva and she was distressed. Seeing her distress, her friend suggested that she run away from home and hide somewhere where her father wouldn't be able to find her and continue her तप there. Mata Parvati did just that. For years, she continued her तप in a cave, while her father's forces kept looking for her. Then, finally, one day, Lord Shiv was appeased and he agreed to marry her.

However, Mata Parvati had been performing this तपस्या for Lord Shiva and she was distressed. Seeing her distress, her friend suggested that she run away from home and hide somewhere where her father wouldn't be able to find her and continue her तप there. Mata Parvati did just that. For years, she continued her तप in a cave, while her father's forces kept looking for her. Then, finally, one day, Lord Shiv was appeased and he agreed to marry her.   

"chidiyan ra vrat" is also known as हरतालिका तीज, and in 2022, it will be celebrated on 30th August. Every year, it is celebrated on the 3rd day of the शुक्ल पक्ष of भाद्रपद माह.

"chidiyan ra vrat" is also known as हरतालिका तीज, and in 2022, it will be celebrated on 30th August. Every year, it is celebrated on the 3rd day of the शुक्ल पक्ष of भाद्रपद माह. 

Women celebrate it by observing a निर्जला and निराहार fast during the day and at some places, they end the fast by consuming birds made of flour.

Women celebrate it by observing a निर्जला and निराहार fast during the day and at some places, they end the fast by consuming birds made of flour. 

The हरतालिका तीज is celebrated all over India and the rituals associated vary a little with the region. One of the most interesting aspects of this festival is the preparation, as I mentioned before. few weeks before the fast, women get together and knead some clay/earth (in Himachal, they often mix cotton into the clay to make it sturdy) and then create little sculptures out of the mix.

The हरतालिका तीज is celebrated all over India and the rituals associated vary a little with the region. One of the most interesting aspects of this festival is the preparation, as I mentioned before. few weeks before the fast, women get together and knead some clay/earth (in Himachal, they often mix cotton into the clay to make it sturdy) and then create little sculptures out of the mix. 

They create sculptures of Shiv, Parvati, Ganesh, Nandi, some priests reading religious scriptures, musicians playing various instruments and birds and animals of various shapes and sizes. They also create sculptures of 101 little birds. Then once these sculptures dry, they are painted. While the Shiv and Parvati idols get nose and ear rings and clothes, rest of the sculptures are painted in bright colors.

They create sculptures of Shiv, Parvati, Ganesh, Nandi, some priests reading religious scriptures, musicians playing various instruments and birds and animals of various shapes and sizes. They also create sculptures of 101 little birds. Then once these sculptures dry, they are painted. While the Shiv and Parvati idols get nose and ear rings and clothes, rest of the sculptures are painted in bright colors. 

Once the paint dries, these form the बारात of Lord Shiv and Mata Parvati's wedding. Then on the day of the fast, these idols are worshipped. In some communities, a community prayer, followed by a feast, is organized.

Once the paint dries, these form the बारात of Lord Shiv and Mata Parvati's wedding. Then on the day of the fast, these idols are worshipped. In some communities, a community prayer, followed by a feast, is organized. 

We were fortunate enough to be present at our home when the idols had been created and were dry enough to be painted. We wanted to go all creative with our brushes, but our elders advised us to go the traditional route - one layer of a mixture of flour and water, then paint the eyes and beaks, and then just put bright colored dots all over the birds' bodies.

We were fortunate enough to be present at our home when the idols had been created and were dry enough to be painted. We wanted to go all creative with our brushes, but our elders advised us to go the traditional route - one layer of a mixture of flour and water, then paint the eyes and beaks, and then just put bright colored dots all over the birds' bodies. 

This was a practical suggestion, because had we tried to get artistic with the paints, we would have needed at least two full days to get through all the idols. However, we still found a few opportunities while painting peacocks, nandis, priests and Ganesh. It was a focused and tiring exercise, but our taiji, ensured that we had our regular supplies of tea and snacks. It was a fun and creative exercise.

This was a practical suggestion, because had we tried to get artistic with the paints, we would have needed at least two full days to get through all the idols. However, we still found a few opportunities while painting peacocks, nandis, priests and Ganesh. It was a focused and tiring exercise, but our taiji, ensured that we had our regular supplies of tea and snacks. It was a fun and creative exercise.  

There are so many interesting and creative rituals hidden in the everyday lives of Indians that one can spend a lifetime studying them and still not cover even a fraction of the ground. No wonder, people get fascinated by it all and some even take up anthropology as a career.

There are so many interesting and creative rituals hidden in the everyday lives of Indians that one can spend a lifetime studying them and still not cover even a fraction of the ground. No wonder, people get fascinated by it all and some even take up anthropology as a career. 

There are so many interesting and creative rituals hidden in the everyday lives of Indians that one can spend a lifetime studying them and still not cover even a fraction of the ground. No wonder, people get fascinated by it all and some even take up anthropology as a career.

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