Uttarakhand being a Himalayan state is known for its unique culture and festivals that due to the unavailability of knowledge is only restricted to the hills. One such distinctive festival is the Butter Festival or Butter Holi locally famous as “Andhuri Utsav” or sometimes also spelled as “Anduri Utsav”.
As the name suggests, Butter Holi is a festival in which the local dwellers smear milk, butter, buttermilk or ‘chaanch’ on each other. From elderly to young nobody misses a chance to get drenched in the pristine white colour of Andhuri.
The origin of Butter Holi:
Butter festival as we city-bred people call it is a fair in which the shepherds or the villagers offer fresh produce of their cattle to nature, the driving force of our existence. It is held in the lush velvety meadows of Dayara Bugyal in Uttarkashi that graciously sprawl over an area of 28 sq. km.
Seated at an altitude of 3,048 metres above sea level, this plush bugyal is a home to varied Himalayan wild flora. One can reach Dayara by following a swift trail of 5 km from Raithal village that’ll make you sweat if you are a newbie to hills.
How Andhuri Utsav or Butter Festival garnered the attention of tourists?
Until tourism tip-toed in the virgin meadows of Uttarakhand that were relatively unexplored, Andhuri festival was a myth to the city dwellers of Uttarakhand. From a few years, the tourism industry has started cashing on it by organizing treks, cultural trips, eco-tourism and other terms coined for the same purpose. In one or the other way, they have given some source of livelihood to the inhabitants of the valley.
Where does the festivity of Butter Holi take place?
The Butter festival also known as Makhan Holi is held on Bhadon Sankranti that takes place between August 16 to 18 every year. The procession starts with around 500 villagers who climb uphill to play white Holi with butter and milk on the meadow of Dayara. The locals sing and dance to the beats of Dhol-Damau (a Pahadi musical instrument) and express gratitude towards Bugyal Mata or the “Goddess of Meadow”.
People from neighbouring villages also join in to honour the Bugyal Devi. The youngsters put on a religious theatrical performance for the villagers to feast on. The performers wear elaborate attires and perform skits of Lord Krishna and Radha. Children also participate in the cultural programs, make merry and enrapture themselves in the festive spirit.
All you need to know about Andhuri Festival, famous as “Makhhan Holi” among locals:
Every year on the onset of summers, the villagers of Raithal along with their cattle mount atop Dayara Bugyal tucked in the Garhwal Himalayas. The meadow of Dayara becomes their temporary abode, where they stay for about 4 months until the arrival of winters. During this short stay in the meadow, the cattle graze on the nutritious, organic grass and seasonal fruits that grow in abundance at Dayara during the rainy season.
Before retreating to their village at around mid-August, the shepherd’s express gratitude to mother nature for nursing their livestock. They thank the pastures for providing quality fodder to their cattle and also for their safe survival in the meadows of Dayara. On the first day of Bhadrapada (Sankranti) at around August 16th, the villagers observe Butter Holi in which they worship nature. The locals play Holi with butter and thank Bugyal Devi for blessing their cattle with generous milk production.