The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Hill rally kicks off festivities
- Setting aside political meaning at phulpati

Darjeeling, Sept. 29: Controversies gave way to enthusiasm as the hill people came together to celebrate the biggest community festival here in its true spirit.

Dressed in colourful clothes the residents brought out a phulpati rally in town, singing and dancing all the way without giving much thought to the political implications of the ritual. What mattered more was to be part of a festivity that traditionally celebrates the spirit of the hill people.

I am coming to Darjeeling after almost a year and to be a part rally is like coming home. I did read about the political undertone of the puja but for me the festival is much deep rooted than the politics, said Deep Raj Sharma, a resident of the town who is currently working in Kathmandu.

From Salyani Bhakka to the Lakhay dance of the Pradhan community the hill people witnessed its traditional glory. Interestingly a large number young people took part in the rally wearing traditional dresses.

Phulpati is a unique custom among the Gorkhas in which community members collect flowers, petals and other offerings from their respective houses and take them to the community Puja to pay obeisance to Durga. The decorated palanquin carrying sacred flowers, holy leaves and sugarcane tied in red cloth -the colour symbolising the goddess, is usually accompanied by an ornate umbrella. It is believed that people who pass underneath the palanquin get absolved of their sins. The tradition traces back to the day of Pritivinarayan Shah the unifier of Nepal and the phulpati procession usually starts from Gorkha, his native place and ends at Kathmandu after covering hundreds of miles.

The celebrations do not end with the procession and go on for a couple of days. On Sunday, hill people will come together for Maar the sacrifice of a buffalo or goat. It is on Vijaya Dashmi on Monday that the celebration culminates through the ritual of tika.

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