The Thoda (Traditional sports of arrow and bow) fair in the North Indian State Himachal Pradesh at Jubbarhati, nearly 20 kilometres from the State capital, Shimla, was organised by the rural Thoda lover.
This fair is a blend of the religious beliefs of the people and their love for the century-old sport of arrow and bow. This is an attempt to preserve and promote the Thoda sports and also two days of celebration for the villagers here.
This two-day festival started on December 13. Here, it is called the fair of “Naukhi Daali”, as the deity is addressed as a unique tree variety. Villagers offer prayers to the tree of unique branch variety. It is believed that there was only one tree of this variety, and people offered prayers to the tree as deity Narsingha(Bhagwan Shiva). This festival is organised also to please the local deity Narsingha(Bhagwan Shiva). Traditionally, with the musical traditional drums, elders and young with an arrow and bow hit a person one by one on his legs and enjoy the hitting.
The team of Thoda comes to a small ground, dancing and singing the songs to please the deity and also to challenge each other. The villagers come to see and enjoy the traditional dance sport of Thoda here.
The youth of the rural areas in Shimla want to promote this century-old tradition in the form of sport and carry forward the rich tradition. The new generation is trying to contribute to the promotion of this rich tradition, sport and art.
The dance and traditional musical instruments are the main attraction in this Thoda. We want to preserve this significant symbol of our culture as it is a thousand-year-old sport and preserve it for more than a hundred years ahead, said a youth.
“This sport has a very old history that dates back to the age of Kauravas and Pandavas. We want to promote this century-old tradition. We have only two elders now left in our team and all youth want to promote it. We also demand to promote this tradition as sports.,” said Narender Thakur, a young Thoday player.
This Thoda dance is organised in different corners of India, but here, it is different in its religious significance. This local fair is called the festival of NOKHI DALI KA MELA (the fair of a unique branch of a tree) as traditionally it was started to offer prayers to the branch of a tree to please the local deity Narsingha(Bhagwan Shiva) two centuries ago.
Villagers had been organising the THODA game in this traditional festival. Before starting this fair, the family members of the priest of the local temple, along with the Thoda party, gather here to offer prayer. A procession leads towards the ground, and the players start hitting arrows at a person one by one.
The priest of the temple said that the faith of villagers in local deities is reflected through the celebration of the fair.
“We have a temple in Narsingh Maharaj where one of the priests had a dream that a unique branch of a plant will have the place of the deity.
After the airport was built, this fair was moved to a new place here. Thoda sports are organised here. This is also a fair meeting for hundreds of villagers here. The tradition of this fair started from the traditional sport of Thoda,” said Om Prakash Sharma, priest of the local temple.
The organisers believe that it is important to save these traditional festivals of Thoda and also to please the local deity and preserve the tradition and culture of the region. This is believed to be the centuries-old fair, with people from dozens of villages in the region.
“This fair has been organised for 122 years here, I have been organising this fair since 2019. I am happy to organise this tradition here. We want to promote this tradition and culture here,” said Baldev Raj, an organiser.
The elders want to preserve and promote this festival. The villagers and residents are trying to promote the rich tradition and believe that this arrow and bow tradition is important in the religious ceremonies of local deities.
“This tradition is very old and it’s been organised here for the last 122 years. This fair was named Naukhi Daali as the Narsingh Bhagwan was residing in this Unique tradition and the Thoda dance and sports are being prepared here. We are promoting this dying cultural tradition. We want to attract the youth to preserve this heritage and we also demand Government support to preserve this rich culture and traditions. Thoda dance should be promoted as sports. Only then shall we be able to preserve and promote this culture,” said Ramgopal Thakur, a local villager.
(with inputs from ANI)