The fair started in 935 A. D. when the Raja of
Chamba defeated the ruler of "Trigarta,"
now known as Kangra. On his return, a celebration was held, and he was
greeted by people with sherfs of paddy and maze.
A Former Ritual
Held in August, this lively fair once began on a macabre note. Upto 1943, a live Buffalo was pushed into the River Ravi. If the rushing waters swept it away, it would be seen as a propitious sign - the sacrifice had been accepted. If the hapless animal managed to struggle its way to the opposite bank that too would be taken as a good sign - all bad luck now stood transferred to the other side.
Today, the Buffalo's place has been taken by a Rupee, a coconut, a seasonal fruit and a golden silk Minjar wrapped in a red cloth. The fair has become a celebration of the young paddy and maize shoots that emerge out of the soil towards the end of July and it is a joyous prayer for a good harvest.
The Minjar symbol that is worn by all who throng towards Chamba's Chowgan, resembles the stands of a corn-cob and is normally made of silk. On the first day of the fair, the image of Lord Raghuvira arrives. This is followed by images of other local Devtas, deities and their insignias.
Coupled with agricultural expectations, the Minjar fair it is said, has come down the ages to commemorate Raja Sahil Verman's victory over the ruler of adjoining "Tirgata" now kown as Kangra. It was the defeated king who symbolically presented the ruler of Chamba with fresh sprouts of paddy and maize.
A variation of the story declares that the river Ravi used to flow near the Hari Rai temple. There was a great sage who crossed the river everyday to pray at the temple, Raja Sahil Verman approached him and asked him to make the temple accessible to everyone. For a week, the sage held a Yajna of uninterrupted prayers and all the while he wove a long multicoloured cord - the original Minjar, which was cast upon the waters. The Ravi changed its course and everyone was able to reach the Hari Rai temple.
Today, this fair hosts a week of unbroken festivity. Dancers swirl, bands play, the traditional "Kunjari Malhar" are sung and the stalls in the open marketplace bustle with activity.