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"Nurturing Nature's Bounty: Embracing the ASAR PANDRA Festival in Parengtar"

Parengtar village overlooking Jaldhaka River and the looming hills of Bhutan. Photo: Praveen Chettri

Paddy Planting Festival is an annual celebration that rejoices in the art and significance of rice cultivation. Celebrated mostly by the farmers in Darjeeling hills, Sikkim and Nepal - Asar Pandra is an important agriculture festival., this vibrant festival marks the beginning of the rice planting season and pays tribute to the essential crop that sustains communities and cultures. While the Himalayas are known for their towering peaks and cold climates, there are valleys and lower-altitude areas where rice cultivation thrives. In the Eastern Himalayan region ‘Asar Pandra’ beckons the paddy planting festival in the month of June.

Village elders performing Kirati rituals before commencing the festival. Photo: Praveen Chettri

Parengtar is a small village located at the Indo-Bhutan border in Patangodak Gram Panchayat under Gorubathan Block, Kalimpong, West Bengal. The word Parengtar in Nepali translates to "A Plateau of Pareng". It is believed that the village was once a Bamboo forest (Pareng being a certain type of bamboo). During Asaar Pandhra Festival, the village reverberates with the fragrance of wet soil and young green paddy. It is the perfect time to meander through Parengtar's unique landscape through short hikes and enriching community visits. A brief and scenic downhill walk will give you a glimpse of the glorious Jaldhaka River and the looming hills of Bhutan.

A tourist participating in a paddy cultivation game. Photo: Praveen Chettri

Like every year the festival was organised by Nawla Umang’s Welfare Society in collaboration with Muhaan in Parengtar, Jaldhaka. Farmers and villagers came together to partake in the time-honored tradition of planting paddy. The festivities involved a sense of unity as people gathered in the fields to celebrate rural culture, participated in local games, enjoyed local cuisines like Dahi (curd) and Chuira (beaten rice) which hold significant symbolic meanings in this festival. To the outsiders, this festival provided an opportunity to understand farming and other traditions while forging a deeper connection with the local community. More than 50 individuals from different parts of India participated in this community affair learning and participating in various games and paddy sowing.

Dahi Chewra. Photo : Praveen Chettri
This festival is important because Rice is an essential staple crop. It nourishes communities and is often associated with agricultural celebrations. This combination represents ancestral traditions and the specialty of the eastern Himalayan region.

The festival in Parengtar has provided an opportunity for younger generations to learn about our agricultural roots and appreciate the hard work involved in producing this staple food.

Asar Pandra serve as a reminder of the vital role rice plays in our daily lives. For us, rice is not just a crop; it embodies sustenance, community, and cultural identity. It connects people to the land and the seasons, fostering a deep appreciation for the environment and the cycle of life.

Asar Pandra is not merely a celebration of agriculture; it is a celebration of life, culture, and the interdependence between humans and nature. It serves as a reminder of our connection to the earth and the cycle of growth and renewal.

Rice cultivation in the Himalayas not only provides sustenance for local communities but also contributes to the preservation of traditional farming practices and cultural heritage. It reflects the resilience and adaptability of farmers in challenging environments, as well as their deep connection with the land and nature.

Tourist participating in mud Tug of war. Photo: Vicky Sharma

Villagers posing for the camera. Photo: Vicky Sharma

Overall, rice plantation in Parengtar has showcased the ingenuity and resourcefulness of farmers who have learned to harness the unique conditions of this majestic mountain range to cultivate this vital staple crop. This beautiful village community of Parengtar has also been nominated for ‘Best Tourism Village’, a prestigious award given by UN- World tourism organisation. The festival has been a unifying force, strengthening social bonds and creating memories that will cherished for years to come. This event was curated by MUHAAN


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