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Posted at: Jan 15, 2016, 12:57 AM; last updated: Jan 14, 2016, 10:57 PM (IST)

Struggle against 'kuli beggar' was launched on Uttarayani

Our Correspondent

Pithoragarh, January 14

Chief Minister Harish Rawat inaugurated the Uttarayani festival at Bageshwar today. Makar Sankranti has a special significance for Kumaon as it was the occasion up to 1921 that was used to encourage Kumaunis to take part in the freedom struggle.

“It was the movement against 'kuli beggar' (tradition of bonded labour forced upon people by the British) at Bageshwar on the Uttrarayani festival in 1921 that created political awakening in the Kumaon region. People came together against the oppressive practice,” says Dr Ram Singh, a well-known historian of Kumaon.

On January 13, 1921, Kumaunis led by BD Pandey and Hargovind Pant threw the registers maintained for keeping an account of 'kuli beggar' into the Saryu river and vowed not to obey the British. “Uttarayani in Bageshwar assumed political significance thereafter and leaders of the freedom movement used the occasion to motivate the people of Kumaon during the struggle,” says Dr Ram Singh.

According to cultural historians of the region, the tradition of celebrating the occasion of the sun entering the astrological sign of Capricorn as festival and offering special preparations to a crow to be carried to the sun god is being observed since time immemorial. “As the tradition of sun worship is older than the Aryan tradition of worshiping vedic gods, it is obvious that the practice of offering water to the sun after having a bath at the confluence of the rivers is older than the Aryan settlement in the region some 3,000 years ago,” says Padma Dutt Pant, a cultural historian.

He says people take bath on this day not only at Bageswar but also at the confluence of rivers and offer water to the sun god. “People take bath on the occasion of the sun’s movement towards north at the confluence of all rivers situated in the region, including Rameshwar, Pancheswar, Thal, Jauljibi and Tanakpur where Himalayan rivers meet,” Pant adds.

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