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Ladakh’s ethnic Mamani Festival celebrated in Khardun Chiktan

Kukshow village won top prize, Services of Bashir Wafa recognised

Kargil, January 20, 2021: The annual Mamani Festival, an traditional food festival, was organised by Himalayan Cultural Heritage Foundation in Khardun Chiktan. The event was held in collaboration with Voluntary Education and Utilization Society (Venus), Khardun Chiktan. This year the celebration was special as it was held at the base of Chiktan’s historic and famous Razi Khar.

Members of Muslim and Buddhist community from eight villages in Hagnis Hill Council Constituency of Shakar-Chiktan Block participated in the festival. Collectively they presented 35 traditional dishes including Thugpa, Popot (grain soup), Hrtsrap Khur (yeast bread), Markhur, Azoq (Skinn and Kabchey) (Puri), Poli (pancakes made with buckwheat), curd, Suggoo  (Kash or Pachae), Gangtur etc.

Former Executive Councillor and Councillor from Chiktan, Mohsin Ali was the Chief Guest for festival. In addition, famous scholar, poet and nature enthusiast, Bashir Ahmad Wafa was the special guest at the celebration.

The celebration of Mamani in Ladakh pre-dates the introduction of Buddhism. At that time, people worshiped various spirits called Lha. During Mamani, each household would prepare a dish or even a set of dishes and offer each item in the name of the Lha, provided bonding for the community as they exchanged dishes and honoured their ancestors. In due course, celebrations underwent various changes and various Buddhist and Muslim communities still offer special charity, organise special prayers for their deceased ancestors and prepare traditional dishes to celebrate this festival.

Over the last few decades, the celebration of Mamani had started to fade though many communities continued to celebrate it. In 2016, Kargil-based cultural activist and correspondent at All India Radio, Kargil, Anayat Ali Shotopa collected many of his relatives and friends to organise a formal celebration in Kargil town to revive this traditional festival. This festival has great cultural importance as it allows communities to bond together and celebrate their shared heritage. It also facilitates communal harmony as members of Buddhist and Muslim communities in Ladakh participate in this festival, which strengths social harmony in the region. In 2018, as part of their mandate to conserve heritage in the region, Himalayan Cultural Heritage Foundation formally took over responsibilities to hold this festival in different locations with Anayat Ali Shotopa providing the necessary leadership required to bring people together for such celebrations.

Since the revival of this traditional festival, each year a competition is help as part of the Mamani celebration. The dishes are judged on their taste, presentation and varieties. In 2021, the stall of Kukshow village won the first prize, followed by Khardun B and Chiktan-Lungba won the third prize. They were presented a cash prize of Rs 5,000, Rs. 3,000 and Rs 2,000 respectively along with a Certificate of Appreciation. The dishes were judged by a panel that included Abeer Gupta from Kolkata, Gulzar from Leh and Bashir Ahmad Wafa even as Abrar, Scholar Ali Wazir, Iftiqar and Feroz documented the event. The festival was attended by Sarpanch of Hagnis, Haji Abdul Hussain, Nambardar, In-charge of Police Post, Chiktan, Sarpanches, Panches and villagers from across the Shakar-Chiktan Block.

In his speech, Mohsin Ali thanked Anayat Ali Shotopa and Himalayan Cultural Heritage Foundation for their efforts in organising and reviving the celebration of this festival. Mr Mohsin Ali said, “Such festivals play a significant role in connecting people with their heritage and ancestral legacy. We should observe them with enthusiasm and fervour.” He further thanked Venus for their support in organising the event and making it a success. He urged the youth of Chiktan to take the initiative to organise such events to conserve Ladakh’s culture and tradition and ensure that future generations are connected with their roots and their past, He assured everyone that the government will soon notifying Razi Khar as a heritage site and promote tourism and employment in the whole block.

In his speech, Anayat Ali Shotopa recalled the vision that drove him to initiate the revival of Mamani and the hope that it would one day be celebrated across the district and the region of Ladakh. He said, “That dream has come true this year as the Administration of the Union Territory of Ladakh has now adopted the Mamani Festival in its annual calendar and also organised their first celebration in Shargole village in Kargil.” He thanked Commissioner Secretary – Tourism Ladakh, Rigzin Samphal, Executive Councillor (EC) – Tourism in LAHDC, Kargil, Punchok Tashi, and EC-Agriculture and Revenue, Mohammad Ali Chandan for organising the event in Shargole, which was presided over by the Hon’ble Lieutenant-Governor of Ladakh, R. K. Mathur. Finally Anayat Ali Shotopa also thanked Dr Sonam Wangchuk, Founder of Himalayan Cultural Heritage Foundation for organising the event for the last three years. He ended the speech my announcing that they would soon organise celebrations for other traditional festivals too.

President of Venus, Shujat Hussain thanked Himalayan Cultural Heritage Foundation and Anayat Ali Shotopa for providing them with the opportunity to organise such a major event. He said that they have gained from the experience and intend to take the initiative to organise several such events in the future. He also presented a memorandum to the Chief Guest on behalf of the people of Khardun-Chiktan.

At the conclusion of the celebration, Mohsin Ali presented a shawl and Certificate of Appreciation to famous scholar, poet and nature-lover, Bashir Ahmad Wafa in recognition of his efforts to revive and conserve Ladakh’s cultural heritage.

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