Kangdali Festival is a celebrated by the Rung (Shauka) tribals of the Chaundas valley in Dharchula of the Pithoragarh District. It is held every twelve years between the months of August and October. It was last held in 2011. The festival coincides with the blossoming of the Kangdali plant, which flowers once every twelve years.
According to some accounts, Kangdali commemorates the defeat of Zorawar Singh’s army, that had attacked this area from Ladakh in 1841. There also goes a regional Folklore related to this festival. The women take out a procession clad in their glorious traditional attires to destroy the Kangdali bushes, behind which the soldiers of the lost army were hiding. The defeated soldiers had on their return along the Kali River, rampaged and plundered the villages on the way. The Shauka women resisted them, armed with their rills. This tale is re-enacted on this occasion.
Another version, comes a folklore, which tells of a boy who died due to lack of treatment. The mortally wounded boy was the only son of a poor widow and his wound could only have healed with the paste of Kangdali flowers. But alas! That was not the year when it would flower. Upon the death of her son, the infuriated mother cursed the shrub. That is another local belief that results in the demolition of the Kangdali from whole of the Chaundas valley, every twelve years.
The Kangdali procession is a majestic march cum war-dance – armed with rills (a tool used in compacting the weave on the loom) the women lead the procession. The children and men armed with swords and shields follow compactly. As they sing and dance, their music echoes in the valley, and upon approaching the cursed shrubs (each village has a specific place where the shrubs are destroyed), music reaches its crescendo and the women begin the attack with their rills. The men follow and the bushes are hacked and uprooted and brought back, representing spoils of the war. More dance and song follows and the festivities culminate in a grand feast.
During this festival thousands of people gather both as participants and spectators. Possessing one of the richest cultures of the state, the Shaukas take apparent pride in exhibiting their traditional wealth. Festivals like Kangdali make sure that the diverse culture of the state is kept intact.