Contributed by: Dr Sonam Wangchok and Tsering Lhamo
The annual Ethnic Mamani Festival is organized by Himalayan Cultural Heritage Foundation (HCHF) in collaboration with village communities and youth associations in the Kargil district of Ladakh.
The festival is being organized under HCHF’s initiative “Silk Route Initiative Ladakh” to revive and strengthen the intangible heritage associated with the famous Silk Route and its legacy. Buddhist and Muslim populations both take part in the festivities. The history of the celebration of Mamani Festival in Ladakh goes back to the ancient tradition of giving food to departed family members.
During Mamani, people would exchange food with their relatives and neighbors and worship a variety of spirits (Lha). The stories and information about this long-standing custom have been passed down through the generations. The locals gathered in a particular location in the village with all the prepared traditional dishes on this particular occasion.
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Then they serve the meals to the entire village that had assembled there. Every year, in January, the Mamani celebration, which celebrates the arrival of spring after a long winter, takes place. “There is another tradition associated with this occasion that is still practiced in some Kargil communities. Foods produced at home are sent to family members who married into other families in accordance with this custom”. Abhi Chuskit, an elderly lady said. When Abhi Chuskit thinks back to her early years, she says that she and her friends would go door to door during the Mamani festival to collect money and would plan an evening gathering they called a “Issun” that would last all night. This custom is still practiced in Kargil’s Changchik hamlet.
In the Kargil district, both Muslims and Buddhists observe the tradition of Mamani. Muslims used to kindle fires in the courtyards of every home to commemorate Maqsoomi Mamani on the same day at dawn. Nowadays, this custom is seldom ever followed. The Shargole region, which has an equal number of Muslims and Buddhists, is the epitome of religious harmony. Festivals like the Mamani help to further enhance cross-cultural understanding.
Even though some communities still celebrated Mamani, it had begun to lose its luster over the previous few decades. A few people, groups, and village communities have been working over the past few years to bring back the Mamani tradition as a significant aspect of Ladakh’s cultural history. In order to resurrect this traditional festival, Anayat Ali Shotopa, a cultural activist and journalist for All India Radio, Kargil, gathered a large number of his family members and friends in 2016.
Due to the opportunity, it provides for communities to come together and celebrate their common past, this festival is very significant culturally. As members of the Muslim and Buddhist communities in Ladakh participate in this celebration, it also promotes intercommunal harmony, enhancing social cohesion in the area. With the assistance and direction of Anayat Ali and historian Mohd Sadiq Hardassi, the Himalayan Cultural Heritage Foundation (HCHF) formally assumed responsibility for organizing this festival in different Kargil villages in 2018 as part of their mission to preserve cultural heritage in the area.
The Mamani festival is extensively organized by HCHF in collaboration with community associations by attracting numerous visitors from neighboring villages. The best traditional food stalls have been given cash prizes by HCHF in order to motivate the participants. It was encouraging to see that many VIPs attended the events to support the villagers’ efforts to revive this significant traditional festival. “The Mamani festival is a highly significant history that we must conserve and promote to revive our traditional food productions and consumption as part of our culture,” remarked Shri Feroz Ahmed Khan, Chairman/CEC, LAHDC, Kargil, during one of the events. He emphasized the importance of the Mamani festival as a celebration of social and communal harmony.
Dr. Sonam Wangchok, the founder of HCHF, had told me that the festival’s aim was to promote Ladakhi cultural heritage among younger generations of villagers and, at the same time, to share that same heritage with domestic and foreign visitors. His organization, the Himalayan Cultural Heritage Foundation (HCHF), helped organize the event. According to Dr. Wangchok, by bringing people together for the event, people may celebrate their cultural traditions and remember their heritage, making them proud to be Ladakhi.
The vibrant food festival is held in Kargil in the month of January and features a traditional winter showcase of ethnic foods. Because it honors the rich legacy, culture, and traditions, the Mamani celebration is significant. It serves a crucial purpose in reuniting people with their ancestors’ history and cultural heritage, which must be revered ardently and enthusiastically. The Mamani festival will aid in reviving the cooking and eating of traditional Ladakhi cuisine, which are incredibly nutritious. The tasty and wholesome native Ladakhi cuisine should be preserved and promoted to maintain a healthy mind and body.
Because of the delight of cultural tradition and the intergenerational sharing of that pride and enthusiasm I saw among our villages, the Mamani Festival continues to hold a special place in my heart. As a young person from Ladakh, I see the Mamni festival as positively influencing both the current and upcoming generations as well as outside visitors in relation to the village culture. As a result, the Mamni festival will provide a distinctive tourism product by showcasing Ladakhi village culture and traditional lifestyle through components of traditional cuisines booths, cultural programming, arts and crafts, and activities that may be of interest to both domestic and foreign tourists.
This year, it will be held in Steyangkung village of Kargil on 21st January, 2023
Venue: Steyangkung village, Kargil
Organizer: Himalayan Cultural Heritage Foundation (HCHF)
Main sponsor: Heritage Trail, Ladakh
Contact: [email protected] / Mobile: 9419218013
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