Photographs from De long en large Ladakh by Jean Mansion - Édition Findakly. Copyright Lise Mansion

Tom van Groeningen

Phagli of Khun

By Tom van Groeningen

Seven years ago I once again visited the Tirthan-valley in the south of Kullu,the central district in Himachal Pradesh, the state in northwest India. This time to experience the Phagli festival in Khun, a three day procession of dancers, musicians and villagers. The dancers wear masks, often decorated with feathers or flowers and fibre skirts. They celebrate the return of spring, wishing fertility and expelling the winter demons. At the same time it is a social party, a ‘mela’. The festival takes place between mid-January to mid-February, at Phalgun, the eleventh month in the Hindu calendar. Nowadays the festival is every three years, tailored to the needs of the residents. The landscape is pleasant and varied with orchards and fields on steep terraces. Small villages and holy centres are scattered over the hills and in the forest.

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The photos were taken in February 2014