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"On my part, I remain committed to the process of dialogue. It is my firm belief that dialogue and a willingness to look with honesty and clarity at the reality of Tibet can lead us to a viable solution."

The Oldest Trade Fair of Himachal, Inauguarted

November 13, 2009

Ravinder Makhaik
My Himachal (India)
November 11, 2009

The four-day long traditional and historical Lavi
fair, which was once, a trade fair between India and Tibet began here today.

Inaugurating the fair,Prabha Rau, Governor said
that Lavi fair had its own historical importance
and was famous for business activities.

She said that laudable efforts were made to
preserve the old traditions and glory of the fair
over the years and added that the fair provided
an opportunity to market the local products
besides a platform for cultural exchange.

Fairs and festivals played an important role in
preserving rich cultural heritage. State. Every
effort should be made to preserve the cultural
heritage and to restore the old glory of
traditional fairs and festivals as they were
symbols of rich traditions and promoted national
integration and communal harmony besides unity in diversity, she said.

Governor inaugurated the Kinnauri market and
exhibition put up by various Government
Departments and other organizations on the
occasion and evinced keen interest in the exhibits.

The governor urged the District Administration to
explore market for the products produced by Self
Help Groups so that the income of women in the State could be raised.

JS Rana, Deputy Commissioner and Chairman of the
Lavi Fair Organizing Committee welcomed the
Governor and detailed out the activities of the
fair. He also honoured the Governor with shawl, kinnauri cap and memento.

Kinnauri Cultural Troupe presented a colourful
cultural programme on the occasion.

Shri Nand Lal local MLA, Ninju Ram, former MLA,
Brij Lal, Chairman, Kailash Federation, RM
Sharma, Superintendent of Police, Members of Lavi
Fair Organising Committee and other prominent
persons of the area were present on the occasion.

A lot of trading in wool, woollen products,
chilgoza, kidney beans and many other items takes place at this fair.

Fresh from having made a killing at the markets
from sale of the high value apple crop, most of
the Kinnauri men and women are out to indulge in
shopping at the variety of stalls that are set up.

Evenings are spent dancing around bonfires, with
a traditional band resounding like heavy metal as
the dominant sound of brass cymbals and melodious
voices of Kinnauri women songs interweave into the folk music.

Men and women interlock in a chain, match steps
as the lead dancers with a yak tail embedded into
a Olympic torch type of baton swirls, bends and swishes about in a circle.

Tradition has given way to modernity as there are
fewer takers each year for this activity but many
can be seen thronging the venue of planned
cultural evening events, a platform where local
talent finds a stage to perform on.

Popular local artists rub shoulders with well
known performers brought from elsewhere too add a
punch of variety, much to the demand for entertainment among the fair goers.

Times have failed to revive trade links between
Satluj valley and western Tibet that were sewn up
in a treaty in circa 1681 between the Bushair
royal house and the 5th Dalai Lama of Tibet and
the Lavi fair at Rampur was started to mark the treaty.

Back then horses and swords were exchanged
between Raja Kehar Singh (1696-1753 A.D.) of
Rampur Bushair State and the Dalai Lama as a token of friendship.

It was pledged to hold the trade fair each autumn
till the time Satluj went dry or crows turned white.

Thawing of Indo-Chinese relations did lead to
opening of Shipki La as a trading point in the
mid 1990’s on the Indo-Tibetan border in 1994 but
even after 15 years Lavi has failed to regain the
charm that prevailed before the 1959 Chinese invasion of Tibet.

Ninety year old Tikkam Negi from Nichar recalls,
"Out shopping at Lavi used to be an unbroken tradition."

Mainly consisting of barter transactions,
pashmina, Tibetan gold, wool, Gudamma & Dohoru
(woolen blankets), shawls, chilgoza (edible pine
nuts) and chulli (sun dried apricots) were traded
for ghee, salt and food grains before cold
weather cut off the higher altitudes for many months, he says.

Tucked away in a small corner at the Lavi
grounds, one can still comes across relics of the
past where small traditional stalls selling
Tibetan or Kinnauri artifacts for sale are visible.

As a cash economy overtakes the region,
marketable produces like crisp apples, walnuts,
kalazira (wild cumin), almonds, rajma (kidney
beans), yak tails predominate today.

Two relics of traditional Lavi survive, one legal
and the other is fiercely contained by the law enforcing authorities.

Buying and selling of horses still holds the
attraction it did when motor roads had not penetrated the valley.

Chamurthi breed of mountain horses is much sort
after and many from far off places come looking
for this sure footed animal used for moving men
and goods in high mountainous and snowy tracks.

Gambling, a tradition at Lavi, is still carried
out but in hidden places to hoodwink the law
forcing agencies out in great numbers so as to contain it.

Satluj valley folklore narrates many tales of
paupers having come out rich men after a lucky
day at the fair and many returning poorer to live through a harsh winter ahead.
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