Gugga Naumi is an important festival observed in many parts of Himachal (especially the Una district), Haryana, Punjab, and Rajasthan. The festival is named after Gugga Pir, a venerated religious leader, who was born at Dadreva village in Bikaner, Rajasthan. Gugga Naumi is normally celebrated at a specific traditional time known as “the 9th Bhadon”, which falls sometime between August and September every year.
The sage of Gugga Pir is an interesting one. He was actually born Bachraj, a scion of the princely ‘Chauhan Rajput’ clan, and later was said to have wed Princess Kumari Sirial, daughter of a prominent local chieftain. Gradually, however, after a rapid chain of events, he renounced worldliness and adopted sainthood, garnering many followers along the way. Now, Gugga Pir is revered by both Hindus and Muslims alike throughout North India.
The festival, in fact, commences a week before the stipulated day when a large procession, bearing Gugga Pir’s idol, winds its way across the streets. The idol is known as ‘Gugga Kichhari’ and comprises a solid elongated bamboo rod embellished with wreaths, flowers, colourful scarves, and related paraphernalia. Besides the teeming devotees, the procession also sees the participation of ‘Bhagats’, senior religious priests. One Bhagat supervises the procession upfront while five other Bhagats make up a travelling musical troupe. This troupe constantly sings folk tunes eulogising Gugga Pir and plays religious music with the aid of traditional Indian instruments like the dholak, manjiras, deru (a diminutive percussion instrument), and chimtas.
The procession sustains for a week until it finally culminates on Gugga Naumi, when special prayers take place.