The Khogal festival is celebrated mainly in the Lahaul and Spiti district of Himachal. Khogal is one of the many festivals in the state observed to ward off malevolent spirits and to mark the ultimate triumph of good over evil. Consequently, Khogal also serves as an opportunity for local dwellers to pay obeisance to their presiding deities and seek the latter’s benedictions. Traditionally, Khogal is meant to be celebrated only by men, seen as they are as their families’ chief protectors and providers.
The festival typically takes place during a full-moon night in January and lasts for a day, overnight. First, upon spotting the full moon, the local menfolk all assemble at a designated home. Here, they consume a local alcoholic potion called ‘Chakti’ in large quantities, leading to their getting considerably inebriated – apparently a customary occurrence. The men then spread to other homes as well, imbibing Chakti and making merry all the while. This gaiety continues until midnight, when local bandsmen, known as ‘Chan’, play their drums and other instruments loudly from rooftops and rouse the men to the principal course of action: the lighted torch march. In this, upon hearing the loud music, the men ignite oil torches and rush to their respective homes with these torches, screaming incessantly in the process. It is this ensuing cacophony that is believed to dispel malevolent influences and thus safeguard their homes and families.
Later, the men step outside and gather their torches to make a big bonfire, around which they dance with abandon into the early hours. Finally, upon re-entering their homes, significantly sober by this time, they pray devoutly to their presiding deities, chiefly a provincial deity known as Baraja.