SUBJECT :Uttarakhand hosts India’s first-ever butterfly fest later this month to celebrate the many-hued winged beauties 

A Common Yellow Swallowtail                  Himalayan Sergeant

Painted Lady Vanessa Cardui    Water Hairstreak Euaspa Milionia

By - Jaskiran Chopra

May 21, 2018: The exquisite hills and dales of Uttarakhand are known for their colourful festivals. Some of these are traditional festivals of this region; others celebrate the rich biodiversity and natural splendour of this hill state. The musical Kumaoni Holi, which stretches through the winters to the actual day of Holi, the flower festival of Phooldei where little children place flowers at peoples’ threshold praying for well-being and happiness, the Vasantotsav held every spring at Raj Bhawan (Dehradun) and the butter festival of Dayara Bugyal in Uttarakashi are some of them.

Close on the heels of the 5th Uttarakhand Spring Bird Festival, which was held in March, comes a unique festival to be held in Devalsari in Tehri from May 31 to June 3. This will be India’s first-ever butterfly festival. More than 140 species of butterflies and 250 species of moths have been recorded and identified at Devalsari. The village is tucked away in the Aglar Valley in Tehri district. The snow-capped peaks of the middle Himalayas loom in the distance and there are marvelous deodar, oak and rhododendron forests, surrounded by terraced fields. The area is home to some stunning varieties such as the Common Peacock (Uttarakhand’s state butterfly), Golden Emperor, Bluetail Jester, Brown Argus, Siren, Grand Duchess, Western Courtier, Wonderful Hairstreak, Water Hairstreak, Fawn Hairstreak and Walnut Blue amongst many others.

With more than 500 species of butterflies and innumerable moth species, Uttarakhand is a haven for butterfly and moth watchers. Titli Trust and the Devalsari Environment Protection and Technology Development Society (consisting of village youth) with support from the Ecotourism Wing of Uttarakhand Forest Department and some other organisations, now plans to hold annual butterfly and moth festivals in the state. It is intended to have two Titli Utsavs every year at different locations, pre- and post-monsoon, based on suitability of the location.

The primary purpose of these Titli Utsavs will be to promote lesser-known destinations in Uttarakhand, ensure benefits to local communities through community ecotourism and to support the conservation of butterflies and moths through citizen science.

Sanjay Sondhi of Titli Trust, Dehradun, says it is proposed to establish an annual butterfly festival at Devalsari. “The festival is targeted towards visitors who have some interest and enthusiasm to watch butterflies and moths, but also targeting more serious butterfly and moth enthusiasts,” he says and claims that the festival has no external funding and is being organised by local hill people. “It is eco-friendly and close to nature . A completely independent initiative.”

Locals feel such an event can go a long way in promoting ecotourism in the hill state that is rich in biodiversity and needs initiatives that would help maintain the balance between preserving the environment and promoting tourism on which the hill economy is dependent.

It may be mentioned here that Arunachal Pradesh has been hosting events related to butterflies, co-organised by Butterflies and Moths of Sikkim, Northeast Indian Butterflies Group and other organisations. It is known as the Northeast Butterfly Meet.

On the cards

  • ·        Butterfly watching trails
  • ·        Butterfly and moth painting workshop for children
  • ·        Workshop on photographing butterflies and moths
  • ·        Tips on setting up a butterfly garden in your home
  • ·        Talks and quizzes