Narkasang: Kinnaur’s Sacred Blooms
Kinnaur, a district in Himachal Pradesh, is a paradise characterized by its lofty mountains and lush valleys where flowers of all kind bloom. It’s unique climate, with moderate summers and cold winters, creates an ideal habitat for a plethora of floral wonders. Spring is marked by captivating blooms that grace its landscapes, flowers that are a part of local culture and ecosystem.
Narkasang (Narcissus tazetta or daffodils), a sacred flower, holds a special place in my heart. During my early years, I vividly remember the first time I saw the Narkasang flower in our Chokesten, our place of worship. I found it to be very beautiful and I asked my grandmother from where she got them. She showed me the wild flowers growing on our farm, saying that they grew on their own. She used to collect these flowers from the wild and keep them in the Chokesten. In Kinnaur, where people follow a mix of Buddhism and Shu culture, Narkasang flowers are offered to the local deity during festive celebrations.
Narkasang has always caught my attention because of its aesthetic appeal, with its simple colour combination of white and yellow. During festivals we often found them in the hands of the Kinnaura people. They also wore them on their traditional Kinnauri caps during festive celebrations, which clearly showed the significance of Narkasang for the community.
For years, Narkasang flowers have been an integral part of Kinnaura culture. Its medicinal properties, where the roots are crushed and used as an antiseptic lotion, have always fascinated me. Applying the extracted paste on boils or pimples on the body helps in their recovery. The discovery of this medicinal use might be lost in history, but this knowledge has been actively passed down through generations.
Kinnauri Topi (hat) with Narkasang Flowers; Illustration by Nawang Tankhe
Narkasang not only holds its value as a flower or medicine but is also mentioned in local songs:
’Seela Chu Nathpa nagas santango
Kinnauri-Nagasu santangcho thang kochang khyama.
Thang kochang khyalima oo bagicho kumo’
oo bagicho kulimo nish dalang Fula.
Nish dalang Fulula narkasang Fula
In a Nag temple of Nathpa village which is an extremely cold place
If we look behind the temple
Behind the temple, there is a garden full of flowers
In that garden full of flowers, there are two branches of flowers
And the two branches of flowers are that of Narkasang flowers
With time, will our traditional knowledge fade away, presenting a challenge to keep such knowledge alive? Narkasang flowers are hardly seen growing on their own in the wild nowadays.
Documentation and conservation of such knowledge is crucial in Kinnaur. We are working with schools to run programs that provide basic information to students about the importance of nature conservation.
Illustration by Nawang Tankhe
About the Storyteller
Mahesh Negi, belongs to Kinnaur’s Kannaura tribe. He is a farmer and an Earth Educator. He advocates sustainability through the platform called Aum in Kinnaur, and runs Kyang, a community place where that raises awareness of social and climatic issues.