Nanda Devi Raj Jat
The three-week-long Nanda Devi Raj Jat is a pilgrimages and festival of Uttarakhand in India. People from the entire Garhwal division-Kumaon division as well as other parts of India and the world participate in Nanda Devi Raj Jat Yatra. The goddess Nanda Devi is worshipped at dozens of places in Kumaon and Garhwal, but the region around Mt. Nanda Devi and its sanctuary, which falls in the Pithoragarh district, Almora district and Chamoli district, is the prime area related to Nanda Devi. In Chamoli Nanda Devi Raj Jaat is organized once in 12 years. The Jaat starts from Nauti village near Karnprayag and goes up to the heights of Roopkund and Homekund with a four horned sheep. After the havan - yagna is over, the sheep is freed with decorated ornaments, food and clothing’s and the other offerings are discarded.
An annual Nanda Jaat is also celebrated. The Raj Jaat procession goes through villages, where there is a recogniszed Nanda Devi temple. At Koti, a night halt of the participants takes place where a night-long worship and celebrations take place.
Though in the Johar Valley region there is no tradition of Nanda Raj Jaat but the worship, dance and the ritual of collecting Bramhakamal (it is called Kaul Kamphu) is part of Nanda festivals. The Nanda Devi fair is held at Almora, Nainital, Kot (Dangoli), Ranikhet, Bhowali, Kichha and also in the far flung villages of lohar (like Milam and Martoli) and Pindar valleys (like Wachham and Khati). In the villages of the Pinder valley people celebrate the Nanda Devi Jaat (journey) every year, while in lohar people come from far and wide to Danadhar, Suring, Milam and Martoli in order to worship the Goddess. In Nainital and Almora thousands take part in the procession carrying the dola (or litter) of Nanda Devi. It is said that the Nanda Devi fairs started in Kumaon during the reign of Kalyan Chand in the 16th century. A three-day fair is held at Kot ki mai or Kot bhramari devi. The fair at Saneti comes every second year. Both these fairs are rich in folk expressions and many village products are brought for sale.
Due to the heavy rain and cloudburst in June 2013 in Uttarakhand which led to major loss of life and property and caused massive destruction to the region, the Nanda Devi Raj Jaat Yatra from 29 scheduled to take place in August 2013 has been postponed till 2014.
This Raj jat yatra originates from Nauti village 25 km from Karnprayag, in karnpryag tahsil of the Indian state of Uttarakhand. The Kunwar of village Kansua inaugurates the ceremony. The legend is this that Nanda Devi, consort of Lord Shiva left her village and went to the nanda devi parbat. Therefore when the yatra starts, heavy rain occurs as if the devi is crying. This yatra covers many villages and in between the Devi meets her sister in the Bhagwati village.
This journey is a difficult one because of the difficult terrain it goes through. During the journey one passes by a Lake known as Roopkund surrounded by hundreds of ancient skeletons. According to local mythology, once a King took some dancers to this sacred spot. Due to a heavy snowfall the people were trapped and the dancers were transformed into skeletons and stones that can be seen in Patarnachonia. Another myth is this that king Yasodhwal's wife was pregnant and while she was giving birth to her child, her placenta flowed down to Roopkund and this in turn caused the death of the people there.
Nanda and Sunanda
During the period of Chand kings, Nanda Devi worship took the shape of a fair. Prior to that, Nanda Devi was being worshipped, but at that time only an idol of Nanda Devi used to be worshipped. The custom to make two idols started from the period of Baj Bahadur Chand. Even today only one idol is prepared in the remote villages. The reason for this addition appears to because it appears that the goddesses Nanda and Sunanda together took birth as princesses in the royal family and to mark this new reincarnation, the practice of celebrating a festival for both sisters together was introduced in which a story of from their life is enacted. There is folk lore that while walking in the forest a bull chased them. They hid themselves behind a banana tree. A goat came there and ate away the banana leaves with the result Nanda and Sunanda were visible to the bull, which killed both the sisters. This is the reason that goat and bull are sacrificed during the celebrations.
The twin peaks of the Nanda Devi and Sunanda Devi Mountain are said to be the abode or represent the two goddesses. These graceful peaks are visible from most of Kumaon division of Uttarakhand province of India.
- By air: To attend Nanda Devi Raj Jat Yatra, one has to first reach Chamoli. The closest airport is Jolly Grant Airport, 221 kilometers away.
- By rail: The closest railway station is located at Rishikesh.
- By road: Chamoli is connected with Haridwar, Dehradun, Nainital, Rishikesh, and Almora.
- Lodging: There are many small towns and villages (namely: Kulsari, Tharali, Deval, Mundoli) those offer stay during Rajjat yatra. Tharali is the biggest town among these. It is a tehsil headquarters. During Rajjat Yatra district administration Chamoli also provides tents to tourists after a certain location (usually on higher altitude location after village Wan).
- Aitken, Bill. (reprinted 1994). The Nanda Devi Affair, Penguin Books India. ISBN 0-14-024045-4
3. Nandadevi Raj Jat, Nanadadevi Sandarbh Patrika, 1988, Pub: Nanda Devi Mandir Evam Mela Samiti, Almora Article by: Kaushal Kishore Saxena 4. 'Himalayi Anuthi Devi Mahayatra "SHRI NANDA DEVI RAJJAT"' 2013-14 by Kanti Ballabh Kuniyal, Publication: Prabhat Prakashan Delhi "
- Nanda Devi Temple at Pothing Village of Bageshwar District
- Nanda Devi Temple at Almora
- MeraPahad.Com-Nanda Rajjat Story
- Nanda Rajjat(Kumaon) at Kumaon :Kala, Shilp Aur Sanskriti :: www.himvan.com
- Kumaon Nanda Rajjat Samiti :: Official Webpage