nanda devi raj jat festival
DatesStart Date: 20-08-2026 End Date: 11-09-2026
Nanda Devi Raj Jat is popularly known as the Himalayan Mahakumbh. This is the most celebrated festival of Uttarakhand wherein their Goddess Nanda Devi is worshipped, and people often go to visit the Goddess during the festival as pilgrimage destination. The goddess is also known by the name of Gaura and Raj Rajeshwari specifically in Garhwal division.
The festival mainly consists of sacred yatra where worshippers of Goddess Nanda Devi come from all parts of the country to be a part of the Yatra. Majorly the devotees are from the Garhwal and Kumaon regions of Uttarakhand. Goddess Nanda Devi is thought to be the wife of Lord Shiva and daughter of the all mighty king of mountains. According to the popular mythological stories, goddess Nanda Devi is one of the avatars of MaaParvati.
Goddess Nanda Devi is the most revered deity of Uttarakhand, especially for the regions of Garhwal and Kumaon division. The festival is celebrated in every twelve years for a period of three weeks, in the Chamoli district of Garhwal division. This is a very holy pilgrimage and the whole procession of people have to complete the Yatra which takes about 22 days tours to complete and thus the festival continues for three weeks.
The Nanda Devi Raj Yatrafirst started in the Nauti village which is around 25 km away from Karnprayagtahsil of Uttarakhand. It is usually seen that according to the rituals the Kunwar of the village Kansua begins the procession or pilgrimage. The story regarding the pilgrimage revolves around Nanda Devi who is believed to be the better half of Lord Shiva leaves her village and runs off to Nanda Devi parbat. Thus, it has been noted that whenever the Yatra starts, heavy rains are expected just as the Devi is upset and crying her heart out. The whole Yatra covers many areas of Uttarakhand on its way and that she meets her sister on her way in the bhagwati village. It is believed that the Yatra first began with the birth of ChausinghaKhadu. The journey is a not so easy as the topography of the mountainous region is a bit rough.
During the Yatra the devotees cross a lake known by the name Roopkund which is bordered by numerous old skeletons. The local people have many stories regarding the formation of this lake and reasons behind the ancient skeletons are lying there. One of the stories says that once a king brought some dancers along with him to this lake spot and there was suddenly heavy snowfall, due to which everyone got trapped and the dancers were automatically changed into skeletons and stones which can be seen in Patarnachonia. Another famous story regarding the lake and skeletons is that King Yashodwal’s wife was pregnant and at the time of her delivery, her placenta flowed to roopkund and somehow it was the reason for death of people living around the place.
Thus, this whole pilgrimage is known as the Nanda Devi Raj Jat as the word “Jat” here means the bonding of all deities with their devotees. Therefore, the pilgrimage is so long that it gives their devotees to connect well with their gods. The total distance of the Yatra is about 280 km. As per the legendary story the Yatra starts from nauti village in karanprayag in the Chamoli district and the last part of the journey is in Roopkund. Tourists can experience the rich culture of Uttarakhand, in these three weeks and they can also witness the beautiful verdant nature of Uttarakhand full of lush green mountains and lifestyles of the local people of Garhwal and Kumaon region.
The Nanda Devi Raj Jat is celebrated once in every twelve years and people wait eagerly to celebrate this festival and devotees from all over India come to Uttarakhand either to participate in the procession of goddess Nanda Devi or to witness the pilgrimage. Goddess Nanda Devi is the prime god of the Garhwal and Kumaon divisions and thus major deities of Goddess Nanda are from the nearby areas of Garhwal and Kumaon only. The Yatra starts from nauti village of Chamoli district ends in the hilly mountains of Roopkund and Homekund along with the four horned sheep. In the end of the Yatra a yagna or havan is done after which the holy sheep is un-tied from all the beautiful ornaments. After this ritual people offer food, clothes, and other basic goods to poor people as kind of charity.
Other than this festival, a yearly Nanda Jat is also organized by people, wherein the procession of Raj Jat goes by the different villages and ends in the Nanda Devi temple which is popularly recognized by devotees of Nanda Devi. All the worshippers take halt in Koti at night where the celebrations of Nanda Devi take place throughout the night.
Nanda Devi is a revered goddess of Uttarakhand and there are different ways of celebrating the grandeur of goddess Nanda Devi, such as in Johar valley people don’t organize any sort of Jat or Yatra, but they dance and worship and collect Brahamakal which is the common ritual of the Nanda festivals of Johar valley people. Then some areas conduct fairs in the name of Nanda Devi in places like Nainital, Kot, Almora, Bhowali, Kichha, Ranikhet and many more places. It is stated that these Nanda Devi fairs were first started by King Kalyan Chand in the 16th century in the Kumaon region, and a three-day fair is held every year in KotBhramari Devi and Kot Ki Mai.
All these fairs are organized in the name of goddess Nanda and people even perform folk dances and sell their handicraft goods in these fairs. In Nainital and Almora, the procession of Nanda Devi carried out every year and people carry the idols of goddess Nanda Devi. The villages of Pinder valley celebrate annual Nanda Devi Jat similar to the Nanda Devi Raj Yatra but on a smaller scale and people from different areas of Uttarakhand come to witness the procession.
The major attraction of the Nanda Devi Raj Jat is that whenever the Yatra begins, it is marked with heavy rainfall as according to the legends, it is said that Goddess Nanda is crying. The pilgrim can be called as one of the toughest pilgrims of India as the landscape of Uttarakhand is not that easy to trek, thus the people walking in the pilgrimage need to take many halts in the nearby villages. The people participating in the pilgrimage carry a mythological four horned sheep and a doli which is loaded with all sorts of ornaments and gifts for the Goddess Nanda Devi. The best part of this procession is that there is no discrimination done and everyone takes part into the celebration, dalits play drum, thakur blow Bhankaras and the pundits take care of the ceremonial rites and rituals. There are songs sung by people known as Jhumela portraying their love for goddess Nanda. The latest Nanda Devi Yatra was organized in the year 2014 which had to postponed due to excessive rainfalls and unexpected cloudbursts in Uttarakhand in 2013.
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