Festivals & Fairs In Uttarakhand

Basant Panchami
Basant Panchami festival not only gives a welcome break but also adds colors to our life. Basant Panchami is the festival celebrating spring season which comes accompanied by a huge variety of flowers presenting a riot of colors to the environment. Basant Panchami is also referred to as Sripanchami. Goddess Saraswati is worshipped all over India on the occasion of Basant Panchami. One is supposed to wear yellow cotton clothes, eat yellow food like Turmeric cooked with Rice or Saffron Semolina Pudding. People also put yellow tilaks on their foreheads to welcome the spring season.
The people welcome spring or Basant singing and dancing. The atmosphere resounds with the jingles of the pounding drums. Chounphula and Jhumelia dances are performed on the occasion of Basant Panchami by them. A fair At Rishikesh in Uttarakhand is held within the grounds of the Bharat temple on the occasion of Vasant Panchami. An extremely grand procession of the idol of Lord Bharat is carried through the town demonstrating lots of pomp and splendor. This idol was installed in the temple on this day by Jagat Guru Shankaracharya.
Bat Savitri
This festival is celebrated on the Krishna amavasya (last day of the dark half of the month) of Jyestha and on the day married women worship Savitri and the Bat or banyan tree (Ficus benghalensis) and pray for the well being of their spouses. Women observe fast in honour of Savitri and Satyavan and remember how Savitri through her intense devotion saved her husband from the claws of death.
Chhipla Jaat
The people of 15 - 20 villages of Dharchula and Gorikhal regions reach Kedardwe and Najurikote every third year (last 2002, next 2005) on Bhado Purnmasi. The principal yatra starts from village Khela near Tawaghat. It goes through thick forests, rocky lands and Bugyals. People go there barefoot even in these days. The dhami burha or bonia (folk priest) finalizes the dates of the jaat. With folk drums, bhankaras (metallic pipe instrument) and neja (the flag of red cloth pieces collected from all the families of the villages) the jaat goes to Barmano, which is 6 km from Khela. On the second day the yatris go through a thick oak forest. After crossing Bunga, Garapani, Mangthil gwar, Ganbhujdhura (the blooming bugyal) comes Brahmkund (18 km). Around 100 people can stay at the udiyar (cave) of Brahmkund. From this point one can have a glimpse of Chaudans region and the peaks of W. Nepal. On the third day the route is on the back of Najurikote, which is full of buggi grass and brahmkamals (Saussurea obvallata). At Kedardwe pond sacred dips are taken and the worship is performed. For the night, the yatris have to come back to Brahmkund. On this day one has to trek about 35 km.
On the fourth day after seeing Jyulital and Patojkund the Jaat reaches Bhaiman Kund (16 km). This small lake is like Brahmkund. A night stay is possible in the cave. On the fifth day, one can reach Baram in Gori valley after seeing the Kanar devi temple. If some one wants to remain with the jaat, he can come back to Khela and participate in the village fair. Chhipla Jaat expresses different aspects of human faith. The bare foot journey, worship, bath, collective food, songs and dances and the possession of the body of Bonia by the folk god are the essential parts of Chhipla Jaat.
Ganga Dussehra
Ganga Dussehra,UttarakhandGanga Dusshera is celebrated in Uttarakhand with lot of enthusiasm. This festival starts on the tenth day of Jaishtha (May-June) according to the Hindu calendar. It begins on the Amavasya night (dark moon night) and continues till Dashami tithi or the tenth phase of the moon. The 'Aarti' is held in Haridwar and thousands of people attend it. The festival of Ganga Dusshera or Dasar sees the River Ganges worshipped for ten days by the people. During this period people douse themselves in the sacred river of the Ganges to wash themselves from all their past and present life sins.
Ganga Dusshera is celebrated in the month of May-June (Jaishtha) when people take a dip in the waters of Ganga. Everybody puts up posters called 'Dwarpatras' or 'Dasar' with geometric designs on them. Once these posters were made exclusively by the Brahmins for everybody but now this practice has been discontinued.
The Hilljatra, which is being celebrated in some parts of Pithoragarh district, is essentially the festival of pastoralists and agriculturalists. In the developmental process, the aathon (eighth day of bhado) and Gawra Visarjan also became the part of Hilljatra. The festival, which basically came to the Sor valley from the Sorar (Mahakali) region of West Nepal, was first introduced in Kumaour village. The Jatra was also accepted by the people of Bajethi, another village near Pithoragarh town and with some modifications it was introduced in Kanalichhina and Askot regions as Hiran Chital.
The Hilljatra, which is being celebrated in some parts of Pithoragarh district, is essentially the festival of pastoralists and agriculturalists. In the developmental process, the aathon (eighth day of bhado) and Gawra Visarjan also became the part of Hilljatra. The festival, which basically came to the Sor valley from the Sorar (Mahakali) region of West Nepal, was first introduced in Kumaour village. The Jatra was also accepted by the people of Bajethi, another village near Pithoragarh town and with some modifications it was introduced in Kanalichhina and Askot regions as Hiran Chital.
The people of Kumaon celebrate Janopunyu, the day on which people change their janeu (sacred thread). On this day the famous Bagwal fair is held at Devidhura in district Champawat.
In the Chaudans region of Pithoragarh district, a flower - Kandali (Strobilenthes wallichii) - blooms once every 12 years (last in 1999) and the people celebrate Kandali festival between the months of August and October. The Chaundas Valley is remote in the Dharchula tehsil of Pithoragarh. It lies between the Kali and the Dhauli rivers. In the week long festival the local people - Shaukas or the Rangs participate with gaiety and enthusiasm in different villages of the region. Some stories are associate with this festival, which express the martial tradition of the Shaukas. In the first story, it is said that by tasting the poisonous flower of the Kandali the only son of a widow died. In the second story, this flower the symbol of famine and poverty. According to the third and most popul< story, the region was once attacked while the menfolk were away for trade. Th brave women repelled the enemy, who hid in the Kandali bushes, and the attacked the bushes and destroyed the enemy. The festival commemorates thei bravery and the women therefore destroy the plant ceremonially to remind th local people of the incident and to prevent further mishaps.
The festival begins with the worship of a Shiva Linga made of barley and buck wheat flour mixture. Local liquor is traditionally used during this festival. Every household performs it in a decorated comer of the courtyard. People pray for prosperity. The individual pujas are followed by a community feast. Then, the women and men, in their traditional dresses and laden with gold and silver ornaments, assemble around a tree on the sacred ground of the village. Strips of white cloth are tied to the tree and a flag is raised.
Khatarua is essentially the special festival of pastoral- agricultural society and celebrated on the first day of the month of Ashwin in mid September, and signifies the beginning of the autumn. On this day people light bonfires, around which children dance, holding aloft colourful flags. People take special care of their animals and feed them fresh grass. Cucumbers are offered to the fire of Khatarua, which is said to destroy all evil influences. The victory of the king of Kumaon is also said to be one of the reasons for the celebration of Khatarua.
Kumaon Holi
This is one of the most unique festivals of Uttarakhand and its uniqueness lies in the fact of it being a musical affair. The festive celebrations begin in the premises of the temples where the professional singers gather to sing traditional lyrics to the accompaniment of the classical music. This festival is known by two different names, Baithki Holi and the Khari Holi. The former one is celebrated with much vigor in the temple premises while the later one is celebrated in the rural areas of Kumaon.
Makar Sankranti
Makar Sankranti, UttarakhandSankranti or Sankrant is derived from a Sanskrit word meaning 'to move' and usually symbolizes a harvest festival not only in India but in many South-East Asian countries as well. Makar Sankranti is one of the major festivals of the Indian subcontinent. The festival usually falls in the middle of January, generally on / around the 14th of the month. This festival is celebrated in Uttarakhand for countless raison d'ĂȘtre depending on the atmosphere, agricultural setting and cultural background of India.
People take a dip in the holy Ganges (or any other holy river) since this day is considered very auspicious for washing away one's sins. It is also said that if one does not take a holy dip then he might turn into a donkey in his next birth. People distribute traditional foods like Khichdi (a semi solid gruel made with pulses and rice) and Til ke laddoo (Sesame sweets made with jaggery) to the needy and destitute. The Uttarayani Fair is also held in Uttarakhand around this time and the young participate in it with great enthusiasm.
Nandadevi Rajjaat Yatra
The three week long Nandadevi Rajjaat is one of the world famous festival of Uttarakhand. People from entire Garhwal-Kumaon as well as other parts of India and the world participate in Nandadevi Raj Jat Yatra.
Goddess Nanda Devi is worshipped at dozens of places in Kumaon, but the region around Mt. Nanda Devi and its sanctuary, which falls in the districts of Pithoragarh, Almora and Chamoli, is the prime area related to Nanda Devi. In Chamoli Nanda Devi Rajjaat is organized once in 12 years. The jaat starts from Nauti village near Karnprayag and goes upto the heights of Roopkund and Haemkund with a four horned sheep. After the havan-yagna is over, the sheep is freed with decorated ornaments, food and clothings and the other offerings are dischared. People also celebrate the annual Nanda jaat.
Olgia / Ghee Sankranti
This festival is celebrated on the first day of the Bhado month of the Hindu lunar calendar. It is throughout this point in time that the yield is abundant and green and vegetables grow in profusion. It is regarded as a very significant festival of the farming community, celebrating this festival with much pageantry and showiness. A variety of agricultural tools are swapped on this day.
People put ghee (clarified butter) on their foreheads and eat special chapattis stuffed with ghee and 'Urad Dal' (a type of lentil). This festival is also celebrated by the people of Tripura who believe that walnuts become sweeter after this festival. In olden times the sons-in-law and nephews would give presents to fathers-in-law and maternal uncles respectively but these days this ritual is seldom followed.
Phool Dei
The land of Uttarakhand is known for numerous fairs and festivals. All the festivals celebrated here have an immense deal of ceremonial grace and magnificence. Both the festivals of Phool Dei and Olgia/ Ghee Sankranti have a relation with nature and people pray for abundant crops and general well being of their families. People sing, dance and prepare special ceremonial dishes to please gods and their palates.
Phool Dei is celebrated on the first day of Chaitra or in mid March (according to Gregorian calendar). On this day young girls carry out most of the rituals and they are the most eager participants. In some places though, this festival is like a carnival and the celebrations goes on throughout the month. This festival shows the advent of spring. Dei, a special ceremonial pudding made of Jaggery, white flour and curd is offered to the visitors. On Phool Dei young girls go to every house in their villages with plates full of rice, jaggery, coconut, green leaves and flowers.
Nanda Devi Fair
Nanda Devi fair is held at many places in the state of Uttarakhand, like, Almora, Nainital, Kot, Ranikhet, Bhowali, Kichha, and on many villages like Lohar and in valleys of Pindar. This fair was first started in the Kumaon region, during the time of Kalyan Chand, back in the 16th century. This fair is very important and gets visitors from far away places. Nanda Devi fair is also important from a commercial and historical point of view as well.
The Nanda Devi fair is dedicated to the Goddesses Nanda and Sunanda. This festival is of very high religious importance. The term 'Nanda' in literal sense means prosperity and well being. This fair is symbolic of the prosperity of the whole region. During the festival, the place is filled with tourists and it becomes a hub of activity. One can buy a lot of hand made products prepared by the village craftsmen here. Many artists come and perform here during the fair as well. It is a very good chance for them to show the folk traditions of the place. It is celebrated during the month of September.
The Jauljibi fair is held each year during the month of February. This place also holds significance because it is at this place where the Rivers Kali and Gori converge. It is also the meeting place of various cultures, like Shauka, Nepali and Kumaoni. Jauljibi also acts as the getaway to places like Johar, Darma, Chaudans and Byans.
This fair is not only important from a cultural or commercial point of view, it also holds importance because each year, many visitors come from as far as Nepal, to sell horses, ghee and take back food grains and jaggery in return.
The Uttarayani fair is a very important fair of Uttarakhand. It holds significance in the cultural and social aspect of the state. This fair is not organized at only one but many places throughout the land of Uttarakhand. Places like Bageshwar, Rameshwar, Suit Mahadev, Chitrashila and Hanseshwar hold this fair. But, among all these places, it is Bageshwar where maximum number of people gather. People, on this day take a holy dip at the Ganges.
The sight on this day is a visually enthralling one. The mood, during this festival is just terrific. All night long people sing and dance. One is sure to enjoy the impressive performances by the folk artists. They sing Jhoras, Chancharis and Bairas.
The fair is also connected to the rich history of the state, as in the past too; this fair has played a very important role during the freedom movement. In 1929, Mahatma Gandhi came to Bageshwar. At present, it is an important commercial hub and various items like iron and copper pots, baskets, casks, bamboo articles, mats, matresses, carpets, blankets, herbs and spices are traded here during the fair. During the night, local music and dance festivals are organized here, which go on the whole night.