Fairs & Festivals
fairs and folk festivals of Uttaranchal are very colourful
and distinctive, and are the blend of various natural, social
and cultural factors. The people of Uttaranchal also celebrate
all the major Indian festivals. Basant Panchami, Bhitauli,
Harela, Phooldei, Batsavitri, Ganga Dusshera, Dikar Puja,
Olgi or Ghee Sankranti, Khatarua, Ghuian Ekadashi and Ghughutia
are some of the major festivals of Uttaranchal.
daily lives of Uttaranchali women are crowded with a never-ending
succession of festivals, most of them involving fasts and
the preparation of special foods
more about the folk festivals of Uttaranchal-
According to the Hindu religious texts, on the day of Uttarayani,
the sun enters the Zodiacal sign of 'Makar' (Capricon) from
the Zodiacal sign of the Kark (Cancer), i.e. from this day
onwards the sun becomes 'Uttarayan' or it starts moving
to the north. It is said that from this day, which signals
a change of season, the migratory birds start returning
to the hills. On Makar Sankranti people give Khichadi (a
mixture of pulses and rice) in charity, take ceremonial
dips in holy rivers, participate in the Uttarayani fairs
and celebrate the festival of Ghughutia or Kale Kauva.
The festival of Basant Panchami celebrates the coming of
the spring season. This festival, which also signals the
end of winter, is generally celebrated during Magh (January
- February). During this festival people worship the Goddess
Saraswati, use yellow handkerchiefs or even yellow cloths
and in a few places people put a yellow tilak on their foreheads.
Phool Dei is celebrated on the first day of the month of
Chaitra in mid March and on this day young girls conduct
most of the ceremonies. In some places this festival is
celebrated throughout the month with the advent of spring.
On the first day of the navaratris (nine day holy period)
of the month of Chaitra women fill baskets with soil and
sow seven types of grains in them. The grains germinate
symbolizing the future harvest. These yellow leaves, called
Harela, are cut on the tenth day and people put them on
their heads and behind their ears. During the month of Chaitra
(March-April) brothers send presents to their sisters. These
presents are called Bhitauli.
or Ghee Sankranti
Olgia is celebrated on the first day of Bhado (middle of
August), when the harvest is lush and green, vegetables
are in abundance and the milch animals very productive.
In ancient times sons-in-law and nephews would give presents
to fathers-in-law and maternal uncles, respectively, in
order to celebrate Olgia.
The three week long Nandadevi Rajjaat is one of the world
famous festival of Uttaranchal. People from entire Garhwal-Kumaon
as well as other parts of India and the world participate
in Nandadevi Rajjaat Yatra.
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
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.
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.
Holi and Baithaki Holi
The uniqueness of the Kumaoni Holi lies in its being a musical
affair, whichever may be its form, be it the Baithki Holi,
the Khari Holi or the Mahila Holi. The Baithki Holi and
Khari Holi are unique in that the songs on which they are
based have touch of melody, fun and spiritualism. These
songs are essentially based on classical ragas. No wonder
then the Baithki Holi is also known as Nirvan Ki Holi. The
Baithki Holi begins from the premises of temples, where
Holiyars (the professional singers of Holi songs) as also
the people gather to sing songs to the accompaniment of
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.
Dusshera or Dasar
Ganga Dusshera is celebrated on the Shukla dasami of the
Jyestha (May - June). The sacred Ganga is worshipped on
this day and Dusshera posters (dwarpatras or dasars), which
have various geometric designs on them, are put up on the
doors of houses and temples. These posters, once hand written
by brahmins, are now printed. On this day people bathe in
the holy rivers.
The people of Kumaon celebrate Raksha Bandhan and J anopunyu,
the day on which people change their janeu (sacred thread).
On this day the famous Bagwal fair is held at Devidhura
in district Pithoragarh.