There is one thing peculiar about hill folks. They have lots of free time. Don’t get me wrong. They are not lazy people. They are more like people who like to chill. That’s why people we have so many festivals of Uttarakhand, every month we have some festival going on. Because they have so much free time.. The numerous and varied festivals that are held throughout the year offer a unique way to preserve our culture. They have been being passed on from generations to generations. We have many fairs too but that is for another article.
Festivals Of Uttarakhand apart from traditional Indian Festivals-
Makar Sankranti is the first day of Magha [Hindi calendar month] which normally falls on 14th of January every year. It is the auspicious day when the Sun crosses over the tropic of cancer and starts moving in the northern hemisphere of the earth. As this day is celebrated in all over India in India with different names and ways. In festivals of Uttarakhand is celebrated in two different ways in both the Mandals, i.e., Garhwal and Kumaun Mandal.
In Tehri Garhwal the day is dedicated to Pandavas the people participate in Pandava dances called ‘Nauratra’. According to Nauratra, four or five person acts as Yudhister, Bhim, Arjun, Nakul, Sahdev and a woman acts as Draupadi. This may carry on for nine days and nine nights. On the ninth day a buffalo or goat is sacrificed.
While in Kumaun region Makar Sankranti is also known as ‘Ghugutiya’. In this occasion sweet cookies made up of flour and moulded in different shapes are made and also necklaces are made for children with these cookies and fruits. The cookies made in the evening of Makar Sankranti and next morning the cookies are first feeded to the crows and then only other people can have it. The children with wearing the cookies necklaces call out crows together with dancing and singing a song as a invitation to crows to enjoy the feast.
Basant Panchami is considered to be a time for better life with the onset of Basant [SPRING] and therefore it is an auspicious occasion for offering green oats to respective family deities. The Basant Panchami is also celebrated as the birth day of Goddess Saraswati. And hence the Goddess is prayed for the betterment of one and the whole society.special festival food is prepared and is exchanged between the families and friends.
Harela is celebrated in the month of July on the occasion of karka Sankranti, the first solar day of Hindu month of sravan. About 9-12 days before the start of festival seeds of five or seven different kind of grain are sown in a couple baskets made of leaves.
On the day of Harela the head of the family perform the ceremony by cutting the yellow stems of the shoots and then it is offered to the gods. Some shoots are tied to the head of all the family members. The festival is celebrated all over the Uttarakhand with slight variations.
A trade fair is also organized on the occasion of Harela festivals of Uttarakhand is for 4-6 days in Bhimtal, a town in Nainital district. It is said that the fair is being organized from many decades ago. In the fair the local Folk Dances and Folk songs are performed by the people, and one can have the glimpse of the tradition and culture of the whole Kumaon region.
The fair acts as a big temporary market for the local people and for the people of other far villages too, and provide a big range of cheaper products. The fair also provide a platform for the local entrepreneurs to promote sell their products that are locally produced. Therefore one can easily find ethnic and organic range of local products there.
Nanda Devi Festival:
Nanda Devi festival is one of the most popular fairs of Kumaon region of Uttarakhand. It is celebrated and mainly fairs are organized in Almora, Nainital, Bhowali, and Baijnath during the month of September. Nanda is one of the several names of the Goddess Parwati. The three Himalayan peaks are also named after Goddess Nanda as, Nanda Devi, Nanda Kot and Nanda Ghunti.
The Nanda Devi festival celebrated for 3 to 4 days. Two of the sisters Maa Nanda and Maa Sunanda are worshiped during the festival. Two images of both sisters are made during the festival and Banana tree is planted with the images.
During the festival Buffaloes and Goats are sacrificed [at present the scarifies are being bane] as to signify the destruction of the evil spirits. And in the last day the images of the goddess is taken in a procession called ‘Dola’, to the whole city and at last the images are merged into the lake or river.