Saturday, September 23, 2023

Top Festivals of Uttarakhand – Celebrating Culture and Spirituality

Welcome to Uttarakhand, where pristine nature, age-old traditions, colorful celebrations, and the spirit of festivity come alive. Festivals of Uttarakhand are not just occasional events. Instead, they are an integral part of life itself. From birth to marriage, harvest to worship, festivals mark every key aspect of the life of the local folks. They happen all year round, showcasing the state’s rich cultural heritage, bringing communities together, and promoting a sense of unity, joy, and devotion.

With the rhythmic beats of traditional music, the colorful processions, the intricate rituals, and the mouth-watering cuisine, the festivals of Uttarakhand breathe life into the culture and traditions of the hilly state. Join me as I explore the festivities that grace the lives of the people of Uttarakhand, where every day is an opportunity to rejoice, connect, and celebrate the beauty of life itself. Having been a part of some of these festivals, I will explore their significance, rituals, legends, and more.

Types of Festivals of Uttarakhand

But before diving into the joyous atmosphere during these cherished celebrations, let’s classify the festivals based on their nature. Whether you are a culturist, spiritualist, devotee, or just a curious traveler, I help you make informed decisions. So, without further ado, let’s jump right in.

1. Religious Festivals

Uttarakhand is home to several temples and sacred sites, the majority of which host religious festivals. Involving elaborate rituals, processions, and prayers at temples and sacred sites, these festivals display the local culture and traditions. The locals also celebrate traditional festivals like Diwali, Navratri, Makar Sankranti, Shivratri, and more with great fervor and enthusiasm.

2. Harvest (Seasonal) Festivals

Since Uttarakhand is an agrarian state, harvest festivals are common here. From Baisakhi and Harela to Phool Dei and Ghughutia, the locals celebrate several festivals to mark the beginning of agricultural seasons or to express gratitude for a good harvest. During these festivals, you will come across local folks indulging in rituals, singing, dancing, and feasting on traditional cuisine.

  • Examples: Baisakhi, Harela, Phool Dei, Ghughutia

3. Cultural Festivals

Nanda Devi Raj Jat Yatra, Bikhauti Festival, Uttarayani Mela (Magh Mela), the International Yoga Festival, and other cultural Uttarakhand festivals demonstrate the state’s vibrant cultural heritage. The vibrant colors, enchanting rituals, captivating cultural performances, folk dances, melodious music, traditional attire, and local art and craft exhibitions just add to the joyous atmosphere.

  • Examples: Nanda Devi Raj Jat Yatra, Bikhauti Mela, Uttarayani Mela, International Yoga Festival

4. Fairs and Carnivals

Different regions of this sleepy little state host a range of different fairs and carnivals that attract both locals and tourists. Take, for example, the Kumaon and Garhwal regions that host Jauljibi and Thal Fairs, Kumaon Holi, and Purnagiri Mela. Likewise, Chamoli is famous for Nanda Devi Mela. These fairs take you closer to local traditions, folk performances, handicrafts, and culinary delights.

  • Examples: Jauljibi, Thal Fairs, Kumaon Holi, Purnagiri Mela, Nanda Devi Mela

5. Adventure & Sports Festivals

You can credit the state’s natural landscapes for making it a popular destination for adventure and sports festivals. The Uttarakhand Adventure Fest, Kedarnath Trek, Valley of Flowers Trek, Tehri Lake Festival, and other such events combine thrilling activities, outdoor sports, and cultural programs.

  • Examples: Uttarakhand Adventure Fest, Kedarnath Trek, Valley of Flowers Trek, Tehri Lake Fest

6. Music and Dance Festivals

Uttarakhand celebrates its musical heritage through the Ganga Dussehra festival, Kumaon and Garhwal Mahotsavs, and other music and dance festivals. They showcase traditional performances, devotional music, and folk dance forms, such as Langvir Nritya, Barada Nati, and Choliya Dance.

  • Examples: Ganga Dussehra festival, Kumaon and Garhwal Mahotsavs

Festivals of Uttarakhand Ranked

Now that the nitty-gritty of festivals in Uttarakhand is over, it’s time to rank these festivals in a lose descending order, from 1 to 10. Remember, the ranking is subjective, as each festival of Uttarakhand holds its own significance, beauty, and cultural value. Each one of them offers a unique experience and a glimpse into the cultural diversity and spiritual essence of this little Himalayan state.

1. Kumbh Mela

Religious festivals and fairs don’t get any bigger than this. Millions of Sadhus, devotees, culturists, and curious travelers converge at Haridwar to participate in this spectacle of an event. The four key pilgrimage sites across India host this festival at a grand scale once in four years on a rotational basis. These include Prayagraj (the meeting point of Ganga, Yamuna, and Saraswati), Haridwar (on the Ganga River), Nashik (on the Godavari River), and Ujjain (on the Shipra River).

  • Next Kumbh Mela Haridwar Date: Sunday, 9 April 2028 – Monday, 8 May 2028

The sight of the vibrant processions of sadhus, religious sects, and devotees taking dips in the holy rivers while chanting hymns and mantras is a sight to behold. The bath is accompanied by religious rituals, discourses, and cultural performances. Besides the religious aspects, the Kumbh Mela also is a platform for discussions on spiritual and social issues, cultural exchange, and commerce. As a side note, Haridwar and Pryagraj take turns hosting the Ardh Kumbh after every six years.


In Kumbh Mela, centuries-old traditions and rituals come alive to create a spectacle.

  • Peshwai Procession

The Kumbh Mela gets underway with the Peshwai grand procession. Herein, the Akharas make a ceremonial entry on elephants, horses, chariots, or palanquins. When that happens, the grandeur and spiritual fervor of the participating Akharas come alive, giving you memories to cherish.

  • Shahi Snan (Royal Bath)

As the key attraction, Shashi Snan is about the grand procession of revered saints, sadhus, and spiritual leaders who take a ceremonial dip in the holy Ganga. Smeared in ash and vermilion, the participants dress in vibrant attire and march to the tunes of musical instruments and chants.

  • Akharas and Nagas

Several orders of sadhus (Akharas) participate in the Kumbh Mela as per their place in the Akhara hierarchy and traditions passed through generations. The Nagas, a prominent sect of sadhus, walk naked with ash-covered bodies to the ghats for the holy bath and the associated rituals.

  • Ganga Aarti

The Ganga Aarti is a daily ritual performed on the banks of the holy river during the Kumbh Mela. It involves offering prayers, lighting lamps, and chanting hymns to honor the sacred Ganges River. It comes across as a beautiful and spiritually uplifting ceremony, witnessed by millions of devotees.

  • Mass Feeding (Annadanam)

Annadanam, the act of offering free meals to devotees, is an integral part of the Kumbh Mela. Many organizations, individuals, and religious groups set up food stalls and community kitchens to serve meals to all. This act of selfless service is an expression of compassion and devotion.

  • Cultural Performances

The Kumbh Mela is more than just a religious gathering. Rather, it also showcases the local culture through traditional music, dance performances, and cultural exhibitions. Experienced as well as new artists from across India and beyond display their talents and celebrate India’s diverse culture.

Suggested Reading: Top 10 visit places in Haridwar

Legends Associated with Kumbh Mela

The Kumbh Mela is steeped in mythology and legends that add to its religious, spiritual, and cultural significance. Here are some prominent legends associated with the Kumbh Mela’s name and origins:

  • Churning of the Ocean

When Devas and Asuras joined forces to churn the milky ocean (Samudra Manthan), a Kumbha (jar) containing the Amrita appeared. Devotees believe that Haridwar also received some drops of the Amrita and so did Prayagraj, Nashik, and Ujjain. The festival draws its name from that Kumbha.

  • Lord Vishnu’s Mohini Avatara

According to another folklore, Devas and Asuras disputed the ownership of Amrita. To diffuse the situation, Lord Vishnu disguised himself as the enchantress Mohini. He succeded in distracting the Asuras and retrieving the Kumbha but not before some drops of Amrita fell onto these four sites.

  • King Harsha’s Repentance

Another legend tells the story of King Harsha of Kannauj who was guilty of killing his brothers in the war of succession. Seeking redemption, he organized a massive gathering of Sadhus, Brahmins, and devotees at Prayagraj in the 7th century CE. This became an early precursor to the Kumbh Mela.

  • Nature: Religious Festival
  • Place: Haridwar
  • Venue: Banks of Ganga
  • Duration: One Month
  • Frequency: After 12 years

2. Phool Dei

Phool Dei

Every year on the first day of the Chaitra month (March-April), the Kumaon region celebrates Phool Dei. It is a unique way of welcoming the spring season and praying for an abundant year ahead. From this day onwards, the local folks get on with their harvesting season. The locals observe this festival with great enthusiasm and participate in various colorful rituals and festivities.

  • Next Phool Dei Date: Tuesday, 9 April 2024


Phool stands for flower while Dei is a ceremonial pudding prepared to mark Phool Dei.


Like all festivals, Phool Dei also has its share of legends, when it comes to its origins.

  •  Legend of the Devis

As the legend goes, Kalia, a mighty demon, terrorized the Kumaon region back in antiquity. In response to the prayers of the locals, Goddess Parvati came up with “Devis,” a group of young girls who dealt with the demon, bringing peace to the region. The festival celebrates this victory of good over evil.

  • Legend of Nature’s Bounty

Another legend links this festival to a severe famine faced by the region long ago. Responding to prayers, Mother Nature ensured plenty of rain and a bountiful harvest. The locals began celebrating Phool Dei just to thank Mother Nature for her utter kindness.


On the occasion of Phool Dei, youngsters, especially girls (lovingly called Devis) sing and dance their way into their respective neighborhoods. They hop from one house to another, offering flowers, leaves, and other natural offerings while also extending their blessings for good health, prosperity, and luck. The house owners offer them sweets, fruits, and grains in exchange. Adorned with flowers and “Chandan,” these Devis embody youthfulness and innocence. Their infectious laughter and cheerful songs bring joy and blessings to every household they visit.

Cultural & Religious Significance

Phool Dei includes various cultural performances, folk dances, and music. Like all festivals of Uttarakhand, it helps bring the community together, strengthens social ties, and promotes unity. As a harvest festival, Phool Dei highlights the agrarian roots of the Kumaon region and the delicate relationship between the locals and their environment.

  • Nature: Harvest Festival
  • Place: Kumaon Region
  • Time: 1st Day of Chaitra (March-April)
  • Duration: One Day
  • Frequency: Annually

3. Top Fairs & Festivals of Uttarakhand: Uttarakhandi Holi

Uttarakhand Holi

Even Holi is not the same in some parts of Uttarakhand. Khadi Holi, celebrated in the Kumaon region, is a local twist to the good old Holi, making it one of the top festivals of Uttarakhand. It stands out for its simplicity, joyful spirit, extended duration, emphasis on eco-friendliness, and cultural performances. Call it Khadi Holi, Kumaoni Holi, or Uttarakhandi Holi all mean the same.

  • Next Uttarakhandi Holi Date: Monday, 25 March 2024


Some legends and myths are an integral part of the cultural fabric of Uttarakhandi Holi.

  • Legend of Radha and Krishna

Khadi Holi celebrates the eternal love between Lord Krishna and Radha. The most important part of the Khadi Holi is the “Baithaki Holi,” which originated from the joyful interactions between Krishna and the Gopis (cowherd girls). You won’t come across such a joyful atmosphere elsewhere.

  • Legend of Holika and Prahlad

Like any Holi celebration, Khadi Holi also draws its origin from the legend of Holika and Prahlad. As the myth goes, Prahlad, a young Vishnu-Bhakt, survived unharmed when his aunt Holika jumped into a bonfire with him in her lap. To commemorate this event, the locals here light bonfires, known as “Holika Dahan,” on the eve of Holi and perform rituals to ward off negativity and usher in peace.


  • Eco-Friendly Colors

Unlike the synthetic colors used in Holi celebrations across India, the locals here prepare “Abeer” or “Gulal” from flowers, leaves, and herbs, making the festival fully environmentally friendly and safe.

  • Cultural Performances

On this occasion, you’ll come across traditional folk music and dance performances like “Choliya” and “Langvir Nritya.” This adds charm to the celebrations and showcases the region’s rich culture.

  • Duration of Celebrations

Beginning on Basant Panchami, the Khadi Holi is a two-week affair, full of rituals, celebrations, and community gatherings. This is a far cry from day-long Holi celebrations in most parts of India.

  • Baithaki Holi

A key aspect of Khadi Holi is the “Baithaki Holi,” where locals come together in community spaces to sing Holi songs called “Baithaks.” These songs often narrate the playful interactions of Lord Krishna during Holi and add to the cultural richness of the celebrations. It’s simply a sight to behold.

  • Simple and Joyful

Khadi Holi is a simple and joyful celebration. The festival is all about celebrating togetherness, love, and cultural heritage with little display of commercialization. It still retains the very essence of Holi.

  • Local Delicacies

The regional delicacies, such as “Bhatt Ki Churkani,” “Gulgule,” “Singodi,” and “Aloo Ke Gutke” add to the festive spirit. For me, the food is one of the most satisfying aspects of the Khadi Holi.

Cultural & Religious Significance:

Unlike the more exuberant and vibrant Holi celebrations in other parts of India, Uttarakhandi Holi has distinct charm and rituals. Uttarakhandi Holi promotes social harmony and community bonding, much like the other festivals of Uttarakhand. Breaking social barriers, local folks from all castes and backgrounds participate in the celebrations as equals. The cherished festival showcases the unique traditions, distinct rituals, and warm hospitality of the Kumaon region.

  • Nature: Fairs & Carnivals
  • Place: Kumaon Region
  • Time: Basant Pnchami (March-April)
  • Duration: 2 Weeks
  • Frequency: Annually

4. Top Seasonal Festivals of Uttarakhand: Harela and Bhitauli 

Harela and Bhitauli FestivalHarela and Bhitauli are prominent festivals of Uttarakhand celebrated by the farming communities of the Kumaon region. They celebrate Harela to mark the onset of the rainy season in the month of July or August. During the festival, locals celebrate and pray for a good harvest as it marks the start of the sowing season. On the other hand, Bhitauli is all about the loving bond between brothers and sisters. During this festival, brothers give gifts to their sisters as a gesture of love and respect.

  • Next Harela and Bhitauli Dates: Monday, July 17, 2023


When it comes to the origin of the term “Harela,” it is a Kumaoni word, which stands for “Grass.” As the name suggests, the festival’s underlying theme revolves around nature and agriculture.

Legends Associated with Harela

You can trace the origin of this Uttarakhand festival to a couple of folklore.

  • Legend of Lord Shiva and Parvati

Legend has it, Devi Parvati generated the greenery to surprise Lord Shiva who returned to the mountains after a long time. The festival is a way to honor the divine couple and their eternal love.

  • The Legend of Shepherd

A local told me another folklore which involved a shepherd named Sem. Impressed by his devotion, Nanda Devi ensured that the region will always stay fertile and yield abundant crops. The Harela festival came into existence to commemorate this divine blessing and pay homage to Nanda Devi.


  • Sowing Seeds (Harela)

The female folks sow five or seven types of seeds on the first day in a basket, which signifies the beginning of the sowing season. The seeds are left to germinate into green plants (Harela) for the coming nine days. On the tenth day, they are cut. The locals put the Harela on their heads or behind their ears to mark the auspicious occasion and to seek divine blessings for successful cultivation.

  • Dikars

The earth used to cultivate Harela is used to create miniature idols of Gauri, Shiva, Ganesha, and other deities. People pray to these idols for a good harvest, health, and prosperity. On this day, every home, temple, and community space is decorated with fresh greenery, sprouts, and saplings.

Cultural and Religious Significance:

As one of the popular seasonal festivals in Uttarakhand, Harela is all about agriculture, communal harmony, and environmental conservation. The festival holds deep cultural and agricultural significance, promoting a sense of togetherness and appreciation for the gifts of the land. Also, it’s a smart way of testing the quality of seeds just before the sowing season starts. Remarkable, isn’t it?

  • Nature: Seasonal Festivals
  • Place: Kumaon Region
  • Time: July or August
  • Duration: 9 Days
  • Frequency: Annually

5. Ghee Sankranti

Ghee SankrantiEvery year on the first day of Bhado (mid-August), Uttarakhand gears up to celebrate Ghee Sankranti, also referred to as the Olgia festival. At this time of the year, there is greenery all around, crops are about to ripen, trees are fruit-laden, and the cattle are at the pink of their health. The agriculture communities across the state celebrate Ghee Sankranti to acknowledge these gifts of nature. It is one of the most vibrant festivals in Uttarakhand celebrated since time immemorial.


  • Gifts

On this auspicious occasion, the local farmers and artisans gift farming tools and implements to their landowners and customers. the gifts could be anything, from axes, plows, sickles, firewood, and ghee to vegetables, and metal calipers. In return, they receive ghee, gifts, and even cash.

  • Rituals

The locals follow a unique ritual on the occasion of Ghee Sankranti. They eat ghee and pour it on their foreheads. As a part of the ritual, they consume chapatis stuffed with urad dal with ghee.

Cultural & Religious Significance:

This festival of Uttarakhand is a celebration of nature’s gift to man. Besides showing their respect and acknowledgment to Mother Nature, the locals also pray for good harvest and prosperity.

  • Nature: Harvest Festival
  • Time: Mid-August
  • Duration: 1 Day
  • Frequency: Annually

6. Top Religious Festivals of Uttarakhand: Nanda Devi Mahotsav

Nanda Devi MelaNanda Devi Mahotsav in Almora is a grand and vibrant festival celebrated with immense joy and fervor. The festival is dedicated to Goddess Nanda Devi, the revered deity of the region, and is a time for spiritual connection, cultural performances, and a showcase of the rich heritage of Almora.


The Legend of Goddess Nanda Devi

A prevalent folklore links the Nanda Devi Mahotsav to the Goddess Nanda Devi, an incarnation of Goddess Parvati. As per the legend, to avoid marrying the Rohilla Prince, Nanda Devi fled to the mountains and merged with the 25,643-foot-tall peak, Nanda Parbat.


During the Nanda Devi Mahotsav, devotees gather to offer prayers and seek blessings from Goddess Nanda Devi. The atmosphere is filled with devotion and traditional rituals as people celebrate their faith and express their gratitude to the divine.

Cultural performances are an integral part of the festival, with folk dances, music, and traditional arts being showcased by local artists. These performances add to the festive spirit, and visitors get to experience the vibrant and colorful culture of Almora.

The festival also features various events and competitions, including sports, craft exhibitions, and local cuisine stalls. It becomes a bustling fair, attracting people from different regions to participate in the festivities and enjoy a sense of camaraderie.

Cultural & Religious Significance

Nanda Devi Mahotsav is not only a religious celebration but also an occasion for social bonding and a platform to promote the region’s art, culture, and traditions. It fosters a sense of unity and pride among the locals, as they come together to rejoice in their shared heritage and celebrate the divine blessings of Goddess Nanda Devi.

  • Venue: Nanda Devi Temple, Almora
  • Duration: 5 to 7 days
  • Frequency: Annually
  • Held in September on the Ashtami of Bhadara Shukla
  • Timing: Early morning to 9 PM

7. Top Cultural Festivals of Uttarakhand: Purnagiri Mela

Purnagiri MelaAs one of the leading cultural festivals of Uttarakhand, the Purnagiri Mela is a grand celebration of faith, culture, and devotion. You will find it an opportunity to connect with the divine and experience the local cultural heritage. This annual event takes place during the auspicious occasion of Navratri at the premises of Purnagiri Mandir. Sitting pretty on the Annapurna Peak at an elevation of 1676 m, the temple is one of the 108 Siddha Peethas. It is also a vantage point for some stunning views.


Some legends have helped shape the beliefs and practices associated with this festival.

  • Legend of Goddess Purnagiri

If a prominent legend is to be believed, a shepherd named Shyamlal dug up the area and stumbled upon an underground temple. He did it on the instructions of Devi Purnagiri who appeared in his dreams. From the day the temple was built, Goddess Purnagiri (a form of Goddess Shakti) has stayed here. The locals conduct the fair annually to celebrate the goddess’s divine presence.

  • Goddess’ Protection

According to another legend, Purnagiri Mata protects the region and its people from earthquakes, floods, and other calamities. The Purnagiri Mela is an occasion to seek the deity’s divine intervention and thank her for her benevolence. One more folklore tells us that the Pandavas, during their exile, came to the region and sought blessings from Goddess Purnagiri for success and protection.


  • Spiritual Pilgrimage

During the Mela, you will find pilgrims in large numbers from across the region, often walking long distances to get to this sacred site. This speaks for their unwavering faith and devotion.

  • Jhanki Procession

The defining feature of the Purnagiri Mela is the grand procession of Purnagiri Devi’s idol, known as “Jhanki.” It’s a sight to behold as the deity is carried in a beautifully decorated palanquin through the temple premises. The spectators contribute to the euphoria with devotional songs and hymns.

  • Special Pooja

During the nine days of the Purnagiri Mela, the temple priests conduct special rituals. You are free to be a part of it and offer prayers, flowers, and traditional offerings to the deity as a mark of respect.

  • Cultural Performances

The Purnagiri Mela is a religious event and a cultural extravaganza. The fairground outside the temple comes alive with various cultural performances, including folk music, dance, and traditional arts. Don’t forget to visit the stalls selling handicrafts, clothes, toys, souvenirs, and more at the fairground. You can even relish the local delicacies and street food here if you feel hungry.

Cultural & Religious Significance

This Uttarakhand festival is a unifying force, bringing people from diverse backgrounds together. Every participant shares a common devotion and experiences a sense of spiritual oneness. The locals even organize several community and social service activities during the Purnagiri Mela, which adds to the positive, joyous, and celebratory atmosphere of this beautiful place.

  • Nature: Cultural Festival
  • Venue: Purnagiri Temple
  • Place: Champawat District
  • Duration: 9 days
  • Frequency: Annually
  • Trek Length: 280 km approx.
  • Held in: Chaitra Navratri

8. Syalde Bikhoti Mela

Syalde Bikhoti MelaMake way for the Syalde Bikhoti Mela, easily one of the coveted festivals of Uttarakhand. Every year on the auspicious occasion of Baishakh Purnima, the festival unfolds in Bageshwar to celebrate the revered local deity, Lord Bal Bikhoti, also known as Syalde. It is a significant event in this part of the world, attended by thousands of devotees, pilgrims, and tourists. The event happens in two phases – first in the Vimandeshwar Temple premises, and the second in the Dwarahat market.


  • Grand Procession (Jhanki)

It’s the prime attraction of the event involving a colorful procession of the deity’s idol. The idol of Lord Bal Bikhoti is placed in a beautifully decorated palanquin and carried by devotees through the streets of Bageshwar. The procession, known as “Jhanki,” is accompanied by traditional musical instruments, hymns, and chants, creating a vibrant and festive atmosphere.

  • Worship and Ritual

In the initial phase, the locals converge at the temple premises in groups, each carrying a specific flag and chanting rhymes in the local dialect. While the priests perform special rituals in the temple’s Garbagriha, the devotees offer prayers and sing devotional songs on the premises. The deity’s idol is taken out in the temple compound and prepared for the procession (Jhanki).

  • Oda Bhetna

Another prominent fixture of the Syalde Bikhoti Mela is ‘Oda Bhetna.’ The ritual involves striking the stone, which is a rare custom even by Uttarakhand’s standard. People specially come to the Syalde Bikhoti Mela to witness this ritual. Come what may, you can’t afford to miss this spectacle.

  • Gatherings & Performances

During Syalde Bikhoti Mela, Bageshwar comes alive with cultural performances by prominent local artists and performers. The fairground outside the temple is a busy place where local vendors sell local handicrafts, souvenirs, and traditional delicacies. Don’t forget to sample the special Jalebi.

Suggested Reading: Top 10 Places to Visit in Bageshwar

Cultural and Religious Significance:

Syalde Bikhoti Mela provides a platform for the local people to come together, interact, and celebrate their shared faith and cultural identity. If you missed the holy dip during the Uttarayani Fair or Kumbh Mela, you can do it on the occasion of the festival to achieve similar results. In times when traditions are dying out, Syalde Bikhoti Mela still retains its cultural integrity.

  • Nature: Cultural Fair
  • Venue: Bageshwar
  • Duration: 9 days
  • Frequency: Annually
  • Held in: Baishakh Purnima (April/May)

9. Kangdali Festival

Kangdali FestivalThe fairs are celebrated withinside the Kumaon location of Uttarakhand. The humans have fun in Kandali competitions between August between October. The Chaundas Valley is far away withinside the Dharchula tehsil of Pithoragarh.

10. Hill Jatra

Hill JatraHill Jatra is among the conventional fairs celebrated within the kingdom of Uttarakhand in the Kumaon region’s Pithoragarh district. This competition worried 3 stages of a birthday party with goat sacrifice, drama, and folks’ songs performance. The Hill Jatra competition’s middle enchantment is the White Clothed deer, which is worshiped as a nearby God.

11. Bissu Mela

Bissu MelaThis truth is held withinside the Chakrata Block of Dehradun District. This truth is well known at the Shukla Paksha withinside the months of Chaitra. Locals and the humans from the vicinage come collectively and pray to the Santora Devi. Men and ladies of the Jaunsari tribe sing and dance at the people’s track and get dressed up in colorful conventional garments in their location.

12. Top Religious Festivals of Uttarakhand: Nanda Devi Raj Jaat

Nanda Devi Raj JaatTrust me, the Nanda Devi Raj Jat Yatra is the best display of the local culture, community bonding, and devotion. Lasting for three weeks, it is a grand and sacred pilgrimage that happens once every 12 years in the Kumaon region of Uttarakhand. So, you can call it the Himalayan Mahakumbh or the Kumaon region’s own version of the Kumbh Mela. The local folks from the region complete a 280-kilometer trek to show their respect and allegiance toward their Kula/Isht Devi, Nanda Mata.

Next Nanda Devi Yatra Date: Between August to September 2026


Some legends and stories are deeply woven into the fabric of the Nanda Devi Raj Jat Yatra.

  • The Legend of Goddess Nanda Devi

The primary legend associated with the Nanda Devi Raj Jat Yatra revolves around Goddess Nanda Devi, an incarnation of Goddess Parvati. As per the legend, to avoid marrying the Rohilla Prince, Nanda Devi fled to the mountains and merged with the 25,643-foot-tall peak, Nanda Parbat. Usually, it rains heavily each time the Jatra gets underway as if the devi is crying.

  • The Legend of Roopkund Lake

There’s a folklore about Roopkund Lake, the final destination of the Nanda Devi Raj Jat Yatra. Once a local princess alongside her servants went on the pilgrimage to Nanda Devi. However, irked by her arrogance, Nanda Devi struck a hailstorm and killed the entire procession near Roopkund Lake. The Yatra is believed to be an act of redemption and appeasement to avoid a repeat of such a calamity.

  • The Legend of the Shepard

If another legend is something to go by, a shepherd named Sem happened to be a witness to a celestial procession of Gods and Goddesses, including Goddess Nanda Devi. Overwhelmed, Sem requested the Goddess to allow him and his community to be a part of this celestial journey. The Goddess granted his wish, but with a condition that they must undertake the pilgrimage once every twelve years. The Nanda Devi Raj Jat Yatra is a continuation of this divine encounter.


  • Commencement

The Yatra gets underway with a traditional ceremony in Nauti village, near Karnaprayag. The who’s who of the area gather here and start the procession after placing the sacred Nanda Devi Raj Jat Ratha on a wooden chariot. It is a well-decorated palanquin carrying the symbolic representation of Goddess Nanda Devi, known as “Doli.” The procession moves ahead with the Doli to its destination.

  • Pilgrimage Procession

The Yatra is a long and challenging pilgrimage that spans three weeks. You will see locals from the neighboring villages and neighboring regions joining the procession, singing devotional songs and chanting hymns as they walk alongside the Ratha. The journey covers 280 kilometers, taking you through rugged terrains, dense forests, and some of the lesser-known hill stations in Uttarakhand.

  • Sacred Halts

During the Yatra, the procession makes several sacred halts at specific locations called “Bugyals” or meadows to perform certain rituals. Besides having religious significance, the Bugyals also serve as resting points for the pilgrims, who camp there for the night and continue the journey the next day.

  • Cultural Celebrations

The Nanda Devi Raj Jat Yatra is not just a religious pilgrimage but also a celebration of the region’s rich culture. Folk music, dance performances, and traditional arts are a part of the festivities. Local artists and musicians add vibrancy to the journey and create a joyful and festive ambiance.

  • Culmination at Roopkund Lake

The Nanda Devi Raj Jat Yatra culminates at Roopkund Lake, situated at an altitude of 5,029 meters (16,499 feet). It is the site where the final ceremony to honor Nanda Devi takes place with elaborate rituals and pooja. The Yatra ends with a sense of fulfillment and enlightenment for all participants.

  • Nature: Cultural & Religious
  • Site: Chamoli Garhwal
  • Duration: 19 to 20 days
  • Frequency: Once in 12 years
  • Trek Length: 280 km approx.
  • Held in: August & September


So, that was my take on the top festivals of Uttarakhand. As someone born and bred in Uttarakhand, I have first-hand experience of some of these fairs and festivals, which I feel obligated to share with you. My aim is to provide authentic insights into the various rituals, customs, and traditions that make these festivals so special. Hope, you found the article informative and engaging. For more travel and other stories, stay tuned to Duniakagyan, where we bring all the Gyan of the Dunia for you to read, learn, and get inspired.

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Lokesh Joshi
Lokesh Joshi
My Name is Lokesh Joshi and I am Computer Science Engineer by the profession and I am passionate about technology and integrating it with innovative ideas to give startups the initial boost that they require.

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