The folks and fairs of the state of Uttarakhand are very colourful indeed and they have a distinct sense of style and various natural blends and cultural factors. The people of state also indulge in celebrating all the essential 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 Uttarakhand.
The daily lives of women living in Uttarakhand are filled with a joy and colours of various festivals; most of them involve fasts and the preparation of special foods. Some of the traditional fairs of Uttarakhand are as follows;
Jauljibi and Thal Fairs
This fair take place in the month of November at Jauljibi at the confluence of the rivers Kali and Gori, which happens to be the meeting place of three different traditions - the Nepali, the Shauka and the Kumaoni. This place which is a getaway to Darma, Johar, Byans and Chaudans was at a point of time considered to be the main place between Tarai and Tiber regions. This fair has lots of cultural overtones, though it is mainly commercial in nature. The crowds that gather here come from various places like Nepal to sell ghee, horses and foreign commodities and take back food grains, jaggery etc.
The Uttarayani Fair
This fair is held in many places on Uttarayani day that includes Bageshwar, Rameshwar, Sult Mahadev, Chitrashila (Ranibagh) and Hanseshwar etc. It attracts many people because of its commercial, cultural and political importance. Goods like baskets, casks, iron and copper pots, bamboo articles, mats, blankets, herbs mattresses, carpets and various types of spices are also sold during this fair.
This fair is used as a platform as a political and social workers and Bageshwar fair plays an important role in all the local movements, as it was in the independence movements. In 1921 the activists had given the call for abolition of bonded labour. Mahatma Gandhi came to this place in 1929 and many other social activists and freedom fighters have been closely associated with Bageshwar fair. Even today Bageshwar fair attracts a large crowd who spend time dancing and singing Jhoras, Chancharis and Bairas.
The Nandadevi Fair is actually held at Nainital, Kot (Dangoli), Almora, Ranikhet, Bhowali, Kichha and also in the far flung villages of lohar (like Milam and Martoli) and Pindar valleys (like Wachham and Khati). Every year in the villages of Pindar valley people celebrate the Nanda Deviwhile at lohar people come from far of places to Danadhar, Suring, Milam and Martoli in order to worship the Goddess. In Almora and Nainital thousands of people take part in procession carrying the dola of the Nanda Devi. The Saneti fair comes every second year. Both the fairs are rich in cultural and folk expression and many products are also bought for sale.
This festival is celebrated on the Vishuwat Sankranti day and commemorates an old triumph. On this very day, the Bagwal is held at the Syalde Pokhar in the old town of Dwarahat. People also celebrate with song, dance and music. A similar fair is held just before this date at Vibhandeshwar in which Lord Shiva is worshipped. The Syalde Bikhauti fair have been extremely successful in retaining its old colour and gaiety to a great extent.
Somnath (Masi) Fair
This fair is celebrated on Vishnuwat Sankranti day held at Masi in the Shiva Temple. It is a popular fair of Pali Pachhaun. Animals like the calves and bullocks are sold at this fair. On the very same day a fair is held at Thal. During the summer season people of this region especially in Bhikiasen and Masi, celebrate a unique fish festival also known as machhli utsav. The villagers come to the river to catch fish with required arrangements like Jaal, fatyav and hathiya. Locally, this fish festival is also known as Dahau.
Bagwal - Devidhura Fair
This fair is held at the premises of Varahi Devi temple at Devidhura on the day of Raksha Bandhan. The Devidhura is located at a tri-junction of Almora, Pithoragarh and Nainital districts and is famous for its expressive folk songs and dances and is also known for its Bagwal.
This is a popular fair and is held on the fifteenth day of a month of Baishakh (middle of April) in Jageshwar at the Shiva Temple. For the time when the fair is on, people take holy dips in the Brahma Kund (pool) and worship Lord Shiva. On this very day there are fairs that take place in other places.
There are many people who visit the temple at Purnagiri, which is located at the top of a mountain on the right bank of the Kali River near Tanakpur, in Champawat District. The temple remains crowded during Navaratris of Paush and Chaitra. This fair is held on Vishuwat Sankranti every year and it attracts large number of devotees from across the country. After the festival of Holi, the longest running fair of Kumaon (for 40 days) starts at Purnagiri. During the course of the fair thousands of pilgrims visit the shrine.
This fair is held on Ashtami (eighth day of the month) of Bhado and Chaitra in the Kalika Temple at Gangolihat. People, who visit the place, come with flags and drums to offer prayers to Goddess Kali. There are animal sacrifices that take place on this day and offered to goddess. The athwar (eight sacrifices) processions with dances and drums are worth watching.