History of Nanda Devi Raj Jat
It is believed that Nanda Devi Raj Jat had originated during the 16th century at Kumaon under the rule of Kalyan Chand. At the area of Kot Ki Mai or Kot Bhramari Devi, a three-day spanning fair is organised and every second year, a fair at Saneti is also arranged. The 'Doli Jatra' starts from Nauti village which is situated about 25 km from Karnaprayag in Karnaprayag tehsil of Uttarakhand. It is then inaugurated by the Kunwar of Kansua village. According to local folk legends, Lord Shiva's consort Nanda Devi had once left her abode at the Himalayas and proceeded towards Nanda Devi Parbat.
Signifying this mythological event, pilgrims face torrential rainfall which is believed to be the tears of Nanda Devi. This holy Jatra covers a large distance, crossing many local villages. It is said that Nanda Devi had encountered her sister near the village of Bhagwati. Devotees must ascend through a rough terrain and Roopkund Lake is present on their path of journey to Nanda Devi. There exists yet another myth which states that there was a ruler who had ordered some of his dancers to accompany him to a holy spot, who were trapped by heavy rains. The dancers died and transformed into skeletons. Another folktale asserts that Yashodhwal's wife was pregnant and that her placenta had flowed down to Roopkund Lake, during her childbirth, which claimed the lives of the dancers.
Description of Nanda Devi Raj Jat
The Kunwar who inaugurates this fair reaches Nauti village, along with a four-horned ram and a 'ringal' umbrella. Visitors have to trek for about 280 km, make as many as 19 halts which spans around 19 days. Prior to the lengthy journey, Archana Devi, Ufrai and Bhumiyal are offered prayers. In a beautiful silver palanquin, a golden idol of Nanda Devi is carried by innumerable devotees, who follow it throughout the journey. Certain religious rituals are followed during their halts, and the procession keeps on swelling with each and every halt. Devotees from Tapovan, Lata, Ghat and Almora throng the Nanda Devi Raj Jat, to earn the divine blessings of the Goddess, equipped with umbrellas. Adorned umbrellas and about 300 idols of Nanda Devi are carried, via the route through Homekund.
Pilgrims must climb to a very high altitude, measuring about 5335 metres at Jiura Gali Dhar, from Nauti, walking barefoot over the chilly snow. Travellers often claim to have sighted smoke and three lights at dawn while they continue their journey. The ram is said to guide the pilgrims in their divine mission, and it accompanied them till Homkund near Nanda Ghungti. Every night during Nanda Devi Raj Jat, this ram rests near the umbrella of Nanda Devi. People believe that tears well up into its eyes when it reaches Homekund and then it disappears into the mountains, laden with the offerings of the millions of devotees, meant for Goddess Nanda Devi. The local villages keep their homes unlocked while this procession occurs, as per a religious custom, so that the exhausted pilgrims can take adequate rest in their houses before they continue with their journey, particularly on the Jat day. Goddess Nanda Devi is believed to have instructed the villagers to follow this custom.
The inhabitants of Chamoli District also celebrate the annual 'Nanda Jat', during which a Raj Jat procession passes through different villages, wherever there exists a temple dedicated to Nanda Devi. The participants of Nanda Devi Raj Jat halt at a place known as Koti during night, where devotees worship the Goddess for a long duration. This religious fair is also celebrated at Ranikhet, Nainital, Almora, Dangoli or Kot, Kichha, Bhowali, remote villages of Lohar which involves Martoli and Milam, and also Khati and Wachham, which are parts of Pindar Valley.
|More Articles in Festivals of Uttarakhand (9)|