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Uttaranchal Festivals

Uttaranchal Fairs and Festivals
The fairs and festivals of Uttaranchal are very colourful and distinctive, and are the blend of various natural, social and cultural factors. The religious, social and cultural urges of the people of Uttaranchal find an expression in various fairs, which are closely linked to the economic activities of the region. Makar Sankranti, Basant Panchami, Phool Dei, Haatkalika Fair, Kumbh Mela, Syalde Bikhauti, Somnath Fair, Punyagiri Fair, Jageshwar Fair, Bat Savitri, Ganga Dusshera, Harela and Bhitauli, Olgia or Ghee Sankranti, Janopunyu, Khatarua, Jauljibi and Thal fairs and Nandadevi Fair are some of the major fairs and festivals of Uttaranchal. The people of Uttaranchal also celebrate all the major Indian festivals like Holi, Navratri, Diwali, Id, Easter, Christmas, Baisakhi and Guru Nanak Jayanti.

Makar Sankranti

Kumbh Mela, Uttaranchal Festivals

According to the Hindu mythology, on the Makar Sankranti, the sun becomes 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 a mixture of pulses and rice in charity, take ceremonial dips in holy rivers, participate in the Uttarayani fair. This fair is held in a number of places including Bageshwar, Rameshwar, Suit Mahadev, Chitrashila (Ranibagh) and Hanseshwar etc. on Makar Sankranti. At Pancheshwar the dola of Chaumu comes down to the temple. The fair at Bageshwar attracts maximum people. Its commercial, cultural and political importance is still very high. Goods like iron and copper pots, baskets, casks, bamboo articles, mats, mattresses, carpets, blankets, herbs and spices are sold during this fair. This fair attracts a large number of people, who spend the whole night dancing and singing Jhoras, Chancharis and Bairas.

Basant Panchami

The festival of Basant Panchami is celebrated to welcome the spring season. This festival is celebrated in the month of February. During this festival people worship the Goddess Saraswati, use yellow handkerchiefs or even wear yellow clothes and also put a yellow tilak on their foreheads. This festival also marks the beginning of Holi baithaks.

Phool Dei

Phool Dei is celebrated on the first day of the month of Chaitra in mid March and on this day the young girls conduct most of the ceremonies. In some places, this festival is celebrated throughout the month with the coming of spring season. During this festival young girls go to all the houses in the street or village with plates full of rice, jaggery, coconut, green leaves and flowers. They offer their good wishes for the prosperity of the household and are given blessings and presents in return. Sei, a pudding made of floor, curd and jaggery is prepared specially for this occasion. Folk singers sing the Riturain, Chaiti and other songs welcoming spring season and are given presents, money and foodgrains.

Haatkalika Fair

The Haatkalika Fair is held on the eighth day of the month of the Chaitra and Bhado. This fair is held in the Kalika temple at Gangolihat. People come with drums and flags to pay homage to Goddess Kalika. On this day, animals are sacrificed and offered to the goddess. The eight sacrifices processions with drums and dances are worth seeing.

Kumbh Mela

The Kumbh Mela is the greatest fair which is held in Haridwar after three years. Kumbha Mela is the most sacred of all the Hindu pilgrimages. The Ardh Kumbh is held after every six years and then after six years Kumbh Mela is held. It is said that a holy dip in the river Ganges during the Kumbh and Ardh Kumbh gives Moksha or Nirvana. According to astrologers, the 'Kumbh Fair' takes place when the planet Jupiter enters Aquarius and the Sun enters Aries. The Kumbh Mela at Haridwar is visited by millions of people, monks, saints and sadhus making it the largest pilgrimage gathering around the world. One of the major event of the festival is the ritual bath at a predetermined time and place. The other activities include religious discussions, devotional singing, mass feeding of holy men, women and the poor, and religious assemblies.

Syalde Bikhauti, Somnath Fair and Punyagiri Fair
Syalde Bikhauti, Somnath Fair and Punyagiri Fair is celebrated on the Vishuwat Sankranti. Syalde Bikhauti is celebrated on the occasion of an ancient victory. On this day, the Bagwal fair is held at Syalde Pokhar in the old town of Dwarahat. People also celebrate the festival with music, songs and dances. One day before this, a similar fair is held at Vibhandeshwar in which Lord Shiva is worshipped. The Syalde Bikhauti fair has been successful in retaining its old colour and gaiety to a large extent. The Somnath fair is also held on the Vishuwat Sankranti day in the Shiva temple at Masi. It is a famous fair of Pali Pachhaun. Animals, specially bullocks and calves, are sold at this fair. In the summer the people in the valley of Ramganga W., especially in Masi and Bhikiasen, celebrate the unique Machhli utsav (the fish festival). The villagers bearing tumra come with Jaal, fatyav and hathiya to the river to catch fish. The fish festival is locally known as Dahau. Every year, the Punyagiri fair is held on Vishuwat Sankranti and it attracts a large number of pilgrims. During the Punyagiri fair, thousands of people visit the temple at Punyagiri, which is situated on the top of a mountain on the right bank of the river Kali, in the district of Pithoragarh. The temple is very crowded during the Navaratris of Paush and Chaitra.

Jageshwar Fair

Jageshwar fair is held on the fifteenth day of the month of Baishakh (late March or early April) at the Shiva temple in Jageshwar. During the fair people take holy dips in the Brahma Kund and worship Lord Shiva. On this day, fairs are also held in many other places.

Bat Savitri

The Bat Savitri festival is celebrated on the last day of the dark half of the month of Jyestha. On this day, the married women worship Savitri and the Bat or banyan tree and pray for the well being of their spouses. The women observe fast in honour of Savitri and Satyavan and remember how Savitri through her intense devotion saved her husband from the claws of death.

Ganga Dusshera

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.

Harela and Bhitauli

Harela is peculiarly a Kumaoni festival that is celebrated in the month of Shravan (August) to welcome the rainy season and new harvest. The celebration starts from the first day of Shravan. Ten days before the due date, seeds of either five or seven kinds of grains are mixed together and sown in pots inside the room, using small baskets filled with earth. The sowing is done either by the head of the family or the family priest in a ceremony. Water is sprinkled after worship. 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. On the last day of the month of Aashar, one day before the actual celebration of the festival, a kind of mock weeding is done with small wooden images of Lord Shiva and Parvati. The people prepare the gaily painted images of Shiva and Parvati and their off springs and worship them. The Harela festival provides an opportunity to the cultivator to test the qualities or defects of the seeds he has in his store. This festival is also the occasion to give the pocket money to the young girls of the family. People put the blades of freshly cut Harela on their heads and send them to their relatives and friends as well. During this month, the brothers send presents to their sisters. These presents are called Bhitauli.

Olgia or Ghee Sankranti

Olgia is celebrated on the first day of Bhado (middle of August), when the harvest is lush and green and vegetables are grown in abundance. In ancient times, the sons-in-law and nephews would give presents to fathers-in-law and maternal uncles, in order to celebrate Olgia. Today, this festival is seldomly celebrated. Agriculturists and artisans give presents to the owners of their land and purchasers of their tools and receive gifts and money in return. Oral harp, metallic tooth pick, metal calipers, axes, ghee, vegetables and firewood are some of the presents exchanged on this day. People put ghee on their foreheads and eat ghee and chapatis stuffed with 'urad' dal. It is believed that walnuts sweeten after this festival.


The people of Kumaon celebrate Raksha Bandhan and Janopunyu. On this day, the people change their janeu (sacred thread). The famous Devidhurafair is also held in the compound of the Varahi Devi temple at Devidhura in district Pithoragarh on this day. Devidhura is situated at a trijunction of Almora, Pithoragarh and Nainital districts and the fair is well known for its enchanting folk songs, dances and Bagwal. During the Bagwal the two groups of people throw stones at each other while they try to protect themselves by using big roof like shields. The Devidhura fair has maintained its old vigour.

Khatarua is the special festival of pastoral-agricultural society and celebrated on the first day of the month of Ashwin in mid September. This festival 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.

Jauljibi and Thal fairs

The Jauljibi Fair is held every year in November at Jauljibi, the confluence of the rivers Kali and Gori, which is a meeting place of three different cultures - the Shauka, Nepali and Kumaoni. This gateway to Johar, Darma, Chaudans and Byans was at one time, considered to be the central place between Tibet and the Tarai regions. This fair is primarily a commercial fair and its cultural importance cannot be overlooked. The people came from Nepal to this fair in order to sell horses, ghee and foreign goods and take back foodgrains, jaggery etc. A similar fair is held at Thai on Vaishakh Sankranti, 14 April and it attracts a large number of Shaukas. As this fair is close to the Indo-Tibet trade, so it has lost its former importance.

Nandadevi Fair

The Nandadevi fair is held at Almora, Nainital, Kot (Dangoli), Ranikhet, Bhowali, Kichha and also in the far flung villages of Lohar and Pindar valley. In the villages of the Pindar valley people celebrate the Nandadevi fair every year, while in Lohar, people come from far places to Danadhar, Suring, Milam and Martoli in order to worship the goddess. In Nainital and Almora thousands take part in the procession carrying the image of Nanda Devi. It is said that the Nanda Devi fair was started in Kumaon during the reign of Kalyan Chand in the 16th century.


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