Nanda Raj Jat Yatra
By Nidhi Rauthan
Uttrakhand is one of the most beautiful and divine state of India, it has developed a lot in past few years and recovered from the great calamity of 2013. In the race of attaining success, good livelihood and development, people have not forgotten their main roots and religious believes. Garhwal, Kumaun and Jaunsaar are the major divisions in Uttrakhand and people here have different rituals and patron god’s and goddesses whom they worship wholeheartedly and perform all the rituals required in order to impress them. Nanda Devi Rajjaat is a holy pilgrimage that takes place in Garhwal and Kumaon region of Nanda Devi mountain in Uttrakhand, once in 12 years. It’s believed that once upon a time, two twin sisters were born in a royal family called Nanda and Sunanda during the reign of Chand, they were the incarnation of goddess Parvati, beloved wife of Lord Shiva. The two peaks of the Nanda Devi and Sunanda Devi mountains represent the two sisters. The pilgrimage or the Nanda Devi Rajjaat yatra is initiated from the Nauti village in Chamoli district and covers the regions of Almora, Pithoragarh, many villages of Mount Nanda Devi and finally to Homkund . People with deep faith and believes in the goddess come from all over India to participate in the sacred Yatra to carry the palanquin (doli). In Hindu religion, a bride after the marriage is sent to her new home on a palanquin, a kind of chair that has four handles that require four shoulders to carry the bride, that is Devi Nanda in the case of the yatra, to her husband’s home from her maternal home.
Nanda Devi is considered as our daughter, a bride whom we take to her husband’s home to Himalayas (homkund), Lord Shiva’s place, from her maternal home. The palanquin is decorated beautifully and is carried by four men. It always tends to rain heavily in the beginning of the Yatra, as it’s said that the Devi is upset to leave her birth home, like a bride does after marriage, in spite of that the Yatra is continued. It may be difficult for others to believe but during the journey, the palanquin miraculously gets so heavy that it becomes really a tough job for the people to carry it, it seems as if she is reluctant to go to her in-law’s home, still the believers don’t give up and complete the procession. During the journey, Nanda Devi meets her sister at a village called Bhagwati. A very rare sheep with four horns are adorned with beautiful decorative items, it leads the whole Yatra and is released at the end of the journey with offerings. It’s also believed that the sheep helps Devi Nanda to reach her husband, the sheep with four horns is a natural trekker and itself chooses the safest way to the destination.
The Nanda Devi Rajjat Yatra is a very long journey and most of it is covered on foot.
The way of celebrating the troublesome yet beautiful journey that makes people of different areas, villages and districts to come, participate and work together as a team is commendable. There are numerous god’s and goddesses that people pray to and have faith in and while performing the rituals, a very common thing that happens especially in the Garhwal and Kumaon region is the dancing of many people unconsciously, people from outside usually don’t understand and sometimes get scared or flabbergasted watching them doing strange things. But it’s believed that it’s the result of the spirits of god’s or the ancestors entering their body. They use one’s body as a mean to contact and bless us. Various rituals are performed for different patron god’s and each one is unique in its own way.
I think our beliefs have the immense power that makes us do things that may seem impossible to do otherwise and the religious activities, the rituals are to make people understand that no matter how far they have reached their origin still matters.