Uttarakhand celebrates a good number of fairs and festivals quite unique to the region. These fairs and festivals clearly reflect the traditional customs and colorful culture of the region. These fairs and festivals are intricately linked with the simple lifestyle of the natives out there and offer great occasions for joyous family gatherings. Most of these fairs and festivals consist in many elaborate and distinctive rituals that people of the region participate in, most zealously. Various folk dance plus music trends are kept alive till date through these Uttarakhand fairs and festivals. To learn more about the top fairs and festivals of Uttarakhand, read on-
Phool Dei Utsav
Phool Dei is a beautiful harvest festival of Uttarakhand heralding the beginning of the Spring season. This festival is celebrated most pompously on the first day of the Hindu month, Chaitra [mid-March as per English calendar]. Young girls of the region mainly take part in this festival. They go around the neighborhood distributing plates full of rice, jiggery, coconut, fresh green leaves and flowers to the various houses. They also convey their good wishes to the household members who in them and gift them items like jiggery, money and sweets. Decorating the doorstep with leaves and flowers, singing various melodious springtime songs plus preparing a special festive delicacy called ‘Sei’ out of curd, jiggery and flour make an important part of the Phool Dei festival
Ghee Sankranti (Ghee Tyar)
Ghee Sankranti or Olgia is an important harvest festival of Uttarakhand and a regional one. This festival is celebrated most pompously by the agricultural communities who exchange gifts of agricultural tools such as metal calipers, Daatkhocha, Binai, Axes and also newly harvested vegetables and Ghee. This festival symbolizes the greenery of nature laden with abundance of fruits and veggies and carries the suggestion of wealth, growth and prosperity. Around the season of Bhado; i.e. mid August this festival comes to be celebrated in Uttarakhand. During this festival time people consume Urad dal stuffed ghee fried Chappatis and smear their forehead with ghee.
Ganga Dussehra festival, also known as Dasar, is celebrated in Uttarakhand during the Hindu month of Jyeshta [i.e. May/June as per English Calendar] and on the Tithi of Shukla Dashami. During this time puja is offered to Goddess Ganga and it is commonly believed that it is on the Ganga Dussehra day that Goddess Ganga descended on to the earth from the heavens. During the festival time, devotees engage in ritualistic bathing, chant holy mantras on the river banks, decorate their home as well as temple doorways with colorful Dussehra posters and float clay diyas on the river during the evening.
Chhipla Jaat festival is an important festival of Uttarakhand’s Chhiplakot region and most aptly upholds the various amazing manifestations of religious beliefs. The festival comprises of many distinctive rituals such as ritualistic bath, barefoot Pad Yatra, singing of traditional songs, traditional dance performances, collective food sessions, possession ceremony of Bonia’s body by the pastoral God.
The festival of Khatarua acquires great importance for the agricultural as well as pastoral communities of Uttarakhand. People during this festival pray for the bountiful growth of agricultural crops and also for the good health of the animals which facilitate the various agricultural activities. This festival is held in the Hindu month of Ashwin; i.e. around the middle of September. During the festivities of Khatarua people light up bonfires; children go around these bonfires dancing mirthfully, holding colorful flags in their hands. Also, cucumbers are sacrificed into the bonfires to keep all evils at bay. The peasants also quite lovingly feed their animals with fresh, juicy green grass as a part of the Khatarua rituals. The tradition of Khatarua festival is said to have started with the Kumaon king’s victory
Kumaoni Holi is celebrated all across Uttarakhand’s Kumaon region and this Holi, interestingly enough is more of a musical festival rather than a festival of colors. Musical performers from different parts of the country gather at the various temple premises to soothe the ears with their melodious renditions. This Holi falls into 2 categories- Khari Holi and Baithki Holi. Khari Holi celebrations take place in the rural belts while Baithki Holi celebrations take place in the premises of temples.
- Also Read: Culture of Kumaon
Nanda Devi Fair
This is a very popular fair held around September in Uttarakhand’s Kumaon region. The fair continues for about 5 days and apart from the main fair held around the temple of Nanda Devi at Almora, this fair is organized at several other locations of the Kumaon
The festival of Kandali is a traditional Uttarakhand festival celebrated with great pomp and glory in Uttarakhand’s Pithoragarh district. People celebrate the festival when the flower Kandali blooms in the region at an interval of every 12years. The festival starts with the worship of a lord Shiva lingam crafted out of a mix of buckwheat and barley. During the festival people engage in traditional cultural performances, decorate their house courtyards most gorgeously, participate in community feasts wearing traditional jewelries and attires. The festival continues for a span of 1 week. Even processions are taken out during the festival time and the woman who takes the lead in the procession carries a rill with her. The Shaukas especially play a major role in the festival of Kandali.
Janopunya festival is one of the major festivals of Uttarakhand’s Kumaon region. The inhabitants of the region usually celebrate this festival along with Raksha Bandhan. On the occasion of this festival people make an attempt to spread love and brotherhood by tying local holy threads on the wrist of each other. Excitement and fun are in the air during this time.
The festival of Bat Savitri is held in Uttarakhand in the Hindu month of Jyestha [June as per the English calendar] and during the Amavasya tithi. This festival is mainly observed by the married women of the region who keep fast all day long and later during the day offer prayers and puja to Goddess Savitri as well as the holy Banyan tree for the health and prosperity of their husbands. The mythological background of the festival relates to the tale of Savitri and Satyavan. Savitri through her intense dedication had retrieved her husband from the clutches of death by convincing Lord Yama, the God of death. The married women folk of the region take Savitri as their idol and try to pray for the well being of their husbands with the same amount of dedication.
Makar Sankranti festival signals a seasonal change when sun migrates to the tropic of Capricorn from that of tropic of Cancer. This festival is celebrated during the Hindu month of Poush; i.e. January as per western calendar. During this festival people of Uttarakhand distribute Khichadi as a mode of charity, engage in ritual bathing, participate in the celebrations of Ghugutia and Uttarayani fairs.
This festival is celebrated with immense enthusiasm in the Hindu month of Chaitra. The celebrations start with the start of the Sawan month. During this time father pay a visit to the in-laws house of their sisters in order to ascertain the marital bliss and contentment of the sisters in their in-laws’ house.
Basant Panchami festival is held at Uttarakhand in the Magh month as per Hindu calendar; i.e. in the month of February. The festival signals the beginning of spring season when colorful flowers bloom n the region and nature gets decked up in the most exotic hues. People wear yellow colored garments during this time, smear their forehead with yellow Tilak and consume food cooked with turmeric and semolina cooked with saffron. Local dances such as Jhumelia, Chounphula are performed during the festival time. The air resounds to the various local songs sung by the people to welcome the colorful and vibrant spring season. In Rishikesh a fair is organized on the Basant Panchami day and lord Bharat’s idol is taken out for a real grand procession across the town
Kumbh Mela is held in Uttarakhand’s holy city, Haridwar once in every 12 years. Haridwar makes one of the four famous locations of the country where this fair is organized. Pilgrims, tours and ascetics pour in large numbers to become a part of this largest and distinctive human conglomeration. According to myths drops of Amrit or divine nectar had fallen on the four places while Garud, the divine bird was transporting the Kumbh or celestial pitcher full of Amrit. Haridwar is one of those places where drops of Amrit had fallen and thus, today is one of the venues of Kumbh Mela.
This festival is quite popular in Uttarakhand’s Pithoragarh district. This festival is said to have originated from West Nepal Sorar region. Hymn recitations, circle dances called ‘Chanchari’, masque dances, animal sacrifices make some of the important ceremonies/rituals of the Hill Jatra festival
Guru Kailapeer Fair
This is one of the most ancient as well as traditional fairs of Uttarakhand’s Tehri Garhwal region. The fair is held in honor of a local deity; Dev Guru Budakedar Kailapeer. The key events or rituals associated with this fair include the festive Mangseer ki Diwali celebrations plus run—with-the-idol/deity ritual.
- Also Read: Culture of Garhwal
On the Ashtami Tithi in the Hindu month of Chaitra as well as Bhado, the famed Haatkalika fair is organized around the Kalika temple located at Gangolihat. During this time devotees gather in large numbers to pray to the goddess and get their wishes fulfilled. Animal sacrifices are done at the fair in order to please the Goddess and for these sacrificial rituals pompous processions are taken out and those are accompanied by the loud beating of drums
Jageshwar fair takes place to pay tribute to Lord Jageshwar who is none other than lord Shiva. His temple is located very close to the Almora town of Uttarakhand; only 32kms away from Almora and the fair is organized around the temple in the Hindu month of Shravan. Devotees gather in large numbers during this time to pray to lord Shiva and take their ritualistic dip in the sacred Brahma Kund
Purnagiri fair is organized around the Purnagiri temple located in Uttarakhand’s Champawat district. The fair spans over 40 days and commences from the day of Vishuwat Sankranti. Huge crowds collect on the fair ground during this time.
Uttarayani fairs are held at several places in Uttarakhand. These fairs commence from the day of Uttarayani and the occasion is often chosen in order to start some major political and social movements in the region. On the fairground commodities such as mats, mattresses, spices, herbs, blankets, bamboo made articles, copperware and ironware are sold.
Somnath fair is held in honor of Lord Shiva and is held around the lord Shiva temple of Masi. Devotees pour in large numbers in order to take part in the fair. The fair starts on the day of Vishuwat Sankranti. Animal trading is done at the fair. Animals such as cattle and bullocks are sold.
Jauljibi and Thal Fair
In the month of November the Jauljibi fair is held at a place called Jauljibi where the two rivers Gori and Kali meet with each other. This place stands out as a mingling point for three distinct cultures- the Kumaoni, the Nepali and the Shauka. It is a commercial fair but comes with great cultural significance as well. An almost similar fair takes place at Thal on the day of Baisakhi Sankranti each year and attracts huge crowd of people.
International Yoga Festival
The international yoga festival is held at Rishikesh, the country’s spiritual capital each year in the month of March. Several yoga aspirants from different corners of the country and globe gather at Rishikesh during this time to learn about yoga. Celebration of this yoga fest took off in 1999 and is continuing till date. Sessions of Hath Yog, Yog Nidra, Pranayama, Yog Dhyan etc are organized during this festival.