Nanda Raj Yatra takes place every 12 years. The continuity of this tradition for five thousand years speaks of the tremendous faith that is widespread among the people of Kumaun and Garhwal
The Nanda Raj Jat Yatra is organized under the patronage of the descendants of the king of Garhwal. On the auspicious day of Basant Panchami a male descendant of the royal dynasty of Garhwal and resident of Chand Garhi visits Nauti village and worships the famous "Sri Yantra". It is widely believed that Sri Yantra is the breath of Divinity and the world is evolved from this breath. The worship is done with all the Tantric rites and rituals for emission of vital energy and invocation of the spirit of the Goddess Nanda to the gold idol. At this invocation ceremony Goddess Nanda is invited from her husband's Himalayan abode, Nanda Devi mountain, to visit her parental home at Nauti village. Meantime news is conveyed to the prince that a mysterious four horned ram is already born heralding the advent of Goddess Nanda in the village. The ram is brought to the prince's custody. He undertakes full responsibility for its upkeep. The animal is reared and fed with rich fodder for a period of six months when it grows up. Seventeen days before Bhadra Ashtami day in the month of August the adult ram is taken back to Nauti village once again along with a silver palanquin. Preparations are made for undergoing a 22 day long journey. Ornaments are prepared for adorning the ram and precooked food items for the journey.
After staying for six months at her parental home now comes the time for her return journey to her husband's place deep in the Himalayas. On the eve of her departure a huge gathering of pilgrims congregate at Nauti and many devotees participate in a dance called `Nanda Jat Jagar'. The village folk, mostly ladies attired in their traditional dress, and surrounded by a multitude of pilgrims converge in a circle around a fire. Suddenly, like a necromancer the jagaria (singer) slowly and with measured drum beats starts to invoke the spirit of Goddess Nanda. His singing is punctuated by drum beats and the shrill sound of thali. The crescendo builds up and drives the listeners into a trance. Abruptly, the spirit of the Goddess enters one of the ladies amongst the crowd and she breaks into an invocational song in the form of hymns of praise of the illustrious Goddess. In a fit of ecstasy she starts leaping, jumping and dancing and is completely transformed. The Goddess cannot stand the pangs of separation. With tears trickling down her cheeks she laments how poorer she will feel without her friends and relatives who had become part of her life. She will be missing their "sweet radiant faces, bright and glittering eyes and lively humour and sober nature" which used to give her strength to go through the ordeals of life. Not a moment will pass henceforth without their cherished memories. Broken hearted, her passionate expression of grief brings tears to the eyes of the assembled ladies who in their turn also start crying and their incessant sobbing remains unabated and they all feel that the cruel hand of Destiny is mercilessly snatching her away from them leaving them all.
The next day on ashtami (eighth day) the golden idol of the goddess Nanda sitting majestically on a throne is carried by the pilgrims in a silver palanquin. They are led by the mysterious four horned ram. The ram is worshipped as a symbol of the Goddess and is finely dressed and decorated with colorful bangles, ribbons, velvet saddle, jewellery and chunaris (scarves). A procession of men women and children in colorful costumes and glittering silver ornaments accompany the ram carrying huge red flags. They sing devotional songs and dance to the accompaniment of typical uttarakhandi instruments. This rare spectacle of pomp, pageantry and gaiety continues for 22 days traversing through a breathtaking panorama of misty mountainscapes, deep gorges, alpine meadows and dense forests and culminating at Hem Kund lake, at a height of 13200 feet .
There are 18 night halts for this yatra. At every village on the way a local fair is organized which reflects the cultural heritage and traditions of the local people. The local devatas (deities) sitting in cane palanquins are also carried to greet the principal deity, Goddess Nanda, covered under multicoloured umbrellas. At the final point of Hem Kund lake the devotees purify themselves by taking a holy dip in the ice cold water of the lake. A fire is lit in the hearth (Hawan Kund) popularly known as Dhuni. Hawan samagree ( ) consisting of dry fruits, sesame and barley seeds mixed with clarified butter is offered to the Goddess Nanda through the fire God. The deity is worshipped ceremoniously and her blessings are sought by smearing one's forehead with ash from the Dhuni. After paying obeisance to the goddess the four horned ram is worshipped and is asked to bid farewell to all and it walks away alone to the mystical vale -- to the abode of the Goddess and disappears.
The challenge of the elements and the spirit of adventure has attracted a large number of foreign tourists to accompany this yatra. They visit Nauti Village and mingle with the local people while participating in the festival. It is an awe inspiring and overwhelming moment to walk around the age old legendary Himalayan trek that has so much of traditional religious significance. The beauty of the trek is a picture perfect fusion of high mountain valleys, lakes, streams, glaciers and luminous dense green forests and it is a veritable paradise for trekkers. There is plenty to interest botanists and bird watchers and also anthropologists. And the above is merely an eye opener... The the Nand Raj Jat Yatra is a spectacular festival. The reality surpasses the written word. Plan your holiday for an unforgettable experience of a lifetime.
In the vast amphitheatre of the Indian Himalayas Nanda Devi mountain occupies the central place in the alluring arena of the Garhwal and Kumaun region which has a 70 mile barrier ring on which stand twelve measured silvery peaks over 21000 feet high and which has no depression lower than 17000 feet. Its perpetually snow clad camel humped white summit is the most important peak that soars upto 25,660 feet. This gorgeous silvery top resplendent with the lustre of spiritual aura is highly revered in Hindu scriptures as the abode of Shiva's consort, Parvati. The name Nanda in Sanskrit means "bliss giving goddess" and is worshipped as the supreme deity all over Kumaun in Garhwal region.
There are two ways to Karanprayag's Nauti village. One is through Hardwar and second from Kathgodam.
From Hardwar: Important trains connecting Hardwar to other parts of the country are Ujjain Express from Bombay, Bombay Dehradun Express from Calcutta and Shatabdi Express, Mussoorie Express from New Delhi and Dehradun Allahabad Express from Allahabad.
Regular bus services ply between Hardwar, New Delhi, Lucknow, Moradabad, Bareilly etc. Private tourist taxies and coaches are also available for onward journey. Garhwal Mandal Vikas Nigam also runs its coaches and taxis for all major hill destinations.
Due to close proximity of Hardwar to Rishikesh it is easy to stay in the latter and proceed straight to Karanprayag from there. However if you want to stay at Hardwar the Govt. Tourist Bungalow has double rooms and dormitories. Its tariff suits every pocket.
For reservation write to: The Manager, Tourist Bungalow Hardwar.
There are hourly buses for the 45 minute trip to Rishikesh where there are connections to Karanprayag GMVN Tourist bungalow tourist complex Rishilok is pleasantly situated close to the Ashrams. It has rooms with attached bath and tariff is moderately priced. GMVN Ltd, Govt. undertaking operates conducted tours between Rishikesh and Karanprayag. For details please contact GMVN office.
Karanprayag is only 174 km from Rishikesh.
Accommodation at Karanprayag: all types of rooms, deluxe, executive, ordinary, dormitory, family suite are available in GMVN tourist bungalow Karanprayag. For advance reservation and enquiries for official Nanda Raj Jat Yatra please contact to the Hotel Manager directly or Yatra office Muniki Reti, Rishikesh.
From Kathgodam: Kathgodam is the railhead. There are evening trains from Lucknow, Agra, Howrah and Delhi. Buses ply between Kathgodam and Almora which is 90 km away. Almora is well connected with all the major cities.
For detailed tourist information write to: Regional Tourist Officer, Happy Cottage Complex, Almora.
For reaching Karanprayag you have to catch a bus for Gwaldam town which is 78 km from Almora. There is a tourist rest house at Gwaldam. You can reach Karanprayag the same evening if you catch the early morning bus at 5 a.m. which goes to Srinagar Garhwal and drops you at Karanprayag.
In case you wish to meet the Raj Jat Yatra midway you can catch the bus from Gwaldam to Debal to Mundoli (which you can reach by shared jeep) and drive further north. There are forest rest houses at Debal, Lohajang (just above Mundoli) and Wan. Your Itinerary can be as follows:
Day 01 Almora to Mundoli via Debal -- 103 km by bus or Taxi. (01 September 2000)
Day 02 Mundoli to Wan -- 14 km trek. (02 September)
Day 03 Wan to Bedni Bugyal -- 13 km trek. (03 September)
Day 04 Bedni Bugyal to Bhagupassa - 9 km trek. (04 September)
Day 05 Bhagupassa to Shailsamundar via Roop Kund -- 8 km trek (05 September)
Day 06 Shailsamundar to Hem Kund -- 6 km trek (06 September)
Day 07 Hem Kund to Bhagupassa -- 14 km trek. (07 September)
Day 08 Bhagupassa to Bedni Bugyal -- 9 km trek. (08 September)
Day 09 Bedni Bugyal to Dedna -- 8 km trek. (09 September)
Day 10 Dedna to Mundoli -- 9 km trek. (10 September)
Day 11 Mundoli to Almora -- 103 km by bus or taxi. ( 11 September)
This year a private organization manned by experienced expert mountaineers "OSHIN TREK & TOUR" 14 - Palika Market, Gandhi Chowk, Almora - 263601 is undertaking a conducted tour to Nanda Raj Jat Yatra. It will, however, take the tourist not to the Nauti village but meet the Yatra midway and proceed upto Hem Kund Lake. The camp equipment, small tents, sleeping bags, wind proof jackets, ruck sacks and other accessories, porters and ponies are arranged by them.
This year the Nanda Raj Jat Yatra will commence from village Nauti (Karanprayag) on August 21, 2000 terminating at Hem Kund on September 6, 2000.