Close your eyes and imagine yourself amidst the mighty Himalayas, breathing in the crisp mountain air and listening to the sound of the gurgling rivers. As you take in the breathtaking beauty of the surroundings, you suddenly hear the sound of drumbeats and bells ringing in the distance. You follow the sound, and before you know it, you are amid a vibrant festival. This is Uttarakhand, a land where festivals are not just celebrations but a way of life.
From the Kumbh Mela in Haridwar, a massive gathering of Hindu pilgrims, to the Nanda Devi Raj Jat Yatra, a centuries-old trek to the Nanda Devi mountain peak, numerous festivals in Uttarakhand offer a unique glimpse into the state's rich history and culture.
So, join us as we explore Uttarakhand's vibrant culture and traditions through these 17 festivals. From the mountains to the plains, from the temples to the fields, each festival in Uttarakhand offers a glimpse into the deep-rooted traditions and values that define this enchanting state. In this blog post, we will take you on a journey of discovery through the joyous celebrations of 17 festivals in Uttarakhand.
Have you ever wondered what it would be like to experience Uttarakhand, India's vibrant and colourful festivals? This northern state is a hub of cultural celebrations steeped in tradition and history. Here, we bring you a well-curated list of 17 of the main festivals of Uttarakhand and provide a brief overview of each one. So, are you ready to explore the cultural richness of Uttarakhand through its festivals?
Kumbh Mela is a grand festival that attracts pilgrims from across the globe to the holy city of Haridwar. The festival's long and fascinating history dates back to ancient times. According to Hindu mythology, the festival commemorates the churning of the ocean by the gods and the demons to obtain the nectar of immortality.
The festival is celebrated in four different locations in India - Haridwar, Prayagraj, Nashik, and Ujjain, with each site hosting the festival once every 12 years. Of these, the Kumbh Mela in Haridwar is considered the most important as it is believed that the river Ganges, which is considered sacred in Hinduism, is at its purest in Haridwar during the festival.
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The festival of Bhitauli and Harela is celebrated in the month of Chaitra (March-April). Bhitauli marks the completion of a year's cycle in Hinduism, while Harela celebrates the wedding of Lord Shiva and Parvati. During these two festivals, people from all over Uttarakhand come together to participate in the celebrations.
The festival starts with a ritual bath in the rivers of Uttarakhand, followed by prayers and offerings to deities. On Bhitauli, people exchange gifts and sweets, while on Harela, there is an abundance of singing and dancing.
Ganga Dussehra is a unique and fascinating festival in Uttarakhand that celebrates the descent of the holy river Ganges from heaven to Earth. This festival is celebrated in various parts of India, but it holds a special significance in Uttarakhand, the land of the Ganges. The festival is observed on the tenth day of the waxing moon in the Hindu month of Jyaistha (May-June).
According to the legend, it is believed that the river Ganges descended to Earth from heaven on this day. The descent of the river was orchestrated by Lord Shiva, who caught the river in his matted locks to prevent it from wreaking havoc on Earth. The river was then released from Lord Shiva's locks and flowed through the Himalayas, ultimately reaching the plains.
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Have you ever felt that sudden surge of joy when spring finally arrives? The festival of Phool Dei celebrates this emotion! Celebrated on the inaugural day of Chaitra (March-April) as per the Hindu calendar, this festival is also referred to as the harvest celebration.
On this day, people dress up in colourful clothes and adorn their houses with flowers and other decorations. Women sing and dance to traditional folk songs while children fly kites in the sky. Special dishes are prepared for this occasion, and people exchange flowers as presents with each other.
We, Indians, have a strong tradition of pilgrimage and the Kanwar Yatra is one such example. As the Hindu month of Shravan (July) begins, devotees embark on their sacred pilgrimage journey known as the 'Kanwar Yatra'. They travel on foot from various parts of the country to Haridwar in Uttarakhand, with a Kanwar - a wooden staff strung with sacred bells - signifying their pious intentions.
These pilgrims walk hundreds of kilometres during the course of their journey and observe strict vows throughout. During this time, they collect holy water from the river Ganges and other sacred sites in Haridwar, which is then taken back home as a blessing.
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When counting Uttarakhand's famous festival, Ghee Sankranti must never be forgotten.
To honour the locals who rely on farming for their livelihood, every year on August 1st (Bhado), the 'Olgia' Festival is celebrated to mark the start of the harvesting season. At this time of abundance and prosperity, crops are in full bloom and cattle ready to be milked. This festival captures the appreciation that farmers feel towards nature's generous bounty.
Exchanging gifts like axes, ghee, datkhocha (metallic toothpick), and firewood are common during this festival. Moreover, an essential celebration tradition involves eating chapatis filled with urad dal accompanied by ghee.
Basant Panchami is another popular festival celebrated in Uttarakhand. It marks the onset of spring and is associated with a feeling of joy, optimism and rebirth. This festival is also associated with Goddess Saraswati and is observed on the fifth day of Magh (January-February) as per the Hindu lunar calendar.
On this day, processions are held in towns and cities, while fairs are organised in the countryside. People wear yellow clothes, offer special prayers to Goddess Saraswati, and participate in kite-flying activities.
Celebrated for a week by the Jaunsari tribe, whose ancestry is derived from the Pandavas, Bissu Mela is an extensive affair. In honour of a bountiful harvest season in Uttarakhand, people come together to show their reverence and admiration for 'Santoora Devi', an incarnation of Goddess Durga - making it one of the prime attractions of this grand fair.