Fairs and Festivals of Uttarakhand
Khatarua is essentially the special festival of pastoral- agricultural society and celebrated on the first day of the month of Ashwin in mid September, and 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.
This festival is celebrated on the Krishna amavasya (last day of the dark half of the month) of Jyestha and on the day married women worship Savitri and the Bat or banyan tree (Ficus benghalensis) and pray for the well being of their spouses. 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 Or Dasar
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.
The people of Kumaon celebrate Raksha Bandhan and J anopunyu, the day on which people change their janeu (sacred thread). On this day the famous Bagwal fair is held at Devidhura in district Pithoragarh.
Jauljibi And Thal Fairs
This fair is held every year in November at Jauljibi, the confluence ofthe rivers Kali and Gori, which is a meeting place of three different cultures - the Shauka, the Nepali and the 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. Though this fair is primarily a commercial one, its cultural importance cannot be overlooked. People come even 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. With the closure of the Indo - Tibet trade these fairs have lost their former importance.
The Uttarayani Fair
This fair is held in a number of places including Bageshwar, Rameshwar, Suit Mahadev, Chitrashila (Ranibagh) and Hanseshwar etc. on Uttarayani day. 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.
The Nandadevi Fair
The Nandadevi fair is held at Almora, Nainital, Kot (Dangoli), Ranikhet, Bhowali, Kichha and also in the far flung villages of lohar (like Milam and Martoli) and Pindar valleys (like Wachham and Khati). In the villages of the Pindar valley people celebrate the Nanda Devi Jaat (journey) every year, while in lohar people come from far and wide to Danadhar, Suring, Milam and Martoli in order to worship the Goddess. In Nainital and Almora thousands take part in the procession carrying the dola (or litter) of Nanda Devi. It is said that the Nanda Devi fairs started in Kumaon during the reign of Kalyan Chand in the 16th Century.
It is celebrated on the Vishuwat Sankranti day and commemorates an ancient victory. On this day, the Bagwal is held at Syalde Pokhar in the old town of Dwarahat. People also celebrate the occasion with music, songs and dancing. 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 (Masi) Fair
This fair, also on Vishuwat Sankranti day is held in the Shiva temple at Masi. It is a famous fair of Pali Pachhaun. Animals, specially bullocks and calves, are sold at this fair. On the same day a fair is held at ThaI. 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.
The Devidhura Fair
This fair is held in the compound of the Varahi Devi temple at Devidhura on the day of Raksha Bandhan. Devidhura is situated at a trijunction of Almora, Pithoragarh and Nainital districts and the fair is well known for its enchanting folk songs and dances as also for its Bagwal. During the Bagwal the two groups (khams) of people throw stones at each other while they try to protect themselves by using big roof like shields. Even watching the Bagwal is a truly thrilling experience. The Devidhura fair has maintained its old vigour.
The Jageshwar Fair
This 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 (pool) and worship Lord Shiva. On this day, fairs are also held in many other places.
The Punyagiri Fair
Many people throng the temple at Punyagiri, which is situate,d 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. Every year a fair is held on Vishuwat Sankranti and this attracts a large number of pilgrims. After the Holi festival, the longest fair of Kumaon (for about 40 days) starts at Punyagiri. Thousands of people visit the shrine these days.
The Haatkalika Fair
On the ashtami (eighth day of the month)of the Chaitra and Bhado, a 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 athwar (eight sacrifices) processions with drums and dances are worth seeing.
The Mostamanu (Pithoragarh) fair held in August - September, the Chaiti fair at Kashipur during which Talsundhari is worshipped, the fair of Jahraulia Peer at Kashipur, the Shiva Mela at Ataria (Rudrapur) on the day of Purnamasi in the month of Chaitra; the fairs at Nanakmatta, Saneti, Sanigaar, Berinag, Wadda (Chaupakhia), Dharchula and Tapovan; the Shivratri fair at Bhikiasen and Salt Mahadev; the Devi fair at Deghat and Kalanka (at Almora - Pauri border, once in three years); the Krishna Janmastami fair at Kalapani and Gunji; the Kanar Devi fair (above Baram in Gori valley); the Hokaradevi fair at Birthi; the Dhanlek fair at Askot; the Lachher fair near Nainipatal are some of the important fairs, which playa major role in the social and cultural lives of the people of Kumaon. In these fairs one can feel the coexistence of the forces of continuity and change in Uttaranchali culture.
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