Tuesday, 21 October 2014

           The Nanda Devi Raj Jat Yatra originates from Nauti village, about  25 km  from  Karnprayag  in  Uttarakhand. The  Kunwar of Kansua  village  inaugurates  the  ceremony. The legend has it that Nanda Devi, the consort of Lord Shiva left her village and went to the Nanda Devi mount. Therefore when the yatra starts, heavy rain occurs as  if the Devi is  crying. This yatra covers many villages en route  and  the  Devi  meets  her  sister  in  Bhagwati  village.  The festivities  come  to a standstill, when  time  comes for the Devi to leave  for  her  husband’s  home. Special  prayers  and  rituals are performed and the offerings are loaded on  the  four- horned Ram. The deity is decorated like a bride, ready to leave for her husband's home. The scene  becomes  emotional  when  devotees  bid tearful farewell to the Devi, as they bid farewell to their own daughter.

      The four horned ram proceeds towards Trishuli peak, the abode of Lord Shiva. The women folk believe that the mist around the Nanda Kot peak is the smoke coming out of the kitchen of Goddess Nanda. They sing songs in praise of their Goddess, whom they consider as their pampered daughter.
         This journey is extremely tough as it passes through difficult terrain. During the yatra, devotees pass by Lake Roopkund, surrounded by hundreds of skeletons. According to the mythology, once a King took some dancers to this sacred spot. Due to heavy snowfall, the people got trapped and the dancers were transformed into skeletons and stones. Another myth is that King Yasodhwal's pregnant wife's placenta, during child birth, flowed down to Roopkund and this in turn caused the death of the people present there. Nandakini, one of the five main tributaries of the Ganges, originating from the Nanda Ghunti in the Nanda Devi Sanctuary, and joining the Alaknanda river at Nandprayag, lost her significance.

         During the period of Chand kings, Nanda Devi worship took the shape of a fair. Prior to that, Nanda Devi was being worshiped, but at  that  time  only an idol of Nanda Devi used to be worshiped. The  custom  to make  two  idols  started  from  the  period  of Baj Bahadur  Chand. The twin  peaks of the Nanda Devi and Sunanda Devi are said to be the abode of two goddesses. 

          The  Nanda  Devi Raj  Jat Yatra covers approx 290 Kms. The 230 Kms distance is covered on foot by trekking and 60 Kms by the transport. It takes three week to cover the whole yatra. People from Uttarakhand  and  other  parts  of India  participate  in  this  Yatra. The route traverse through high peaks and beautiful meadows.

          The goddess Nanda Devi is worshiped at dozens of places in both the Kumaon and Garhwal regions, but the region around Mt. Nanda Devi and its sanctuary, is the prime area related to the Yatra, organized once in 12 years. The Jaat (meaning Yatra or pilgrimage) starts from Nauti village near Karnprayag and goes up to the heights of Roopkund and Homekund with a four horned sheep. After the havan - yagna is over, the sheep is freed with decorated ornaments, food and clothings, and the other offerings are discarded.

     Raj Jaat procession goes through villages, where there is a recognized Nanda Devi temple. At Koti, a night halt of the participants takes place where a night-long worship and celebrations take place. Thousands participate in the procession carrying the dola of Nanda Devi. It is said that the Nanda Devi fairs started in Kumaon during the reign of the King Kalyan Chand in the 16th century. A three-day fair is held at Kot Ki Mai or Kot Bhramari Devi. The fair at Saneti comes every second year.

     Nanda Devi Raj Jat is the most wonderful pilgrimage in the High Himalayas, combining faith, mystery and myth. Like the Khumbh it is organized every 12 years. 280 km pilgrimage by foot begins at the village Nauti, in Chamoli district and has 19 resting places. The yatra reflects the traditions of the society that has deep faith in Nanda Devi. People of all castes, religions and creeds joyfully join this journey, which embraces pastoral hospitably and govt apathy with equal ease, as it traverses through the heavenly environs of the Bedini Bugyal.

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