Nanda Devi Raj Jat Travel Information

The otherwise quite & serene mountains of Garhawal reverberates with a flurry of festive activity during the Nanda Devi Raj Jat Yatra, a royal pilgrimage through the precipitous mountains, that has been in vogue since time immemorial. Seeped in deep rooted religious tradition, folklore and mythology, the yatra is associated with the legend of Nanda Devi, a goddess held in reverence by the local inhabitants of the region. Perhaps, it is their faith and intense devotion alone that helps them not only to smile their way through the tortuous trek but also to survive cheerfully even in the harsh climatic conditions.

Nandadevi Raj Jat is an important religious event of Chamoli district in Garhwal region of Uttar Pradesh. It involves a long trekking for taking the area's reigning deity Goddes Nanda to her divine destination of Gaungati peak which is believed to be the abode of her consort, lord Shiva. The Raj Jat (originally Raj Yatra - the royal journey) is taken up every 12 years, after eleborate preparations by the descendants of the royal priests now living at village Nauti and royal class of Kunwars living in Kansuwar. The purpose of the 280 kms. Long arduous trek under taken by thousands of devotees is to escort the Goddess to her in - laws place. The Jat resembles the post nuptial rite of ceremonially seeing off a daughter as she leaves for her husband's home with all her personal effects and dowry.

An Ancient Tradition
The event starts off on an interesting note when priests and patrons associated with this ancient tradition assemble and put their heads together to draw a time schedule for the retinue to reach the scheduled spots on the itinerary on specific auspicious dates. The objective is to reach Home Kund on Nandastmi, falling sometime around August - September and Kulsari on the succeeding new moon for performing special rituals related to worshipping of the Goddess.

Genesis of the Tradition
Nanda Raj jat is an ancient tradition which has been in vogue in the region for a long time. The genesis of Nanda worship is wrapped in mystery. However, most scholars agree that its genesis dates back to the 9th century or even before. According to the folk songs sung at Nauti during this Jat, King Shalipal of Chandpur Garhi is Said to have laid the foundation of this tradition. He directed his royal priests to worship the Goddess according to his instructions.

After performing special worship of the other Goddesses-
Bhumial Devi (Goddeess Earth). Utrai Devi and Archan Devi - all popular deities of the region, he preserved a meticulous record of the Yatra programme to escort Goddess Nanda to her in-law's place after every 12 years. He entrusted his royal priests residing at Nauti the responsibility to execute the Jat with the help of royal patronage and local people. The king also authorized his younger brother settled in the nearby village of Kansava to represent the royal house in this Yatra and help the priest perform all rites and rituals connected with this event.

Reverence and Purity
Since then, the tradition of the Jat has continued to this day. After every 12 years, it originates from Nauti after elaborate rituals. The image of the Goddess and offerings are taken in a procession, accompanied by bare footed devotees. The followers observe self-control. Partaking of food prepared according to prescribed religious instructions only and participate in fervent rendition of devotional songs and dances. The entourage halts at night. People from villages on the way turn up in large numbers, have darshan and make offerings to the deity. Many people join the group and remain with it till the Yatra concludes. The accompanying group of devotees swells with every passing day.

The priests and devotees at Home Kund offer special preyers and rituals and load their offerings on the four horned ram. The goddess is decorated in special bridal make up and is given a tearful farewell. It is a pathetic scene with all the devotees in tears, as if they are bidding farewell to their own daughter, leaving for her in - laws home to meet her husband. The image of the Goddess is left there. The four horned ram proceeds towards Kailash ( Trishuli peak), the abode of Lord Shiva on its own. The peak is a part of Nanda Parvat which is the highest mountain of the Chamoli district and is widely revered by one and all. Women of the area believe that the mist around the Nanda Kot peak is the smoke coming out of the kitchen of Goddess Nanda. So over whelming is their feeling for the Goddess that they become incredibly sentimental and brak into tears while singing the songs associated with their revered Goddess whom they regard as a pampered daughter of their own.

The Popularity
Lord Shiva and his consort, Parvati both have been associated with Himalaya which is believed to be the abode of Gods. Shiva is be lieved to reside at Mount kailash while Parvati (Shail Putri) is mythologically regarded as the daughter of the hills. Parvati is also known as Nanda in Garhwal & Kumaon area and the highest peak of the district has been identified with the name of reigning deity of the area.

Nanda in History
The genesis of Nanda Devi is not very clear. Folk lyrics suggest that Nanda was princess of the Chanda dynasty of Almora. Some people associate the Goddess with Yog Maya, the daughter of Nanda, who replaced the eighth issue of Vasudev ( father of Krishna) and who escaped from the hands of her assailant, Kansa and forwarned him of his impending death at the hands of Krishna. There is no mention of Nanda in the Puranas or other scriptures. However, certain later inscriptions mention a Goddess with names similar to Nanda. The Goddess finds mention in Sanskrit literature. Some very old statues found in Mathura show one Goddess as Eknansha. Accordingly, some people believe that the same Goddess was subsequently regarded as Nanda. Naini (of Nainital) and Naina (of Himachal Pradesh) also appear to be variants of the same Goddess. The are ancient temples of the Goddess at about twenty places all over Garhwal. Similar temples are found in Almora region also.

The Legend of Nanda Devi
King Jasdhaval of Kannauj is closely associated with the history of Nanda Raj Jat. It is believed that Jasdhaval's Raj Jat. It is believed that Jasdhaval's queen, Vallabha, was the daughter of rulers of Chandapur (Garhwal). Once upon a time, the queen was cursed by Nandadevi. Because of this, her kingdom became victim of draught, famine and many other natural calamities.

The king's irreverence earned the Goddess' wrath, who caused a very heavy snowfall that night. It was followed a deadly avalanche in which the entire royal entourage perished. Some persons are said to have slipped into the nearby Roopkund lake and died. According to the local legend, the dancing girls were frozen and tuned into rocks that can still be seen arranged in a circle. This accident is believed to have occurred sometimes around 1150 A.D. Jasdhaval is believed to be an ancestor of the prince of Kansua and thus began the tradition of offering homage to Jasdhaval at this point.

Annual Jat
In some areas, there is a tradition of organizing annual Jat as Well. These Jats are slightly different and cover a smaller circuit. Such annual Jats are common in Garhwal-Kumaon areas. At many places. Firs are held and special worship is performed in Nanda temples. Places associated with such celebrations include Danpur, Katyur, Vadhan, Nainital, Almora, Johan, Kurur and Devrada. At Kurur and Devrada. At Kurur, the celebrations continue for several days and Jat is taken upto Vaidnikund.

A Vibrant Culture
Nandadevi Raj Jat is as excellent example of the vibrant culture of Uttarakhand pulsating in a land blessed with superb natural beauty with verdant villages, meandering streams, high mountains, deep gorges and a rich cultural heritage. The festival offers a kaleidoscopic view of the colourful lives of the inhabitants. Visitors are overwhelmed by the feel of the common under - current of spirituality, love and compassion that manifests itself in myriad ways in the area.

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