The Nanda Raj Jat offers an unparalleled and complete experience to the travelers with interest in local cultural and religious traditions of Uttarakhand as well as to those who are decent trekking enthusiasts. Its sanctity for locals is equal to Kumbh and it is one of the most lively and colourful festivals in the region.
Nanda devi – the daughter of Kings of mountains, and the consort of Lord Shiva – is the supreme spiritual goddess of the locals of Garhwal and Kumaon region. She visits her maternal dwelling in these Himalayan heights in the Bhadrapad (months of August – September) – and this festive break is celebrated by the natives.
The Nanda Raj Jat takes place once every twelve years – the journey starts from Nauti village accompanying a mythical four-horned sheep and Doli and all sorts of gifts for Nanda Devi, who is treated as a daughter revisiting her mother.
The 280 kilometres and 19 days trek starts from Nauti Village and reaches Homkund via the amazingly picturesque Bedini Bugyal, Roopkund and the very difficult Jyura Gali pass, on Nandashtmi. The trek passes through some of the most beautiful and some very tricky landscapes in the area. It is said that four-horned ram is born once every twelve years, and this very ram leads the procession. People do not go beyond Hemkund, from where the ram takes the gifts and disappears in the glaciers. Once the ram is released, no one looks in its direction and the procession immediately heads back home.
This and the other stories myths with the Nanda Raj Jat might just be taken allegorically but the trek itself is an incredible experience. It also is an eye-opener in today’s world that seems to be run by science and electronic gizmos. It underlines the fact that the primordial beliefs of the people in the fundamental forces of nature have stayed undeterred and have survived all kinds of upheavals.
The Nanda Raj Jat passes through places, that don’t find mention in most tourist maps and well-hidden inlands, one should not expect a lavish or even comfortable trek. As far as the non-locals are concerned, this religious trek is meant strictly for the die-hard trekkers. Simultaneously this trek presents one the prospect of exploring a real Uttarakhand – its culture, traditions, people and authentic cuisine.
One can attend the ceremony at Nauti village and then proceed to other places of interest before joining the procession again via Wan. It is at Wan that some 300 idols and decorated chhantolis (umbrellas) are assembled and the journey continuous all the way to Hemkund.