Nanda Devi is the chief patronizing Goddess of Uttarakhand and several shrines are devoted to her all across the central Himalayas. Nanda Devi Fair is one of the most popular festivals in Uttarakhand and attracts people from near and far. Nanda means well-being and prosperity. The fair is held every year in memory of Goddesses Nanda and Sunanda during the month of September and is taken as a symbol of spiritual and material prosperity. The fair is said to have started in the Kumaon region during the reign of Raja Kalyan Chand in the 16th century.
The Nanda Devi Jat is celebrated every year in the Nanda Devi temples spread across Garhwal and Kumaon. The festival commences on the day earmarked for the Devi’s visit to her maiti or parents’ home and culminates with the return to her husband’s home. This tradition is beautifully expressed in the folk songs of Uttarakhand. The Chhoti Jat Yatra celebrations begin at the end of August or early September, starting from Wan and ending at Bedini Bugyal. This festival is then transformed into a huge affair once every 12 years at Roopkund when a four horned sheep is born. The yatra is called Nanda Raj Jat. This magnificent 21-day journey is undertaken by thousands of people, who are guided by the aforementioned four-horned ram leading to Shiva’s home at the base of Trishul.
The Nanda Devi Temple at Almora was built during the reign of Raja Udhyot Chand. Thousands of pilgrims at Almora participate in this auspicious procession, carrying the dola of Nanda Devi. This royal pilgrimage was last held in the year 2000, with an estimate of over 5,000 people undertaking this arduous journey.
The Nanda Devi Melas are held at Almora, Nainital, Nauti, Dandidhara, Munsiyari and Ranikhet, of which the Almora and Roopkund fairs are the most famous ones.