Chamoli, the abode of Gods, reputed for its shrines and temples, birth place of 'Chipko Movement ' with its strategic significance is one of the hill district of Uttarakhand, India. Chamoli proved itself " the most spectacular in its natural assets ; be it maintain scenery , valley aspects, water-edges, floristic varieties, dramatic landform or the climatic cardinalities "
The region covered by the district of Chamoli forms part of the district of Pauri Garhwal of the Kumaon till 1960. It occupies the north-eastern corner of the Garhwal tract and lies in the central or mid-Himalayas in the very heart of the snowy range described in ancient books as Bahirgiri, one of the three divisions of the Himalayan mountains.
Historical Back Ground
Chamoli , the district of “Garhwal’’ the land of forts. Today’s Garhwal was known as kedar-khand in the past. In puranas kedar-khand was said to be abode of God. It seems from the facts Vedas puranas, Ramayana and Mahabharata that these Hindu scriptures are scripted in kedar-khand . It is believed that God Ganesha first script of Vedas in Vayas gufa situated in the last village Mana only four km. from Badrinath.
According to Rigveda(1017-19) after Inundation (Jalprlya) Sapt-Rishis saved their lives in the same village Mana. Besides there the roots of vedic literature seems to be originated from Garhwal because the Garhwali language has a lot of words common with sanskrit .The work place of vedic Rishis are the prominent pilgrim places in Garhwal specially in Chamoli like Atrimuni Ashram in Anusuya about 25 km. from Chamoli town and work place of Kashyap Rishi at Gandhmadan parwat near Badrinath. According to Aadi-Puran vedvyasa scripted the story of Mahabharata in Vyas Gufa near Badrinath. Pandukeshwar a small village situated on the Rishikesh Badrinath high-way from where Badrinath is just 25 km away is regarded as Tapsthali of king Pandu. In Kedar-khand Puran this land is regarded the land of lord Shiva.
The authentic script about the history of Garhwal is found only 6th AD on word. Some of the oldest example of there are the trishul in Gopeshwar, lalitsur in Pandukeshwar .The Narvaman rock script in siroli the chand pur Gari rock script by king Kankpal authenticates the history and culture of Garhwal.
Some Historian and scientist believe that this land is origin of Arya race. It is believed that about 300B.C. Khasa invaded Garhwal through Kashmir Nepal and Kumaon. A conflict grew due to this invasion a conflict took place between these outsiders and natives .The natives for their protection builded small forts called “Garhi’’. Later on Khasa defeated the native totally and captured the forts.
After Khasa, Kshatiya invaded this land and defeated Khasa accomplished their regime. They confined Garhwal of hundreds of Garhi in to fifty-two Garhi only. One kantura vashudev general of kshatriya established his regime on the northern border of Garhwal and founded his capital in joshimath then Kartikeypur vashudev katyuri was the founder of katyura dynasty in Garhwal and they reign Garhwal over hundreds of years in this period of katyuri regime Aadi-Guru Sankaracharya visited Garhwal and established Jyotrimath which is one of the four famous Peeths established by Aadi-Guru Sankaracharya. In Bharat varsh other these are Dwarika , Puri and Sringeri. He also reinstated idol of lord Badrinath in Badrinath, before this the idol of Badrinath was hidden in Narad-Kund by the fear of Buddha. After this ethicist of vedic cult started to pilgrim Badrinath.
According to Pt.Harikrishna Raturi king Bhanu pratap was the first ruler of Panwar dynasty in Garhwal who founded chanpur-Garhi as his capital. This was is strongest Garh for the fifty- two garhs of Garhwal.
The devastating earthquake of 8th September 1803 weakened the economic and administrative set up of Garhwal state. Taking advantage of the situation Gorkhas attacked Garhwal under the command of Amar Singh Thapa and Hastidal Chanturia. They established there reign over half of the Garhwal in 1804 up to 1815 this region remain under Gorkha rule.
Mean while the king of Panwar dynasty Raja Sudarshan Shah contacted east India Company and soughted help. With the help of British he defected Gorkhas and merged the eastern part of Alaknanda and Mandakani along with the capital srinagar in British Garhwal from that time this region was known as British Garhwal and the capital of Garhwal was set up at Tehri instead of Srinagar. In the beginning British ruler kept this area under Dehradun and Saharanpur. But later on the British established a new district in this area and named it Pauri. Today’s Chamoli was a tehsil of the same .On 24th February 1960 tehsil Chamoli was upgraded to a new district. In October 1997 two complete tehsil and two other blocks (partially) of district Chamoli were merged into a new formed district Rudraprayag.
It is in Chamoli that Hanuman is believed to have found the 'Sanjeevani' herb which revived the wounded and conscious Lakshman; it is here that the sage Ved Vyasa is believed to have composed his immortal epic The Mahabharata; and it is here that Guru Gobind Singh is believed to have meditated in one of his earlier births. It is to these hills that Pandavas are believed to have come to ask Lord Shiva's blessings and forgiveness for the sin of having killed their own kin. Here Karna, the son of Draupadi and Lord Surya, performed austerities to be bestowed the Kavacha and kundala that made him invincible; Varuchi compiled his Panini Grammer and Adi Sankaracharya attained enlightenment. Five out of six schools of Hindu philosophy have their beginnings in these hills that have been home to the highest flights of man's spirit in the past and the present
Places of Attraction
Situated at a height of 1308 m amidst beautiful mountain ranges, terrace farms and small lakes, the picturesque township of Gopeshwar is the district headquarter of Chamoli. An ancient temple of Lord Shiva is the main attraction of the town and thousands of pilgrims come here throughout the year to visit the temple. Owing to its natural beauty and fresh and serene atmosphere,
Gopeshwar is becoming a major attraction for the tourists. Many well known tourist spots and religious centres are spread around this town. According to historians, the name Gopeshwar has associations with the name of Lord Krishna. Besides the ancient temple of Lord Shiva, Vaitarni Kund, a group of temples without idols and Oak View are other places of interest.
In the summer, Auli bugyal is inviting but in the winter it is irresistible with its hoary snow slopes and skiing facilities. Auli can be reached by road or ropeway from Joshimath. It provides an excellent panoramic view of the giant mountain peaks like Nanda Devi, Kamet and Dunagiri. From January to March, the Auli slopes are usually covered with a thick carpet of snow, about 3 m deep.
.The stretch of 3 Km with a drop in elevation of 500 m is considered to be a very good skiing ground by international standard. The background of lofty snow clad mountains heightens the sprit of the skiers To attract attention, skiing festivals are also conducted at Auli. These now include the national championships staged by the Winter Games Federation of India. While skiing is the chief attraction at Auli, there are other attraction like cable car rides and rope lifts, or spend the day outdoors building snowmen, or having snowball fights.
Situated at a height of 1308 m amidst beautiful mountain ranges, terrace farms and small lakes, the picturesque township of Gopeshwar is the district headquarter of Chamoli. An ancient temple of Lord Shiva is the main attraction of the town and thousands of pilgrims come here throughout the year to visit the temple. Owing to its natural beauty and fresh and serene atmosphere, Gopeshwar is becoming a major attraction for the tourists. Many well known tourist spots and religious centres are spread around this town. According to historians, the name Gopeshwar has associations with the name of Lord Krishna. Besides the ancient temple of Lord Shiva, Vaitarni Kund, a group of temples without idols and Oak View are other places of interest.
Water falls have always captivated the human imagination. 5 Kms. from Mana village, toward the west is the Vasudhara fall with a sheer drop of 145 m, set in a background of snowy peaks, glaciers and rocky heights. Violent wind sometimes sprays out the entire volume of the water falling and it appears that the water fall ceases for a minute or two, giving rise to a lot of superstitious ideas to the locals.
Valley of Flowers
A profusion of wildflowers - iris, violets, roses, primulas, anemones, potentillas - mark this valley, celebrated all over the world for its lush beauty. A narrow river flows through the valley, now declared a national park. Reached by an easy bridle-path from Govindghat, visitors are no longer allowed to camp within the valley. The valley had always been known to the local people who avoided getting to this area for fear of fairies, who they believed, would take them away. It was in 1931 that Frank Smythe and Holdsworth stumbled into the valley while returning from their successful Kamet expedition and were "at once transported from a region of solemn austerity to a fairy land of dainty flowers, most of them dwarf but brilliant in colour". Smythe wrote about the valley and its flowers - "their carpet is a celestial one, breathing innocence and joy to the world overburdened with sophistication and sorrow". His writing invoked a great interest of the people in this valley, both at home and abroad. Legends associate this valley area with "Gandhamadan" from where Hanuman of Ramayana collected "Sanjeevani" herb to revive Laksmana. Hanuman had to visit far-flung areas in his search for the life-saving herb, some named after him. He visited Hanuman Chatti near Yamunotri, Hanuman Tibba near Gangotri, Hanuman peak near Nandadevi, Hanuman Chatti near Badrinath and ultimately the valley of flowers or Nanankanan as it is also known as. The best time to visit the valley is during July and August when innumerable varieties of flowers bloom and present a spectacular sight. The valley itself is 10 kms. long and about 2 kms. wide in conical shape, with the river Pushpavati flowing through it. After one gets down at Govindghat on the main Badrinath highway, it involves a trek of 15 kms. to reach Ghangaria wherefrom a further short trek of 5 kms. leads one to the edge of the valley. The valley ranges between 3352 and 3658 m in altitude.
This triangular lake of serene water has a perimeter of about half a kilometer. It is about 25 Kms. from Badrinath. Brahma, Vishnu and Maheshwar, the Hindu trinity are believed to occupy one corner each, and which are named after them. The trek is hazardous, but full of dramatic scenery. There is no place to rest between, except caves. Cooked food, stove etc. have to be carried from Badrinath itself.
Situated near Wan, Bedini Bugyal is a charming green meadow adorned with flowers in a spell binding varieties, in full bloom. There is a small lake situated in the midst of the meadow, where Tarpans are offered by the devotees. Situated nearby is a small temple where the devotees pay there obeisance, during their halt at Bedni Bugyal.
Roopkund is situated in the eastern part of Chamoli district (in the lap of Trishul Massif, 7122 m). The high-altitude (5029 m), kund is on the Nanda Jat route to Homkund. It is not a very large kund and is rather shallow, having a depth of only about 2 m. The edges are snow covered for most parts of the year. When snow melts, one can see human and equine skeletal remains, sometimes with flesh attached; well preserved in the alpine conditions. It is found that about 300 people died about 500-600 years ago. There are many theories to explain the finding but none satisfying to everybody. Hence the lake is also known as the 'Mystery Lake'. According to the locals : Raja Jasdal of Kanauj undertook a Nanda Jat along with the Rani Balpa, some 550 years ago. Rani being the princess from Garhwal was revered as a sister of goddess Nandadevi. Near Roopkund she gave birth to a babe. Goddess Nandadevi considered it a sacrilege in her domain and sent down a snow/hailstorm. Raja's people were caught in it and perished. The present day skeletal remains belong to them. Other than the Nanda Raj Jat route via Wan, one may approach Roopkund from Ghat, (motorable from Nandprayag). The trek takes one to Ramni (jeepable in fair weather) and Sutol, on the way. Wan is approached either from Tharali or Gwaldam. Thereafter one may choose reaching Roopkund via Ali Bugyal or the Bedni. On the way dramatic views of the nature with its many splendours can be seen.
Badrinath dhaam is considered as one of the most sacred centres of pilgrimage situated in the lofty Himalayan heights in the Tehri-Garhwal hill tracks (Uttarakhand) at the height of 10,248 feet above sea level. The route to Badrinath is one of the most arduous one due to the lofty hilly terrain, curves and cliffs amidst the most scenically beautiful place on the earth. Throughout the route to Badrinath there are numerous pilgrimage sites at Deva Prayag, Rudraprayag, Karana Prayag, Nanda Prayag, Vishnuprayag as well as Pandukeswar where the Pandavas are believed to have been born, and the site where Bhima and Hanuman (sons of Vayu) met. Lord MahaVishnu is believed to have done his penance in this place. Seeing the Lord doing his penance in the open, Goddess Mahalaxmi is believed to have assumed the form of Badri tree to provide him shelter to face the onslaught of the weather conditions, therefore the name Badri Narayan. It is believed that Lord Vishnu revealed to Narad Rishi that Nar & Naryan forms were his own. It is also believed that Narad Rishi, who also did his penance here, is even now is worshipping the supreme God in the form of Nar and Narayan with Ashtakshara mantras. The image of Badrinarayan here is fashioned out of Saligramam. Badrrinarayan is seen under the badri tree, flanked by Kuber and Garuda, Narad, Narayan and Nar. Mahalakshmi has a sanctum in the prakaram. There is also a shrine to Adi Sankara The image of Lord Badrinarayan here is fashioned out of Saligrama. Shri Badrinarayan is seen under the badari tree, flanked by Kuber and Garuda, Narad, Narayan and Nar. Mahalakshmi has a sanctum in the prakaram. There is also a shrine of Adi Sankara at Badrinath. . Behind the temple of Lord Badrinarayan is the Lakshmi Narasimha mandir, with shrines to Desikacharya and Ramanujachary. At Badrinath one can witness one of the greatest wonders of Nature in the Hot water springs of Taptakund on the banks of river Alaknanda. The temperature of the water in this Kund is 55 degree centigrade whereas the normal temperature in this region for most part of the year at 9-10 degree centigrade to sub-zero levels. Before visiting the temple the pilgrims take a holy bath in the Taptakund.
Places of Interest
Hot water Springs, Tapt Kund and Surya Kund
The pilgrimage centre boasts of two natural hot water springs - Tapt Kund and Surya Kund. The sulphurous waters have a temperature of 55 C. A bath in these springs is believed to purify the body and soul and is done before visiting the temple.
Panch Badris :
Refers to the main Shri Badri Narayan Temple and is considered to be the most sacred.
Located at a distance of 24 kms from Badri Nath and at 20 kms from Joshimath. This is also the place where Maharaj Pandu (father of the Pandava princes) prayed to Pandukeshwar.
This is located at 17 kms from Joshimath and is a small village.
Located at 17 kms from Joshimath at a place called Animath. Adi Shankar is believed to have worshipped Lord Badrinath here for some time.
This is located at a distance of 16 kms from Karnaprayag. Several temples constructed during Gupt Dynasty are here of which Mana Narayanan temple is considered to be the most popular one.
Village Manam - Vyas Guha
This village, located at a distance of 3 kms from Badri is the last Indian Village situated in the Indo-China Border and has gained historical importance on account of Vyas Caves. This village, located on the banks of River Saraswati (only place where this river can be seen) is very beautiful. Vyas Maharishi (Sage), author of Mahabharat is believed to have lived in the caves. These are named after him. It was in these caves, Vyas Maharishi composed the Mahabharata. This was done at the orders of his mentor Kalpatru Maharishi who appeared in his dream. Mahabharata depicts the history of Pandavs, Kauravs including Kurukshetra War and most importantly Bhagawad Gita authored by Krishna (reincarnation of Vishnu). Ganesh, the son of Shiv & Parvati, is said to have helped Vyas Maharishi in putting this epic in the written form, the beginning of education in written form. In addition to Mahabharat, Vyas Maharishi composed 18 puranas (legendary stories), Brahma Sutras and classified the Hindu Vedas into 4 parts - Rig, Yajur, Sama and Atharva. It is only in this cave that Adi Shankara is believed to have met Vyas Maharishi and discussed his Bhashyam (explanatory notes) for Brahma Sutras. Rock formation inside the Vyas Guha appears to resemble the orderly stacking of palm leave manuscripts - oldest writing material and is worshipped as Vyas Pusthak. Vyas Maharishi is also considered, by some, as reincarnation of Vishnu.
Another Cave called as Ganesh Guha (cave) is also located in this village.
Valley of Flowers
One of the most idyllic valleys in the world, was discoverd by Frank S. Smythe, in 1931. The valley is profuse with a plethora of vibrant flowers, hence the name. Nearby, flows the river Pushpavati, while the massive Rataban peak forms a splendid backdrop.
Situated between Joshimath and Badrinath, Gobindghat is the starting point for the trek to the valley.
One of the most famous Gurudwaras in India, Hemkund Sahib is located here, at an altitude of 4320 m above sea level. Nearby, is the Lok-Pal Hemkund lake, with its crystal clear waters, and four peaks surrounding it.
Mata Murti Mandir
About 3 km from Badrinath, on the right bank of the Alaknanda stands this temple, dedicated to the mother of Shri Badrinath.
This is a high altitude lake which can be reached by an 8 km trek that ascends to 14,200 feet. Vyas Gufa, Ganesh Gufa, Bhimpul and Vasudhara Falls are 3-6 km. All these destinations are famous for their links with Hindu mythology and form part of the pilgrimage to Badrinath.
Joshimath, the first mutt established by Shri Adi Sankara, is located at a distance of 14 kms from Helang enroute to Badri. Adi Sankara is believed to have got enlightenment here and authored Sri Sankara Bhashyam. This located at a height of 6150 ft above sea level. Here, there are separate temples for Lord Narasimha and Lord Vasudev (different forms of Lord Vishnu). This is one of the 108 Divya Desams (sung by Sacred Vaishnavaite Saints).
In the temple for Lord Narasimha, separate statues of Badri narayan, Uthavar, Kuber, Chandikadevi, Ram, Lakshman, Sita and Garud can be seen together in the sanctum sanctorum. Outside the temple separate statues of Brahma, Krishana, Lakshmi & Anjaneya can be seen. Vyas Maharishi is believed to have worshipped Goddess Lakshmi here. The presiding deity Lord Narasimha is believed to have been established by Adi Sankara. It is widely believed that one hand of the presiding deity is getting weakened and the day it disjoints, the way to Badri will get eternally blocked and Lord Badri Narayan will thereafter give darshan only from either Bhavishya Badri or Adi Badri (part of Panch Badris). The temple of Lord Vasudev houses Lord Vasudev in the sanctum sanctorum as well as Sridevi, Bhoodevi, Leela devi, Oorvasi devi & Balram in the outer praharam. Further separate structures are available for Vinayaka,Brahma, Indira, Chandran(Moon), Navadurgas & Gauri Shankar.
This place is believed to have been established by King Pandu, father of Pandavas. It is situated at 4 kms from Govind Ghat, 219 kms from Kedarnath and 24 kms from Badrinath. There are two temples - one for Lord Yogabadri Narayan and the other for Lord Vasudev. During winter, Lord Vasudev temple will function as the abode for Lord Badri Narayan and all the daily rituals connected with worship are performed here. Both the temples are quite old. The temple remains closed from October to April due to severe winter conditions. During this period the idols of Utsavo murti are taken to Pandukeshwar.
In contract to the annoying hustle and bustle of city life of Joshimath, Tapovan is a peaceful place known for its hot springs which are belived to possess miraculous healing powers. Tapovan is 15 kms. from Joshimath. A 3 kms. trek from here leads to Bhavishya Badri, one of the five Badris.
About 3 Kms from Baijnath, the main highways goes to Bageshwar and a side road branches off to Gwaldam. This is a delightful route as besides the presence of birds, adding a winsome note, one passes through terraced fields and thick pines set against a backdrop of the Himalayas, and one can watch the Trishul peaks coming even closer. Gwaldam with its salubrious climate is a little heaven nestling in the woods. In this area, upto Talwari , there are several orchards generally of apple. From Gwaldam, the road winds its way through dense forests and terraced fields dotted with rustic cottages of small towns known as Tharali and Narain Bagar to meet the Ranikhet-Pandukhal road at a place called Simli, which is 8 Km short of Karnaprayag. Gwaldam is 149 Km from Nanital and 22 km from Baijnath.
This is a small oblong lake with emerald green water. It is at an altitude of 5230 m near Kankul Pass(5230 m), and is almost a kilometer in length. Myriad blossoms decorate its banks during the season, a wildest profusion of colours make the trekker forget the hardships and the exhaustion of the trek. Set in the lap of Hathi Parvat (6730 mts.), the lake can be approached either from Bhiundhar village, near Ghangria, or from Vishnu Prayag. The trek from the former is a little easier in gradient, but is longer. The trek from Bhiundhar passes through thick bear-infested, forests and stretches of stinging nettles. The only shelters here are the shepherd huts. This trek also involves walking long distances across glacial moraines and over slippery rocks. Two huge rocks on a spur of Hathi Parvat are described as a crow(Kaga) and an Eagle (Garuda). The locals believe that the crow is animatedly conversing with Garuda on the affairs of the universe. Another version has it that a learned Brahmin of Ayodhya once incurred the wrath of the sage Lomas who lived here and was changed into the form of crow by the sage.
The Sanctuary has been converted to a National Park and temporarily closed for visitors on environmental considerations. It has an average altitude exceeding 4500 m and is surrounded by as many as seventy ofty peaks, the Nandadevi (7817 m) being the highest. It is in the form of cup with lush green meadows, chuting white waterfalls, and rich wild flora and fauna. Sir Edmund Hillary described the Sanctuary as a god-gifted wilderness - India's training ground for adventure - and truly so. Eric Shipton wrote, amongst many superlatives for the Sanctuary, "All around us was mountain architecture more magnificent even than the great southern battlements of Everest ". Joshimath is the base for collection of stores, provisions, porters, guides etc. One route approaches the Sanctuary from Lata, on the Joshimath-Malari Route. One trek from there to Lata Kharak, an open, wild and grassy hilltop, providing a fabulous mountainscape all around.
The Lata Kharak
Dharansi Pass appears to be a long trek with many ascents and descents yet everything is forgotten when Nandadevi comes into view on crossing the pass. The trek follows a ridge traversing rocky surface till Malatuni Pass, where the other trek route from Rini (near Lata) following the Rishi Ganga river generally, via Kalikuna and Chinwari, meets. It is continuous descent of about 800 metres through alpine grassland thereafter, before Rishi Ganga is crossed at Deodi, wherefrom Trishul - Base camp trek via Bethartoli and Tridang bifurcates. Debrugheta meadow with its floral designs and the grandstand view of peaks around it is exhilarating. The Deodi - Ramni trek passes through dense forests of Junipers and Varieties of Rhododendrons. The Sanctuary opens up there.
Hemkund ( Lake of gold), is situated nearly 29 kms from Joshimath via Govindghat, is set in one of the famous beauty spots of the central Himalayas and has a lake of crystal clear water located in beautiful surrounding. The glaciers from Hathi Parvat and Sapt shring peaks feed the lake and a small stream called Himganga flows out of the lakes. It is believed that Guru Govind Singh , the 10th Guru of the Sikh faith had meditated on the bank of this lake in one of his earlier births, as alluded to in the holly Granth sahib. There is a Sikh Gurudwara and a Lakshman Temple build on the bank of the lake. It is believed Lakshmana was brought here after he fell unconscious in the war with Ravana.
"Standing at the Kuari Pass facing north, the vision sweeps from the gorges of Trishul in the east to the peaks of Kedarnath in the west - the Kedarnath, Chaukhamba, Nilkantha, Kamet, Gauri Parbat, Hathi Parbat, Nandadevi, Bethartoli, Dunagiri - all arranged in a stupendous arc … Southwards the foothills stretch wave upon wave on to the dim haze of the distant plains". Lord Curzon went upto the Kuari Pass in 1905. So the trek is called Curzon Road. One can approach the Pass from Tapovan via Khulara, or Joshimath via Auli, Gorson, Chitrakantha; or Joshimath via Mrig, Tugasi, Khulara. All the above three treks meet at Gailgarh, only 5 kms. north of Kuari Khal (Pass). From the south the Pass can be reached from Ghat via Ramni but is longer than the other three, of which the Tapovan route is the shortest (21 kms.). Auli and Gorson Bugyals are charming meadows and the nature - lovers prefer to use this route for outward trek and return by Tapovan route. The Ghat route is favourite with trekkers. The entire area is rich in exotic flora and fauna besides primitive jungles with associated hazards. The beautiful range of Delisera is only a day's trek from the Kuari Pass. It presents a spectacular sight. On the far side of it is the Nandadevi Sanctuary. Snow on the range is visible till about August when it melts entirely and await the next winter.
It is one of the panch Kedars. The face of Lord Shiva is worshipped at Rudranath temple in a natural rock temple as Neelkantha Mahadeva. Lord Shiva is worshipped here as Neelkantha. The temple is situated amid thick forest at a height 2286 m. From Gopeshwar 4 kms motorable road is available upto village Sagar from where 20 kms. trek leads to Rudranath and can be approached from Joshimath as well, by trekking about 45 kms. The temple provides magnificent view of Hathi Parvat , Nandadevi, NandaGhunti, Trishuli and many other. There are numbers of holy Kunds (Tanks) near Rudranath temple namely Suryakund, Chandrakund, Tarakund etc. The Baitarini, the divine river flows pass behind the temple
How To Reach
Well connected to Dehradun, Haridwar, Rishikesh, Nainital, & Almora.
Nearest airport is Jollygrant, 221 Kms.
Rishikesh is the nearest Railway station.
Festivals/ Fairs & Mahotsav of Chamoli Garhwal
Nanda Devi Raj Jat
Nanda Raj Jat, the big pilgrimage of Nandadevi, is unique to Chamoli. It is very old traditional pilgrimage from the time of shalipal in the ninth century. There are no historical records but it is gathered from the local folklores and folksongs (jagori) that Shahipal who had his capital at Chandpur Garhi, buried a tantric instrument at Nauti nearby, and installed his patron-goddess Nandadevi (Raj Rajeshwari) there.
The Royal priest, Nautiyal, of Nauti was made responsible for regular worship of the goddess. King Shahipal started a tradition that a big pilgrimage (Nanda Raj Jat) would bw organized every twelfth year to escort Nandadevi to her in-law's place, near Nanda Ghungti peak. When the capital was shifted by Ajay Pal, Kunwar (the younger brother of the king), who gad settled at Kansuwa nearby, was authorised to organize Raj Jat on behalf of King.
Traditionally the Kunwar comes to Nauti to seek the blessing of the Devi to organize the Jat. A four horned ram takes birth in Kasuwa area thereafter. A time schedule is drawn up for the Jat so as to reach Homkund on the Nandastami day in August/September, and Kulsari on the preceding new moon for special worship. Accordingly the Kunwar reaches Nauti with the four horned ram and ringal-umbrella. The Raj Jat starts on the long round-trek of about 280 kms. with 19 halts on the way, taking about 19 days. Bhumiyal, Ufrai and Archana Devis are worshipped prior to the departure. The golden image of Nandadevi is carried in a silver palanquin and thousands of devotees follow in a long procession. Great festivities and religious observances mark the Jat wherever they halt or pass through. The procession swells as it advances with various groups joining from far and near with their idols and umbrellas. Special mention may be made of those coming from kurud from Ghat, Lata near Tapovan and Almora in Kumaon. Some 300 idols and decorated umbrellas assembles at Wan, enroute Homkund.
Mass participation and religious devotion are unmatched, for the Jat involves a long and arduous journey over treacherous terrains rising to an altitude of 5335 mts. at Jiura Gali Dhar from a near 900 mts. at Nauti, walking barefoot over snow and moraines and passing through deep forests. At Shail Samundra the pilgrims see three lights and a streak of smoke just before dawn as a divine beckon. Surprisingly the four horned ram, loaded with the offerings for the goddess, guides the procession of devotees from the Nauti till it reaches Homkund,near the base of Nanda Ghungti, resting every night near the Nauti umbrella of the goddess. At Homkund it manifests human emotions and tears are seen in its eyes before it leaves everyone behind to get lost towards the mountains, laden with the offering of the devotees for the goddess Nandadevi. There is a unique custom of keeping everyone's house unlocked in Wan village for the use of the yatris on the Jat day, according to the divine instruction of the goddess Nandadevi, and it is followed religiously. The last NandaDevi Raj Jat was held during August/September 2000. Smaller Raj Jats are organized annually from Kurud village near Ghat, covering a smaller circuit in August-September.
Festivals play an important role in the life of people in the district, as elsewhere, and are spread over the entire year, the most important being briefly described below.
Ram Navami - falls on the ninth day of the bright half of Chaitra to celebrate the birthday of Rama. The followers of Rama in the district observe fast throughout the day and the Ramayana is read and recided and people gather to listen to the recitations.
Nag Panchmi - is celebrated in the district on the fifth day of the bright half of Sravana to appease the Nagas or serpent gods. Figures of snakes are drawn in flour in wooden boards and are worshipped by the family by offering milk, flowers and rice.
Raksha-Bandhan is traditionally associated with the Brahmanas and falls on the last day of Sravana. On this occasion a sister ties a Rakshasutra (thread of protection)- commonly known as Rakhi - round the right wrist of her brother in token of the protection she expects to receive from him. Fairs are held on this occasion at Kedarnath, Karnaprayag ans Nandprayag.
Janmastami - the festival celebrating the birth of Krishna, falls on the eighth day of the dark half of Bhadra. As in other parts of the state, devotees in the district fast the whole day, breaking their fast only at mid-night when worshippers throng the temples and foregather to have a Jhanki(glimpse) of the shrines and cradles specially installed, decorated and illuminated in homes and other places to commemorate the deity's birth. A special feature of this festival is the singing of devotional songs in praise of Krishna in shrines and homes. The Chhati(sixth-day ceremony after birth) is also celebrated by the devout. The festival is celebrated with great enthusiasm at Nagnath, Badrinath and Kedarnath.
Dushera - falls on the tenth day of the bright half of Asvina and commemorates the victory of Rama over Ravana, the preceding nine days being celebrated as Navaratri dedicated to the worship of the goddess Durga. Ramlila celebrations are held at different places in the district particularly at Kalimath.
Diwali - the festival of lights, is celebrated in the district, as elsewhere, on the last day of the dark half of Kartika when the houses are illuminated and the goddess Lakshmi is worshipped. Festivities start two days earlier, with Dhanteras, when metal utensils are purchased as a token of the desired prosperity, followed by Naraka Chaturdashi when a few small earthen lamps are lit as a preliminary to the main day of festival. For traders and businessmen Dipavali marks the end of the fiscal year and they pray for prosperity in the new year. On this occasion the people of the district perform mela nritya, a type of folk dance, a distinctive feature of the district.
Makar Sankranti - is a bathing festival which falls either on January 13th or 14th when people take bath in the Alaknanda and big fairs (Uttaraini) are held at Karnprayag and Nandprayag.
Sivaratri - falls on the 14th day of the dark half of Phalgun and is observed in the honour of Siva. People fast throughout the day and a vigil is kept at night when the deity is worshipped. The Siva temples are specially decorated and illuminated and large numbers of devotees offer water and flowers to the symbols and images of Siva and sing devotional songs in his praise. Big fairs are held on this occasion at most of the Siva temples of the district particularly at Dewal, Bairaskund, Gopeshwar, and Nagnath .
Holi - the spring festival, is celebrated on the full moon day of Phalgun. People start singing Phaags (Songs of Phalgun) during the nights, long before the festival. A flag or banner is installed at a central place in the village on the 11th day of bright of Phalgun and is burnt on the 15th day which is known as Chharoli when ash mark is put on the foreheads of friends and relatives. The following day is marked by common rejoicing when, till about noon, people throw coloured water and coloured powder on each other and in evening visit relatives and friends.
Many fairs are held in the district, the important ones being mentioned below.
On the 13th day of April every year the big fair known as Bishwat Sankranti is held in the district. This fair is also mentioned in the Pandukeshwar inscription of Lalitashuradeva issued in the 22nd regnal year. It is also held at Ming (April 14), Aser (April 15), Hans Koti (April 16), and Kulsari and Adbadri (April 17). Another important fair of the district is the Gaucher Mela held at Gaucher in Karnprayag in the month of November every year and is attended by number of persons. Others fairs of importance are the Nautha at Adbadri, Naumi at Hariyali, Nanda Devi at Bedni, Dattatreya Pooranmasi at Ansuya temple, Nagnath at Dewar Walla.
Hotels & Resorts
- Shri krishna Palace & Restaurant, Karnprayag