Nanda Ashtami festival is one of the native festivals of Uttrakhand, India.
It is a 4-5 day long festival, celebrated in the Kumaon region of the state. And based on the story of goddess Nanda and Sunanda.
Luckily I got a chance to visit the city of Nainital for this occasion. It was the 113th year of the festival there.
Nanda Ashtami festival is celebrated in almost all cities in Kumaon region. But in Nainital and Almora it’s in huge scale. Furthermore, for Almora city celebration, it was 200 years.
Story behind the festivity
There were 2 sisters Nanda and Sunanda from the kumaon region of Uttarakhand. And married in Garhwal region.
Once visiting their hometown they were attacked by a Rakshas, disguised as a bull. To save themselves, they hid behind a banana tree and ate cucumber to live. Due to this from that day the Chandravanshi raja of the region pray this goddess and treat them as their kul devis.
That is the reason banana tree and cucumber holds a lot of significance in this festivity.
About the festivity in Nainital city
Celebrated in September month(bhadara mas ki shukal paksh) every year.
Local priests pray for a year to specific banana and bamboo trees. In a small town near Nainital called Jalal gaon, which is almost 10-12 km from the city.
Then in September under an auspicious time the priests along with puja material and red & white cloth, visit this village.
They perform puja(jagar) and bhajans the whole night. Also offer akshat(chawal) the next morning to these trees. And select the first tree that makes a movement as Ma Nanda and the second one as Ma Sunanda. While use other trees to create body parts. And the bamboo tree is used to create Trishul for Ma.
The same day a procession carry these trees to the Nainital city and the locals celebrate it in full swing. Local artists perform traditional songs and dance depicting the culture to welcome them.
Finally, they create idols at Nanda Devi temple near Sri Ram Sevak sabha. And prepare two masks for Ma Nanda and Sunanda. Using a 5 ft banana tree trunk for these idols. They use no artificial materials and are totally eco-friendly.
Early morning next day, under an auspicious time the priests perform puja(pran pratishta). And place the idols at the Nanda Devi temple. In addition, this is a start to 3 days fair(mela) in the city.
And now these idols are open for locals/visitors to enjoy the festivity around.
Finally in addition to the celebrations a Shobha yatra around 12:00 pm start the next day. With the idols of Ma Nanda and Sunanda leaving from the main mandir. They travel throughout the city along with traditional dance performances(choliya) and other activities.
Everyone is on roads, enjoying the festival while giving their final adieu to the goddess. In the evening these idols are immersed(visarjit) at Pasan Devi temple, thandi sadak with all the rituals. Seems like vidae to their home in Garhwal region.
Nanda Ashtami festival was an experience in itself! Go Banjare! :)