The Garhwal and Kumaon regions are dotted with ancient temples. On auspicious occasions, these centre of faith turn into venues of fascinating festivals, when people from far and wide gather there to offer their obeisance to the deity and give musical expression to their joy and happiness. The major fairs and festivals of the Garhwal region are Hatkalika Fair, Tapkeshwar Fair, Surkhanda Devi Mela, Kunjapuri Fair, Lakhawar Village Fair, and Mata Murti Ka Mela. The major fairs and festivals of Kumaon region are Uttarayani Mela, Shravan Mela (Jageshwar), Kartik Poornima at Dwarahat, Kasar Devi fair, and Nanda Devi melas. The fairs & festivals of the Kumaon and Garhwal region reflects not only the innocent expressions of joy but also provides an insight into the rich cultural tradition and economic activities of the region.
The temple of Lord Jagnath , erected somewhere in 8th - 9th century is one among the twelve 'Jyotirlinga' of Lord Shiva in India. Having it's archeological importance the group of temples of Jageshwer consists of 125 small and big temples of ancient times. Two large fairs are held at Jageshwar, one at the occasion of Shivratri and the other in the month of Shravan (July-Aug). The festivals are of great religious importance for Kumauni society. A dip in the Jat Ganga and in the Brahmakund near the temple complex, is of great religious significance at the occasion.Doonagiri Mela, Ranikhet
52 km. away from Ranikhet, Doonagiri is a pilgrim spot noted for its ancient Durga Temple. This temple attracts great number of pilgrims, during the fair days at Navratri.Ganan nath Mela
Situated at an elevation of 2116 mts. adove sea-level, Gananth is 47 km from Almora and is known for its natural landscape. A fair is held here every year on Kartik Poornima (Oct./Nov.), when thousands of pilgrims come to worship Lord Shiva and Ganesh. Childless couples also come here in large numbers to evoke blessings for the gift of a child.Dwarahat Mela
Situated in the wide valley of Ram Ganga (West), Dwarahat is 38 km from Ranikhet having a cluster of old temples. A huge fair is organised every year on Baisakhi Day.Kasar Devi Mela
The picturesque old part of the town is the venue for a fair held twice a year during the summer and winter months. Swami Vivekananda came to Almora and gained enlightenment in a small cave at Kasar Devi.The Somnath (Masi) Fair (Fish Festival) :
This fair, also on Vishuwat Sankranti day is held in the Shiva temple at Masi, Almora. It is a famous fair of Pali Pachhaun. Brisk business takes place during the fair and animals, specially bullocks & calves are sold. The villagers bearing tumra come with jaal, fatyav and hathiya to the river to catch fish. The fish festival is locally known as Dahau.Uttarayani Mela Bageshwer
One of the largest fair of Kumaun region, the Uttraini festival of Bageshwer, is organized in the month of January for a period of one week and is frequented by Almora traders, on barter or money lending intent, and by the Bhotiyas from the snows, as well as by a great multitude of people from the surrounding villages. The town of Bageshwer, 90 km from Almora town, is a junction of two rivers, namely Saryu and Gomti. At the junction of these rivers stands a large temple with it's conical tower. Here is the shrine of Bageswar or Vyagreswar, the, "Tiger Lord", an epithet of Lord Siva. This temple was erected by the Kumaun king, Laxmi Chand, about 1450 A.D., but there is an interesting Sanskrit inscription there of a far earlier date. The chief articles of merchandise are : ponies, goats, sheep, furs, yak tails, musk pods, borax, salt horns, books, shoes, fruit dried and fresh. The Bhotiyas bring down excellent ponies, which breed in a wild or semi-wild state over the Tibetan border. Merchants from far off distances like Tibet and Nepal come to the fair for brisk trading.Nanda Devi Festival of Almora
The best known fair of this region, held in the month of September at Almora town, is organized since the Chand kings ruled this place. It is believed that 'Nanda' used to be the family Goddess of Chanda dynasty. The word meaning of the word 'Nanda' is prosperity. The temple of 'Nanda' in Almora was built by Dyot Chanda in seventeenth century, the then ruler of this place. Presently this temple remains the core of the festival. The duration of the festival is five days and approximately twenty five thousand people tourist come to attend this festival.Dushara Festival Almora
The famous festival of Hindus, Dushara, in October, commemorates the victory of Lord Rama over Ravana, the monstrous ten-headed king of Lanka or Ceylon, as described in Ramayana, is celebrated in a very unique way in Almora town. Approximately five to six thousand tourists from the outskirts come to attend the festival in Almora town. Showing the symbolic victory of the truth the effigies of devils are prepared in a very artistic manner in almost all the 'Mohallas' (wards) of the town. Finally in a social gathering all these effigies are burnt. The festival is generally celebrated in the month of October.
Purnagiri is located on the top of a hill and is 20 kms from Tanakpur. It is on the right bank of the river kali. A number of fairs takes place here during Navratras, when devotees in a large number come from surrounding areas to have a Darshan and worship the Goddess Purnagiri. The fair starts from Vishuwat Sankranti and continues for about forty days.Devidhura Fair
This fair takes place at Varahidevi temple in Devidhura, situated at the border of Almora, Pithoragarh and Nainital districts. It is held every year on the day of Raksha Bandhan. A unique feature of this fair is the image of Goddess Varahi kept in a locked brass casket. The casket is taken out in a procession to a nearby mountain spring where a blindfolded priest ritually bathes the image and puts it back in the casket. The Goddess is worshipped whole night and the next morning an exciting ' Bagwaal' fair takes place. The event is marked by two groups of people fighting a battle in front of the temple, throwing stones at each other, while they try to protect themselves by using big roof-like shields. Thousands of people gather to watch this event. The fighting stops soon after the priest appears and both sides meet and reconcile.
It 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 recited and people gather to listen to the recitations.Nag Panchmi
It 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
It 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
It 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.Dipavali
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
It 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
It 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.
On this day the mother of Shri Badrinathji is worshipped, and a large fair held at the Badrinath Temple in the month of Sept. According to a legend, when river Ganga humanity, she spread into twelve channels. The spot where the river tumbled became Lord Vishnu's adobe. The place came to be known as Badrinath. The Mata Murti Temple is dedicated to the mother of Sri Badrinathji.
Jhanda Fair is held every year at the historic Guru Ram Rai Darbar in Dehradun City on the sacred memory of the Guru. The fair begins with putting up a new Jhanda ( Flag) on the staff located in the compound of the historic complex. Besides local people, a large number of devotees turn up from Punjab, Haryana, Delhi, U.P. and Himachal Pradesh etc.Tapakeshwar Fair
Tapakeshwar is a legendary place located on the eastern bank of the river Tons. Lord Shiva is the reigning deity of the ancient temple located here in a cave. In the Skandapurana, this place has been referred to as Deveshwara. It is believed that during Dwaparyuga, this place was abode of Guru Dronacharaya who lived here with his family. Since then, the cave was known as Drona Gufa. One of the famous heroes of Mahabharat and son of Guru Drona, Ashwathama was born here . When Ashwathama was very young, the poor father could not find any milk for him. The Guru was too poor to afford a cow. It was a matter of worry to the great master. One day, when young Ashwathama was crying for milk, the helpless Guru advised him to pray and worship Lord Shiva, who would bless him with milk. Ashwathama did so. Pleased with the young boy's tough penance, Lord Shiva appeared before him in the garb of Brahmin and enquired about his wish. Little Ashwathama asked for milk. Lord Shiva blessed him and said that milk would be made available here. Ashwathama found milk falling on the Shivalinga, drop by drop. Ashwathama had prayed to the Lord by the name of Tapakeshwar and hence the place was known by the same name. A big fair takes place here on the Shivratri day. Thousands of devotees congregate at this place on the day to offer prayers. Tapakeshwar is approachable from Dehradun by City Bus or Three Wheelers. It is about 5kms. from the Bus-Stand and 5.5kms. from the Railway station.Lakshman Siddha Fair
Lakshman siddha is one of the four siddhpeeths around Dehradun. It has immense religious importance. It is about 10 kms away on Dehradun-Rishikesh road. It can be easily approached by city bus or three wheelers and is located about 1 km off the road inside jungle. It is mainly a local religious fair held every Sunday, but last Sunday of April has a special significance, when people turn up in very large number and congregation of 20 to 25 thousand people can be seen offering obeisance to the samadhi here.Bissu Fair
This fair is held at the Jhanda ground in cantonment area of Chakrata block of the Dehradun district. It is about 3 kms from Chakrata. The fair reflects cultural heritage and tradition of Jaunsari tribe. A large number of people turn up in this fair from nearby Tehri, Uttarkashi and Saharanpur districts. The fair marks harvesting season in the area and reflects the happiness of the local people.Mahasu Devta's Fair
Mahasu Devta's fair is held at Hanol which is about 120 kms on the Chakrata Tyuni road. The fair takes place in August every year, when Mahasu Devta (deity) is taken out in a procession. Musical prayers continue for three days and night. The havan samagri ( offering material ) is arranged by the Government of India. This is a local fair of Jaunsari tribe. Thousands of participants throng the place on the occasion from the adjacent Tehri, Uttarkashi and Saharanpur district.Shaheed Veer Kesari Chandra Fair ( Chakrata Fair )
This fair is held at Ramtal in Nagau gram sabha of Chakrata tehsil in Dehradun district. Ramtal is a beautiful natural tank of about 30 m length and 30 m width, located on a hill and is connected with a 700 m long motorable road. The tank is surrounded by a green ground which is the venue of fair. Every year during navratras ( April) a big fair is held here. A temple and a memorial dedicated to the freedom fighter Veer Kesri Chandra is located at this spot.Lakhawar Fair
This village fair is held during Sept.-Oct. and is very popular in the neighboring area of Chakrata, 78 km from Mussoorie. The fair reflects of the Garhwali tribes. Activities include cultural programmes and sport competitions.Hanol Mela, Chakrata
The temple of Hanol in Chakrata, 78 km from Mussoorie is the venue of an exotic fair. The hill dwellers of the state gather in October to worship in all their finery. This is an opportunity to exchange message, purchase wares from various merchants and to celebrate with friends and relatives before the onset of a harsh winter.
Situated at a height of 1675 m on a hill above Swarg Ashram, Neelkanth Mahadev is one of the most revered temples of Rishikesh. According to a legend, after the great 'Sagar Manthan' the churning of the sea by gods and demons, Lord Shiva drank all the effluent venom that turned up from the manthan. The poison turned his throat blue and hence the name Neelkanth (Blue throat). An important fair is held in the Hindu month of Bhadrapad (July/August) when a visit to the temple is considered auspicious.Ardh Kumbh & Kumbh Mela
Though all the Hindu festivals are celebrated here with pomp and gaiety, it is the Ardh Kumbh & Kumbh Mela which attracts the mind of any tourist to this place. The history of Kumbh Mela dates back to the creation of the Universe legends. Mythological state that the Gods and the Demons once churned the ocean to retrieve the Kumbh (pot) containing nectar of immortality (Amrit). As Dhanvantri, the divine healer appeared with the Kumbh containing nectar in her palms. A great fight followed between the Gods and the Demons to wrist the pitcher. During the fierce battle in the sky, a few drops of nector fell at four different places, Prayag, Haridwar, Nasik and Ujjain. Since then devotees converge to commemorate this divine event. The Ardh Kumbh is held every six years and than after six years Kumbh Mela is held. It is said that a holy dip in the river Ganges during the Kumbh & Ardh Kumbh gives you Moksha or Nirvana. People gather in huge number to take the holy dip during these holy days.Kavand Mela
Ten days before Shivteras (during the months of Shravan & Phagun) thousands of devotees throng to Haridwar to collect holy waters of the river Ganga. Then they carry it back to their hometown & offer it at the local Shiv temple. Colourful shops spring up and Haridwar resounds to the chanting of hymns.
Vasantotsav or spring festival is held every year at Ramnagar during the month of January-February. A large number of local people and tourists, including foreigners participate in the festival at Ramnagar which is a gateway of Jim Corbett Park, the wildlife sanctuary of Uttranchal. The event reflects cultural activities of both Kumaon and Garhwal.Nanda Devi Fair of Nainital
This fair is held in Nainital in the month of September every year. Among other things, a number of cultural programmes are organised on this occasion.Hariyali Devi Fair
This fair is held during July on the occasion of Harela.Ranibagh Fair
This fair is held at Ranibagh, about 30 kms from Nainital on the occasion of Uttarayani every year. It has immense religious importance. A number of programmes are organised attract visitors.Chhota Kailash Fair
This fair takes place in February every year on the occasion of Shivratri. This is a religious fair, and reflects the rich and varied culture and tradition of the area.Garjia Devi Fair
This fair takes place around the Garjiadevi Temple in Ramnagar. A large number of people from nearby area turn up in this fair to have a Darshan of Garjiadevi.Sharadotsav
This fair is organised in Nainital in the month of October. Various cultural programmes, folk dances and folk arts are organised during this fair. A large number of people including foreign tourists visit this fair to have a glance of the local culture and traditions.Holi Mahotsav
Holi Mahotsav is organised in Nainital with the cooperation of the local bodies. The festivities reflect cultural traditions of Kumaon.
Held every year on Makar Sankranti at Jauljibi, 68 km. from Pithoragarh, the confluence of the rivers Kali & Gori. People come even from Nepal to this fair to sell horses, ghee, foreign goods & take back food grains, jaggery etc. A similar fair is held at Thal on Vaishakh Sankranti (14th April).Punyagiri Mela
Punyagiri Shakti Peeth (20 km. from Tanakpur) situated on the top of a mountain on the right bank of the river Kali is the site for many fairs. The temple is very crowded during the Navratris of Ashwin and Chaitra months. The Punyagiri fair, starting from Vishuwat Sankranti is the longest fair of Kumaon, lasting for about 40 days.Hatkalika Fair, Gangolihat
This fair is held on the ashtami of Chaitra month in the Kalika temple at Gangolihat. People come with drums and flags to pay homage to goddess Kalika.
This fair has a legendary background. Gautam Rishi used to go for a sacred bath in the Ganga every morning. For him, this had become part of his everyday life. Once, the king of Gods- Indra asked Surya ( Sun) as to who was the most beautiful woman on the earth. The Sun parried the question and said " Most of people are busy in their work when I shine during the day and it is very difficult for me to judge as to who is ugly and who is beautiful". Indra asked the same question to Chandradev ( Moon God) who said that Ahilya, the wife of Gautam Rishi residing at the confluence of Yamuna and Tamsa was the most beautiful woman on the earth. Hearing this, Indra was overtaken by evil and lust and made up his mind to acquire Ahilya by hook or crook. Unbecoming of the king of Gods as he was, Indra entered the Ashram ( hermitage) of Gautam at midnight and mimicked the call of a cock. Unaware of the wicked designs of Indra, Rishi Gautam set out for bathing in Ganga as usual, mistaking as the dawn. Finding Ahilya alone at home as soon as the sage left, Indra knocked the door and impersonating as Gautam, tried to bluff her. Ahilya was a pious hearted lady. She sensed the evil designs of Indra and cursed him to be a leper with a thousand eyes. Meanwhile, Gautam reached Ganga and entered the holy water for bath. The river Goddess was pleased with the punctuality and devotion of Gautam. She asked him to return home immediately as his wife was in trouble. The Rishi turned back in a hurry, leaving his Kamandal ( sacred pot) there. Later, the Goddess Ganga herself returned the Kamandal, filling it with holy water, which was set up in the Ashram in the form of a sarovar ( tank). She also gave a boon that the tank's water will be equal in holiness to the actual Gangajal and those who have a holy dip in the tank will earn the same blessing as one who has a holy dip in the Ganga. Since then, this place, which is about 8 kms on Dehradun-Saharanpur Road, is a holy bathing place of religious importance. Thousands of devotees visit the spot in April and October, when a big fair takes place here.Surkhanda Devi Fair
Surkhanda Devi Fair is held on the Ganga Dussehra day at Surkhanda Devi temple, located at a distance of 33 kms from Mussoorie. The temple is dedicated to Goddess Durga and is an important pilgrimage centre. It can be reached by trekking about 2 kms from Kaddukhal via Dhanolti on the road to Chamba. The worship of the Goddess is the main attraction of this fair. Besides folk music and dance, the traditional handicrafts are also on display.Kunjapuri Fair
This fair is held in October every year during Navratras at Narendra Nagar. Over fifty thousand people gather here to participate in various activities. Display of skill and strength by the youth, handicrafts and handmade articles are main attractions of this fair.
This fair is organised during December every year. A number of cultural events reflecting rich culture and traditions of Tharu and Buxad tribes, are organised on this occasion. Folk dances, handicrafts are the main attractions of this fair.Ataria Fair
This fair is organised during March- April every year at Ataria during Navratras. The fair is marked by great festivities. Folk dances and local handicrafts are the main attractions of this fair.Chaiti Fair
This fair takes place at Chaiti in Kashipur during Vasant Navratras. A large number of people including those from far-flung areas participate in this fair.Terai Utsav
An attractive fair is organised at Rudrapur to reflect the diversity of the culture and traditions of the people living in the Terai area.
Magh Mela takes place on the occasion of Makar Sankranti ( January) in Uttarkashi every year. It is an important event of the district from religious, cultural and commercial point of view. A large number of local people and tourist participate in the mela, with many pouring in from different parts of Kumaon, Garhwal and other parts of Uttaranchal.District Pouri
Most of the festivals of the region are based on mythological traditions. 'Makar Shankranti', also called 'Uttarayni' in Garhwal, is celebrated as 'Khichriya Shankranti' in which 'Khichri' of 'Urad Dal' is prepared and Rice & 'Urad Dal' is donated to the Brahmins. On this day, 'Gindi' fairs are organized in different places like Dadamandi, Thalnadi etc. of the district. On 'Basant Panchami', also called 'Sripanchami', the worships of 'Kshetrapal' or 'Bhumiya' Devtas are organized and the group folks 'Thadiya' and 'Chauffula' are started. On 'Vishuvat Shankranti', the new year starts and it is celebrated as 'Vikhoti'. In some places like Trivani near Pokhal, Devalgarh etc., fairs are organized on this day. Similarly, 'Holi', 'Deepawali', 'Shivratri', 'Vijayadhasmi', 'Rakshabandhan' are organized with full joys as per Hindu traditions.