Nanda Devi Raj Jaat: The Largest Inaccessible and Difficult Pilgrimage
Nanda Devi Raj Jaat Yatra also known as Himalayan Kumbh is the biggest spiritual celebration in Uttarakhand that takes place in every 12 years. According to the legends, Nanda Devi was the Goddess of ‘Katyuri Rajvansh’ and is worshipped throughout Uttarakhand. She is also called ‘Raj Rajeshwari’ and Gaura by the local.
Parvati,the daughter of Hills and the wife of Lord Shiva, is known as Nanda in the regions of Garhwal & Kumaon. The highest peak of the district is named after the goddess, so are many temples and prominent places across Uttrakhand.
According to the legends, the event celebrates the visit of Nanda Devi to her Mother’s home and her journey back to her husband, Lord Shiva’s home in Kailash. The local’s consider Nanda Devi their daughter and walk all the way to Nanda Parvat to escort her. It’s an annual ritual wherein the local people carry the Palanquin of Nanda Devi from Nauti village, 20 km Karnprayag to Kailash in Tibet. The prince of Kansua Village inaugurates the procession and declares the commencement of the procession called Raj Jaat. The entire story is well depicted through the folk songs that are sung all along the procession by the women.
One of the folklores is associated with King Jasdhaval of Kannauj. It is believed that during King Jasdhaval’s Raj Jaat in 1150 AD, he took along with him a few dancers. It offended the Goddess and invited her wrath. There was a heavy snowfall which lead to a deadly avalanche and the entire royal procession died under it and dancers took form of rocks that can be found even today in Patarnachonia.
The other lore says that King Yasodhwal’s pregnant wife gave birth to the child. After giving birth to her child her placenta flowed down to Roopkund and lead to the death of many people which is why river Nandakini lost its significance. Jasdhaval is believed to be an ancestor of the prince of Kansua and thus began the tradition of offering homage to Jasdhaval at this point.
The main attraction of the Yatra is four-horned Sheep i.e. Chausinghya Khadu. It is believed that this special sheep is born once in twelve years that marks the beginning of the preparations of the Himalayan Kumbh. There’s a huge entourage that walks along with the sheep with tight security around it. This sacred sheep is left behind while returning.
This religious procession of Nanda Devi Raj jaat takes place in the month of July or August, when the goddess is ready to leave for Kailash after spending 6 months at home. It’s celebrated on a huge scale in every 12 years where palanquins shrouded in red dupattas come from different parts of the state and unite at Nanda Keshari, 60 km from Karnprayag, and lead up to Homkund, at an altitude of 3,755 m, crossing the bugyals of Bedni and Ali.
The last Yatra was held in 2014 and the next is expected for 2026. This 280 km long pilgrimage spans over 18 days is one beautiful yet difficult trek to undertake. The beautiful bugyals and scenic views compensate for the difficulty level of this hike. You can definitely have this one on your bucket list, it is definitely on ours.