Elaborate arrangements have been made for the festival which witnesses heavy rush of devotees from the Kumaon region and elsewhere in Uttarakhand.
More than a lakh devotees are expected to take part in the three-day Nanda Devi festival, which started in the Nainital city on Monday.
The festival, popular as Nanda Devi Mahotsav, is dedicated to goddess Nanda (goddess of joy), who is the patron goddess of the local people. The Nanda Devi peak, located in Chamoli district of Kumaon region in Uttarakhand, is named after her.
Elaborate arrangements have been made for the festival, which witnesses heavy rush of devotees from the Kumaon region and elsewhere in the state. Decorative lights have been put on Naina Devi temple, Nainital lake fringe, trees on the Mall Road and buildings in the market. Scores of stalls selling garments, kitchen items, local handicrafts and other items of daily use have been set up in the Mela Ground in front of the Naina Devi temple.
Devotees started to arrive at the Naina Devi temple since morning to worship twin goddesses Nanda and Sunanda — representing Nanda and Sunanda peaks of the Himalayas — whose idols have been enshrined in the temple premises in a banana trunk. A religious procession carrying the idols in a dola (palanquin) will be taken out on September 19, the last day of the festival.
Various government departments have put up banners on varied themes. The animal husbandry department has erected a banner making people aware that animal sacrifice of any sort was strictly banned as per the court directions. The district administration has also raised banners urging people to maintain cleanliness, also warning people that those found littering would be slapped with a fine of Rs 5,000.
Also, people setting up food stalls in the Mela Ground have been told not to sell eggs or any non-vegetarian food item. A lost and found stall has also been put up by the administration given the crowd and the rush of the devotees attending the festival.
Anup Sahi, vice president, Ram Sewak Sabha, which organises the festival in Nainital, said the festival, held in the honour of Nanda Devi and her sister Sunanda, is one of the most important festivals in the lives of the people of Uttarakhand. “People here and in the nearby districts, especially Almora, have been celebrating this festival since the Chand Kings ruled the Kumaon region in the 17th century,” he said.
Many devotees from the Kumaon region said they come every year to participate in the festival and seek blessings of Nanda Devi. “It is the most special occasion in our life here. Not only we get to be part of the massive festive congregation, we feel blessed and protected by Nanda Devi,” said SC Rawat, a trader from Almora district.