I guess "God" has a way with things or at least when you put the whole picture together it seems that way. Nanda Devi Raj Jaat happens every 12 years and every 12 years there is a "Khaddu"(lamb) born to let know that it time and yippy!! There will be jaat. My elderlies told me that, it was a life time experience to be at one of such occasion, to feel the energy of believe take solid form and come alive. I got to feel it this year 2014 Raj Jaat.
The Jaat was supposed to be last year but due to the natural calamity in Uttrakhand, it was postponed to this year. My luck I was in town for the
great event.The journey started from Dehradun, the valley of Doon. Generally we would take the route from Rishikesh for Gharwal hills, but as all the other roads where closed due to landslides, we got a chance to go through Tehri dam via Mussoorie.
The roads were lush green as if a child had drawn a picture and filled in the brightest shades of green. The sun shone high but the shade of trees made it feel like springs again. It's about 8 hrs drive on a straight route.
We reached Karanpryag and took a hotel as Nauti is just 1hr drive from there.
We shuttled to and fro for all the events.
We reached Karanprayag by afternoon and after freshening up, we went to Nauti. It's a narrow road with just enough space for two cars to pass.I have been to Gharwal hills like a 100 times but never seen it so lush and green. It's like the hills were all decorated for Nanda Devi's arrival. As far as your sight goes, it was green and not just any green, it seemed like one of those from the dreamy scenes from the movies where every thing
is extra bright, extra fresh.
The crop fields were ready to harvest and the grains glittered like crystals in setting sun. While going for the first time it was not much of traffic. Around 2km before the village Nauti-Maithana there was a police check-post beyond which vehicles were not allowed.Oh I forgot to tell you, Nauti- Maithana, is my mothers birth place and my maternal side belongs to the place, so getting through with an excuse was an easy task.
It was like a fair near the village main road. The two village are like a scopes of ice-cream with Maithana on top, a road in between and right next to road,Nauti on the down hill. There was my maternal Grandfathers ancestral home right next to the road, which was the biggest and the first one in Maithana, now biggest and the first one in Maithana, now only ruins of it are left. It was an emotional sight for everyone to see it with a little numb eyes they expressed it.
Then we got down hill the Nauti village and reached a house, which was my grandfather's sister's home. Not going deep into the relation, it was a nice little house with a "chowk" in front. They had many guests in their house as very few people still stay actually in Nauti. Almost everyone comes there with their roots connected to the place. So in times like this, relatives are of great help.
After a small session of tea and "gup-shup" we moved on to Nanda devi temple which was to my shock, not as huge one as I had imagined and nor were the preparations! Who to blame? Mom and granny did her prayers and got busy with their old acquaintances, talk about old days and all stuff. Lucky me I had my very dear uncle with me to talk and hang around. We spent time loitering around and making fun of the cops standing around like it was their party.
After a long wait arrived the Khaddu. He was led by a huge crowed and pandits along, people blowing horns and dancing "Devtas". It is said that when someone is in "Devtas" mode he or she is lost in a trance unimaginable and has a presence of external energy within him, which is a Godly presence and is holy in every form. Me and my uncle, and others climbed the highest place possible to get the best view available.
The ceremony lasted the whole night with more dance, prayers, hawan, songs of devotion and nocturnal creature (people) chit chatting. Few stayed back for the night but I was tired like any thing so decided to return back to the base camp, the hotel.
It was an early start, a race to reach first, after freshening up to pray the Khaddu. We reached by 5:30 but damn those nocturnal creatures they didn't sleep; the whole night still got ready before us and got there first. But we were just in time, or should say the only lucky ones because we were the last one, to be able to offer our prayer peacefully. As right after us the police got at the scene and started pushing people off in a long queue, with not even letting them do the rituals properly.
The Khaddu is accompanied with a "Chattar" for Devi. Everyone tied there gifts for the Devi in small packets or pouch and tied it on the Khaddu. After the ceremony we climbed further down the hill to visit Mahadev (Lord Shiva) temple of the village. The outskirts of the route took us through the farmlands covered with new harvest making it look like a carpet, beautiful it was.
The Shiva temple had a Pandit covered in ash. Outside the temple there was a "bhandara" were we had tea and the most amazing "aloo ka pakora" I have had in my life.Recharged with carbs we started climbing up hill back to the main village. There were a couple of oldies with us who had spent there youth running the same path up and down many times a day but now took an hour to climb one way up.
We climbed up listening to their youth stories and laughing. There is "Ufren devi" temple, where we stopped to pray on the way. After that started a long never ending task of meeting the people in the village, visiting there homes, giving them sweets and everyone pulling us to serve something to eat. It is a small village so every house is connected to the next one and ones you start, you can't get out of the herd of people.
In between the on going visit came a point when the Khaddu,along with a group of people was seen going away into the up hill to visit other village. There is this custom that Nanda Devi visits her sister at Ida Badhani, a village near Karanpryag. I am mentioning all these things about Nanda Devi raaj jaat, do you even know what is going on around,why it happens and all?? Naaa.I don't think, you have a clue, do you? Anyways I will tell you.
The Kunwar of village Kansua, inaugurates the ceremony as he is said to be the brother of Devi Nanda. The ceremony is the see-off ceremony for the bride of Lord Shiva (Nanda devi or Parvati as many would call her) when she leaves her "Maika" which is Nauti and goes to her "Sasural" that is Kailash. It's an emotional moment for the bride so some tears are obvious hence the ceremony is often accompanied with rainfall. So before she leaves she goes to visit her sister at Ida Badhani. Then she returns back to Nauti after a night stay there, after which she is off to Kailash.
She is accompanied by a huge group of people, who go along to see her off. The entire journey is of around 280km on foot. The Khaddu with all the ornament on it and the crowd of hikers carrying the Chatoli cover this distance.
After this the Khaddu climbs up alone, as the path is not possible for humans to go on. So now you know the cause of it.Back to the visiting part,which lasted till late evening, with me ending up being the porter. We returned back to base by nightfall after a long traffic jam on our way back.The next day morning we packed and on our way back to home. If I get a chance I will surely go on the complete trek once, may be someday.