Nanda ashtami is an auspicious and cultural festival that is assosciated with goddess nanda devi. It’s celebrated every year on shukla paksha ashtami day in bhadrapada month in uttarakhand I.E. Eigth day of the month of bhadrapada(month of august-september). This festival is celebrated every year to celebrate the visit of goddess nanda devi to her mother’s home.Also the whole festival is meant to pay tribute to the goddess nanda devi.
Goddess nanda devi is one of the most popular deity of uttarakhand. She is the incarnation of goddess shakti. Goddess nanda devi is the daughter of himalayas and wife of lord shiva. In uttarakhand the people worship goddess nanda devi with deep faith. Also in uttarakhand there are many temples and shrines dedicated to goddess nanda devi. Along with temples there are many festivals and functions that are celebrated every year devoted to goddess nanda devi, the most significant of them being nanda raj jaat held in every 12 years and nanda mahotsav.
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Why nandaashtami is celebrated ?
Nanda ashtami is celebrated in many places of uttarakhand and also it has a relgious and cultural significance in uttarakhand. There is an interesting story behind the celebration of this auspicious festival. It’s believed that once upon a time there was a village named risasu where seven brothers lived together. In those seven brothers there was a brother named hemant who was the deity worshiper. Hemant had a wife named mainavati. Many years had passed since their marriage but they don’t have any child. Once in the risasu village some sage saint visited and they said to hemant that if he will organise a grand homa(havan) in the village then a daughter will surely born in their house. After hearing this hemant started preparing for the homa(havan) and he went near the river to wash the homa(havan) dishes where he found a little girl playing near the river when he saw her he wished to have the daughter like her and then he returned home and said all the things to her wife after hearing this her wife also went near the river to see that girl but that girl took the form of a fish so the mainavati didn’t found her. She filled her pot and returned back home after returning she drank water. With water she also swallowed that fish and got pregnant as that fish was the incarnation of shakti. After nine months mainavati gave birth to a beautiful girl named nanda. After 11 days of birth nanda starts speaking and she said to everyone that her name is gaura and she will marry lord shiva of kailash after which everyone understands that nanda is a divine girl. After few years hemant and mainavati started finding groom for nanda but she rejected every boy.
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Once lord narad visited the village risasu in the form of saint where hemant and mainavati offered him some stuff but he refused and said I cant accept this from the place where there is 14 years old unmarried girl then hemant and mainavati said to please suggest them a groom then lord narad replied you start arranging for marriage the groom is on the way. Hemant and mainavati without any questions start preparing for the marriage and after some time lord shiva reached their home. Hemant and mainvati marry their daughter nanda happily with lord shiva and farewell them. In the way to her in law’s house nanda rested at different vllages. The first place where goddess nanda devi took rest was “eedhabadhad” where she was honored and welcomed from villagers so while taking farewell from that place she promised that whenever she will go to her in law’s house from risasu she will definitely rest there. After that the nainwal from naini village also welcomed and honored her and goddess nanda devi receive there “chattoli” as a gift after that the third village was nauti where the nautiyal’s of nauti grandly welcomed goddess nanda devi after which goddess nanda devi got impressed and declared that from today she will be known as “raj rajeshwari” and that nauti is there marital home and she declared nautiyal’s as her “rajguru’s”.After this they reached the village kansua where she was again honored and welcomed with great joy and happiness. There goddess nanda devi said that I will send a chausingha khaddu (four horned ram of the sheep family) and instructed to follow sheep till visible otherwise return back. After this doli of goddess nanda passes from sem, sitolidhar, koti, bhagoti, bainoli, kulsari, badhan, dasoli, nandkeasri, faldiagaon, mundoli, vaan, gairoli patal, paatar nachonia, sheela samudra, and reached jyuragali dhar where goddess nanda devi got thirsty, lord shiva tried to found water everywhere but he didn’t found water atlast he originated the river from his trishula where goddess nanda devi quenches her thirst and sat near river where lord shiva saw goddess nanda devi beautiful face reflection in the clear water and named that place as “roopkund”. Atlast with some maids and lord shiva the goddess nanda devi reached kailash.After reaching kailash goddess nanda devi saw that there is nothing in the kailash except snow all around and winter weather. After few years the lord shiva go to the grave and goddess nanda devi got alone and angry and she cursed her maternal house risasu due to which the villagers of risasu start facing drought and sorrow.To overcome this situation hemant and mainavati calls some sage and saint but they were unable to do anything but they informed them that your daughter is not happy in her in- laws house I.E. Kailash then they thought they haven’t invited their daughter from long time to their home but as they didn’t knew the address they took help from sage and saints and they sent two bees to invite goddess nada devi to her maternal house. The bees reaches kailasha and invited goddess nanda devi but as lord shiva was in grave she was unable to go without informing. So goddess nanda devi blew conch that distracted lord shiva and he got angry but after some time Goddess nanda devi persuaded lord shiva and lord shiva said that from today you can go to your maternal house once in a year and once in a 12 years with fanfare but return back kailash before ending of rainy season. So from that day every year goddess nanda devi go to her maternal house and nanda ashtami is celebrated and in every 12 years nanda raj jaat is celebrated.
How nanda ashtami is celebrated ?
Nanda ashtami is celebrated every year.To celebrate nanda ashtami many fairs are organised at different places, the grandest of them being in almora. Also people uesd to perform the ritual of ashtbali and panchabali, where along with seven goats one buffalo was also sacrificed. Also people climb high mountains to get “brahmakamal” and offer it to the goddess nanda devi. In the fair one can witness the folk culture of kumaon region along with the Dance and songs. In every 12 years a nanda raj jaat (a ceremonial farewell) is organised from her mother’s house.
RESEARCH AND WRITTEN BY HEMANTI RAWAT