Nainital is now become a cosmopolitan town but has its deep roots in its culture and religion of Kumaon. Nainital has faiths and believes associated with its culture and traditions through generations. During festive seasons Nainital is a beauty to watch as people from different religion and backgrounds comes togeter to celebrate each fair and festival combinely. Fairs and festivals which had a glorious past and meaning are still celebrated with full rejoice in Nainital. All social and cultural activities of the Kumaoni people celebrated from time to time in Nainital.
Following is list of Fairs and festivals celebrated in Nainital.
Nanda Devi Mela (Held in September)
Nanda Devi Mela was originally started by King Kalyan Chand of Chand Dynasty of Garhwal in around 16th century. Nanda Devi Mela is celebrated with full enthusiasm in most of places in Kumaon. Almora, Nainital, Nauti, Dandidhara, Munsyari and Ranikhet are the major places where people celebrate Nanda Devi Mela. Nanda Devi festival in Almora is celebrated by taking the procession of Doli of Nanda Devi joined by huge crowds of devotees. in Nanda Devi Fair, large number of devotees pray for material and spiritual prosperity. Major Nanda Devi Mela is held at the Nanda Devi temple of Almora in the month of September. This Nanda Devi temple was built during the reign of Raja Udhyot Chand.
Basant Panchami, Samvastar Pareva (Held in Jan – Feb)
Basant Panchami is celebrated in Nainital to welcome the spring season after the end of winter. Basant Panchami is celebrated during the months of January to February and on this day devotees worship Goddess Saraswati and wears yellow traditional clothes.
Uttarani or Kale Kaua (Held in 14 January)
Celebrated rejoicely in 14 January, Uttarani fair is held at all major places like Nainital, Bageshwar, Rameshwar, Pancheshwar, Salt Mahadev, Chitrashila. On Uttarani, the Dola of Chaumu is brought down to the temple at Pancheshwar. Uttarayani festival is one of the main festival which has deep roots in culture of Uttarakhand, especially Kumaon.
Khatarua (Approx 17th Sep.)
Khatarua is a major festival which celebrates the arrival of the autumn season after summer. Looking it as an important time for agriculture, it is celebrated on the first day of the month of Ashwin i.e in mid September. On Khatarua, children dances and offers cucumber to bonfires to mark the celebrations. As per the belief, Cucumbers offerings will destroy all evil influences.
Batsavitri is a major festival among women of Kumaon regions. It falls on Sankrant and celebrated on the Krishna amavasya (last day of the dark half of the month) of Jyestha. On Batsavitri, married women worship Savitri and the Bat or banyan tree and pray for the well being of their spouses.
Phooldeyi or Phooldeli (Held around 14th March)
Phooldeyi is celebrated on first day of Chaitra month in March. Phooldeyi is the festival of young girls who put the first flowers of the season on the entrance of every house in the village, for good luck throughout the year. Young girls also sing a wishful traditional song on the occasion.
Bikhauti or Harela (Held in 14 April)
Celebrated on the first day of the Navaratra falls in the month of Chaitra, women sow seven types of grains which symbolizes better harvesting in the future. At last day of the Navratra, On the tenth day, the yellow leaves, called Harela, are put on heads and tuck them behind their ears. Also brothers send gifts for their sisters in this festival month. These presents are called ‘Bikhauti’
Gheeya Sankranti or Olgia (Held around 16th Aug)
Olgia is a majorly celebrated in the villages and rural areas of Kumaon. On the first day of Bhado (middle of August), when their is ample of newly harvent in the house, relative like sons-in-law and nephews give gifts to their father in laws or maternal uncles. Farmers and landowners also exchange gifts from purchasers on Olgia. On Gheeya Sankranti people used to put ghee on their foreheads and use ghee in major amount in their food today.
Fairs in Nainital (Mela)
Hariyali Devi Fair
On the occasion of Harela festival, Hariyali Devi fair is organised in many places. During July, Hariyali Devi Fair is celebrated for the new season of corp.
Chhota Kailash Fair
On the occasion of Shivratri, Chhota Kailash fair takes place in many parts of Kumaon.
Sharadotsav (Winter Fair)
Sharadotsav 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.
Ranibagh fair is held at Ranibagh, about 30kms. from Nainital on the occasion of Uttarayani every year.