A popular festival all over India, Basant Panchami marks the onset of spring season and end of winter. Celebrated during the month of Magh? (January-February) according to the Hindu calendar, Basant Panchami involved worshipping of Goddess Saraswati and people wear yellow-colored fabrics. In Kumaon region, it also marks the beginning of month long Baithak Holi that involves all-night long musical session and singing of hymns, songs and prayers.
Also known as ‘Kale Kuva’ in the region, Uttarayani is celebrated around 14th January every year all over Uttarakhand. In this festival, the kids adorn the garland of sweets around their neck and feed the crows and sing hymns. On the eve of Uttarayani, a famous fair in Nainital takes place which draws huge crowd from nearby regions. The festival is of great importance in Uttarakhand, especially in the Kumaon region. The famous Ranibagh fair is held at Ranibagh, 30 kms away from Nainital on the occasion of Uttarayani.
An extremely popular festival in Nainital, Phooldei is celebrated on the first day of Chaitra month (March) according to the Hindu calendar. In this festival, young girls pick first flowers of the season in their little baskets and place it at the entrance of the house for prosperity and good luck throughout the year. The festival acts as a binding force in the community as little girls from each household place flowers all over the neighborhood.
Nanda Devi is the revered goddess of Uttarakhand and is venerated all across the state, specifically in the Kumaon region. Held in the month of September, the Nanda Devi fair was first held in 16th century by the then King Kalyan Chand of Chand Dynasty. Since then Nanda Devi Mela is celebrated all across the Kumaon region. Nanda Devi Mela in Nainital draws large number of devotees who seek blessings of the goddess for prosperity and wellbeing.
Another popular festival in Uttarakhand, Khatarua marks the arrival of autumn season and is celebrated on the first day of the month of Ashwin (mid-September) according to the Hindu calendar. On the eve of Khatarua, children dance in revelry and offer cucumbers to the fire as a part of celebrations which is believed to destroy evil spirits lurking in the dark.
6. Harela (Bikhauti)
Harela is a popular festival in Nainital that falls on the first day of Navraatri in the month of Chaitra. In this festival, women sow seven types of grains which symbolizes better harvesting season. On the last day of Navraatris, the yellow leaves known as Harela are kept on forehead or tucked behind the ears. Apart from that, on this day, brothers send gifts to their sisters which are known as Bikhauti in local dialect. On the eve of Harela, Hariyali fair is organized at many places including Nainital.
Also known as Olgia in local dialect, Gheeya Sakranti is celebrated in the Hindu month of Bhado, which falls in mid-August. The festival marks the gratitude among the farmers and landowners, where artisans and farmers give presents such as binai, axes, ghee, vegetables, firewood to the landowners and receive gifts and money in return. Ghee is put on forehead and poured in large quantity in food on this day.
8. Sharadotsav (Winter Fair)
One of the popular fairs in Nainital, Sharadotsav fair takes place during the month of October. Large numbers of visitors including foreigners descend in Nainital to be a part of this grand celebration. Various cultural programs and folk dances are held at the fair which showcases the vivid cultural heritage of Uttarakhand.