Nestled amidst the breathtaking Kumaon hills, Nainital is an amazing place to enjoy festive vacations. Usually, people visit Nainital to explore the natural beauty and enjoy the pleasant weather but apart from the natural beauty of this majestic Himalayan gem, the festivals of Nainital offer a perfect retreat for the rejuvenation of mind, body, and soul. The festivals of Nainital are an enchanting blend of cultural, spiritual, and natural splendour. Whether you are seeing exuberant Nanda Devi Fair, embracing delightful Phool Dei, or Sharadotsav, there is always something that seduces the senses and fine-tunes the spirit.
Here is the list of the most popular festivals of Nainital:
1. Basant Panchami
When the spring season gracefully enters the enchanting realm of Nainital, people embrace the vibrant hues of Basant Panchami. The festival of Basant Panchami falls in the month of Magh (January and February). The festival is celebrated in the honour of goddess Saraswati, who is an embodiment of knowledge and arts. People on this occasion wear shades of yellow clothes. Yellow symbolizes life prosperity and spring, and the people of Nainital pay respects to the goddess with lively celebrations. Basant Panchami also heralds the onset of Holi which is a festival of love and colour. People also eat yellow-colored sweet dishes such as Halwa and Boondi Ke Ladoo and food like Khichdi and Saffron rice. According to the legends, it is said that Lord Brahma created the universe on this day.
2. Phool Dei
As the gentle caress of spring spreads its warmth, Nainital embraces the beautiful festival of Phool Dei. More than a festival, it is a tradition in Nainital. In Phool Dei, young girls wear traditional clothes and embark on a heart-warming journey, carrying plates full of auspicious offerings like rice, Jaggery, coconut, and flowers for every doorstep. These offerings represent their heartfelt blessings, abundance, and prosperity to all. In return, the households shower them with love, blessings, and tokens of gratitude. This festival/tradition showcases the warmth, mutual respect, and interconnectedness between people. It evokes the spirit of harmony within the community.
The joyous festival of Khatarua is celebrated in mid-September. This festival is all about agriculture and togetherness. People of Nainital celebrate the festival of Khatarua to celebrate togetherness and gratitude. They gather around bonfires and enjoy fun-filled activities beneath the starry sky. They make offerings on the altar accompanied by symbolically chopped cucumber. It is important in their tradition to remove evil spirits and negativity. They also pray for a bountiful harvest for abundance and prosperity. This festival unites families as they come together to celebrate with laughter and joy. They create cherished memories around the dancing flames with their near and dear ones.
4. Nainital Autumn Festival
As the autumn breeze sweeps through the streets, the people of Nainital celebrate the Nainital Autumn Festival with great pomp and show. This festival is also known as Sharadotsav. Beyond mere festivities, the Nainital Autumn Festival showcases the rich culture, heritage, and traditions of Nainital. In October, the festival makes the city alive with vibrant energy. People celebrate it with great enthusiasm. You will see colourful folk dances in the streets; cultural gatherings take place to cherish some moments of togetherness and to resonate with the echoes of bygone tales. Local artisans showcase their handmade crafts and get an appreciation for their amazing craftsmanship. People in this festival honour their shared history and cultural legacy.
The people of Nainital embrace the joyous spirit of Harela three times a year- in the month of Chaitra (March) during Navratri, the First Day of Sawan Month, and at Ashivna Navratris. It is one of the most popular festivals of Nainital. Among these, the Harela of Monsoon is one of the most prominent festivals. It is an agriculture festival. People pray for the growth of their crops. It is said that the growth of your crop will be good if the growth of your Harela is good. 10 days before the first day of Sawan month, people grow 10 different crops and cut these crops on the tenth day for the Harela of Navratri. Female members of the house pray and sing for the well-being and prosperity of their family members by placing these grown crops on the heads of each member. A festival without delicious meals is incomplete. So, during this festival, many delicious traditional meals are prepared. The day before Harela people make Lord Shiva’s family idols to worship for prosperity and good harvest.
6. Ghee Sankranti
Ghee Sankranti is a very popular festival of Nainital that marks the harvesting season. The festival is celebrated to show gratitude for the abundance of wealth and crops. It is celebrated when the crops grow well and all the cattle and other animals are healthy. For those who are involved in farming, Ghee Sankranti is one of the most prominent festivals for them. People express their gratitude for keeping their crops and animals healthy. The festival is celebrated in August. Artisans and farmers unite in solidarity and express their gratitude to their landowners by offering presents like Binai (Oral Harp), Datkhocha (metallic Toothpick), metal calipers, ghee, and vegetables, etc., for their stewardship of the earth. People eat delicacies made of Ghee. On this day people also swap their agricultural tools and put ghee on their foreheads. They also eat Chapati filled with ghee and Urad Dal (lentils) on the occasion of Ghee Sankranti. There is an atmosphere of merriment and camaraderie everywhere. The spirit of Ghee Sankranti shines brightly, reminding us the great bond between humanity and the land that sustains us.
Nainital welcomes Holi as a symbol of love, overcoming darkness, and welcoming spring. Holi is one of the most popular festivals celebrated in Nainital. From the serene beauty of Baithaki Holi to delightful Dhulandi, every moment of this festival colours the landscape with celebration, love, and positive vibes. It is a festival of inclusivity. People no matter how angry with their loved ones forgets all ill wills on this festival and celebrate Holi with laughter and joy. The hills of Nainital thrum with the timeless stories of Lord Krishna. People from various backgrounds come together to enjoy the dance of celebration, play with colours, and relish delicious cuisines.
8. Nanda Devi Fair
The towering peaks of the majestic Himalayas are illuminated by the presence of Nanda Devi, the benevolent deity of the land of Uttarakhand. As the Nanda Devi Fair is a grand exhibit of Nainital, visitors can take a look at all its rich glory and overwhelming fervour. The festival is celebrated to worship Nanda Devi who is also known as Gaura and Raj Rajeshwari and as a destroyer of evil, she is protecting the regions of Kumaon and other parts of Uttarakhand. In the busy bazaars that teem with life and other villages in the Kumaoni region, pilgrims and enthusiasts alike come forth to witness the everlasting radiance of Nanda Devi. It is the most popular festival of Nainital. The festival is a Labor of love, a manifestation of the eternal flame of devotion and adoration that spans across the ages and geographies, calling all to share in its divine splendour.
Janmashtami (Birth of lord Krishna) is one of the most popular festivals of Nainital. Janmashtami makes the entire community celebrate in a devotional chorus, as adult and young devotees come together in prayers and reverence. The night before the actual day of his birth is observed as a vigil by the devotees and they keep a fast until midnight, the traditional time of his birth. Krishna’s artefact is tried in water and milk, dressed in new clothes, and worshiped. The places of worship are decorated with leaves and flowers, and sweets are offered to the god first and then they are distributed to various members of the family as Prasad.
It is a period of religious contemplation and festivity where Lord Krishna transfuses the hearts of all with love and joy with no limits. Some pots of milk are hung from tall poles in the streets, and groups of men climb them and break these pots by forming human pyramids-this mimics Krishna’s childhood playing with cowherd boys, playing at stealing the curds hung too high for them by their mothers. The celebration is also an occasion for group singing and dance.
10. Makar Sankranti – Uttarayani
With the onset of the New Year, Makar Sankranti, or Uttarayan of Nainital is celebrated with great enthusiasm. The auspicious day of Sankranti also means the beginning of spring and not only does it welcome spring, but this day welcomes back the cheerful migratory birds who make the forest blissful with their presence. As the merrymaking thrives on the occasion, the tradition of Kali Puja stands still in continuation with the Ghughutia or Kale Kauva Ceremony during offerings. To mark this event, people take part in the ritual of welcoming bumper harvest, which translates to good luck. There is joy in the air. The sweetness and the festive occasion of Makar Sankranti become a period of gratitude for the sources of joy and abundance of nature.