Nanda Raj Jat
Nanda Raj Jat, the big pilgrimage of Nandadevi, is unique to Chamoli. It is very old traditional pilgrimage from the time of shalipal in the ninth century. There are no historical records but it is gathered from the local folklores and folksongs (jagori) that Shahipal who had his capital at Chandpur Garhi, buried a tantric instrument at Nauti nearby, and installed his patron-goddess Nandadevi (Raj Rajeshwari) there. The Royal priest, Nautiyal, of Nauti was made responsible for regular worship of the goddess.
King Shahipal started a tradition that a big pilgrimage (Nanda Raj Jat) would bw organized every twelfth year to escort Nandadevi to her in-law's place, near Nanda Ghungti peak. When the capital was shifted by Ajay Pal, Kunwar (the younger brother of the king), who gad settled at Kansuwa nearby, was authorised to organize Raj Jat on behalf of King.
Traditionally the Kunwar comes to Nauti to seek the blessing of the Devi to organize the Jat. A four horned ram takes birth in Kasuwa area thereafter. A time schedule is drawn up for the Jat so as to reach Homkund on the Nandastami day in August/September, and Kulsari on the preceding new moon for special worship.
Accordingly the Kunwar reaches Nauti with the four horned ram and ringal-umbrella. The Raj Jat starts on the long round-trek of about 280 kms. with 19 halts on the way, taking about 19 days. Bhumiyal, Ufrai and Archana Devis are worshipped prior to the departure. The golden image of Nandadevi is carried in a silver palanquin and thousands of devotees follow in a long procession.
Great festivities and religious observances mark the Jat wherever they halt or pass through. The procession swells as it advances with various groups joining from far and near with their idols and umbrellas. Special mention may be made of those coming from kurud from Ghat, Lata near Tapovan and Almora in Kumaon. Some 300 idols and decorated umbrellas assembles at Wan, enroute Homkund.
Mass participation and religious devotion are unmatched, for the Jat involves a long and arduous journey over treacherous terrains rising to an altitude of 5335 mts. at Jiura Gali Dhar from a near 900 mts. at Nauti, walking barefoot over snow and moraines and passing through deep forests.
At Shail Samundra the pilgrims see three lights and a streak of smoke just before dawn as a divine beckon.
Surprisingly the four horned ram, loaded with the offerings for the goddess, guides the procession of devotees from the Nauti till it reaches Homkund,near the base of Nanda Ghungti, resting every night near the Nauti umbrella of the goddess. At Homkund it manifests human emotions and tears are seen in its eyes before it leaves everyone behind to get lost towards the mountains, laden with the offering of the devotees for the goddess Nandadevi.
There is a unique custom of keeping everyone's house unlocked in Wan village for the use of the yatris on the Jat day, according to the divine instruction of the goddess Nandadevi, and it is followed religiously. The last NandaDevi Raj Jat was held during August/September 2000. Smaller Raj Jats are organized annually from Kurud village near Ghat, covering a smaller circuit in August-September.