Rajjaat concludes amidst enthusiasm braving tough weather
Thousands of people gave an emotional send-off to their mythical daughter Nanda Devi at Homkund at an altitude of almost 16 thousand feet right at the base of Nanda Ghunti peak (in Uttarakhand in Himalayan India), bringing to close a much awaited Nanda Devi Rajjaat Yatra which takes place in not less than 12 years. Called as Himalayan Kumbh and longest religious procession in Asia, this 290 km Yatra started from Nauti near Karnprayag in Uttarakhand on 18th August and ended at same place on morning of 7th September after customary rituals. Nanda was bid adieu at Homkund on 3rd September. Comparing to last two occasions in 1987 and 2000, number of pilgrims as well as the Chantolis (canopies) representing various goddesses in Kumaon and Garhwal region saw a manifold increase. Extending the tradition there were many more Chantolis and flags this time, including many first timers such as one from as far as Martoli region of Pithoragarh.
Whether or not to let the numbers increase in this highly sensitive zone of Himalayas is a matter to be debated and will be debated a lot in coming days owing to last year’s catastrophe in Kedarnath region and this year’s floods in Kashmir, but enthusiasm among people was something not to be missed. Yatra had many other hits and misses. New traditions were made and old ones were broken. Much was left to desire of many. Weather and rough terrain put up a stiff challenge to those who were less prepared. Indeed any trip with a strenuous trek at above 13K ft for five days on trot can’t be easy one for even regular trekkers like me. I could safely say that it was the most challenging trek I ever did in last more than 20 years.
Rough terrain and tough trek
Yatra had many milestones after starting from Nauti and Kansuwa. Important among them were Nandkesari where all mini Yatras coming from other parts of state converge into the main one. Next one was Waan, a village famous for its potatoes and a very important cultural centre, from where actually the Yatra moves into the high altitude zone. Then was Bedini Bugyal, said to be one of the most pristine bugyals of this part of Himalayas where people pay ritualistic homage to their ancestors at Bedini Kund. Then was the mysterious lake of Roopkund strewn around with human skeletons dating at least five centuries back. Jyura Gali (street of death) pass at the altitude of 15580 ft was the highest point of the whole trip. Across the pass, Shila Samundar was literally a sea of rocks, surrounded by snow clad peaks. That was the last camp before sending Nanda Devi to Homkund. Back down, Sutol was the again the road head and also a place known for its Pandav dance.