After being delayed by a year due to the June 2013 deluge, the 20-day Nanda Devi Raj Jat yatra, also called the ‘Himalayan Kumbh,’ began amid religious customs and traditions from Nauti village in Chamoli district, on Monday.
The yatra, which is dedicated to the Nanda Devi — the reigning deity of Uttarakhand — takes place once in 12 years, and involves a 280-kilometre trek. About 100 km of the trek passes through difficult terrain.
Uttarakhand Chief Minister Harish Rawat said: “A 100 km trek passes through difficult terrain, and it can only be undertaken by medically fit persons.”
Mr. Rawat said the trek included swamps, mountain trek and many slippery zones. “We will use logs for swamps and sandbags for slippery zones. We have engaged rock-climbing experts for certain areas where the pilgrims will have to cross mountains,” he said.
Nauti village is at an altitude of 1,240 metres above sea level, and the yatra progresses till over 4,000 m above sea level. People from the State’s Kumaon and Garhwal region join the yatra at different points and follow a four-horned ram called Khaadu.
After the last stop — the Homkund — the is released into the wilderness and the yatra returns to Nauti, where it concludes.
Thousands of people participated in the yatra which progressed from Nauti to Idaabdhaani — first of the 19 stops of the yatra — on Monday.
Mr. Rawat said the required medical arrangements, water, sanitation, electricity, communication facilities were among the arrangements that were made for the yatra.
“Though according to tradition the locals provide food for the pilgrims, the State government has made food arrangements beyond Vedni,” he said, adding: “The June 2013 deluge and the frequent natural calamities have spread a message that Uttarakhand is an inaccessible State. However, the State is as normal a hilly State as all other hilly States in the country are,” he said.