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Shree Nanda Devi Raj-Jaat, 2014

Philatelic Travelogue

Shri Nanda Devi Raj-Jaat is called the Maha-Kumbha of Himalaya. It usually happens every twelve years. “Jaat” means yatra or journey. When it is organised by the “Raja” or king it is called “Raj-Jaat”. Historians has Nanda Devi Raj Jaat Yatradebated about the start of this yatra. According to records the history of Nanda Jaat can be traced back to 9th Century A.D. It used to happen annually at local level in different parts of Garhwal and Kumaon Himalaya. In 15th century the Garhwali rulers of Chandpur Garhi, combined all the different Jaat’s into one and started celebrating it as “Raaj-Jaat” every twelve years. The records at Nauti village show that “Raaj-Jaat” had irregular pattern and happened in 1820, 1843, 1863, 1886, 1905, 1925, 1951, 1968, 1987 and 2000. It was scheduled to happen in 2012, but due to “Mal-Maas” (inauspicious month) it was postponed to 2013. Due to the Kedar-valley tragedy of 2013, it was again postponed to 2014.

Maa Nanda Devi is sacred deity of Himalayan region. She is the wife of Lord Shiva and resides with him in the Himalayas. People of Himalayan region worship her in the form of mother, sister and daughter. Nanda Jaat is linked with sending her off to her in-laws house from her parental home. Various beliefs and folklores are associated with this journey. It is a religious, spiritual and adventurous journey undertaken in Uttarakhand.

Of the various “Nanda Jaat’s” which happen every year it is worth to mention the Kurud Jaat. Kurud is situated in Chamoli district and is blessed with one of the most sacred temple of Maa Nanda Devi. It has majority of Gaur Brahmins. The temple is situated beneath the tall and majestic Deodar trees. The temple has two golden idols of Nanda Devi. Every year these idols are placed in “Doli” (palanquin) and taken in a procession. One of the Doli goes to Bedini Bugyal (green pasture land) via Badhan while the other sits in Dasholi Doli and goes to a bugyal above Ramni. Maa Nanda of Kurud is worshipped as Raj-Rajeshwari. During the “Raj-Jaat” the Kurud (Badhan) doli meets the “Raaj-Jaat” at Nandkesari while that of Dasholi meets at Baan.

Raj Jaat Yatra Procession

My involvement with Nanda Raj-Jaat started in April 2013. As I live in Dehradun, I regularly came across news in the local news paper about the preparation of the yatra. Out of sheer curiosity I started reading about the historical and religious perspective of this yatra and understood the massive importance of it. I thought of having a special cover on this event so that it can be philatelically documented. I along with my fellow philatelist Rajesh Verma designed a special cover and cancellation. From the news paper I had come to know that Sh. Tarun Vijay, MP Rajya Sabha was the President of the Shri Nanda Devi Raj-Jaat Poorv Peethika Samiti and was spear-heading the preparation and awareness campaign of the yatra. Though I had never met him personally but I had been reading his articles for the past fifteen years. I submitted the proposal for the special cover via email to him. In his reply he said that he supported the idea and will definitely do something. Sometime in May, I got a call from him that he would like to meet me. I met him outside Raj Bhawan where he came to meet the Governor. Though I was very well aware about his intellectual capabilities but was genuinely impressed to see his simplicity, generosity and down-to-earth friendly behaviour. In a nutshell he is a thorough gentleman. I explained him about the process for getting the special cover released. In 2013 the yatra was scheduled from 29.08.13 to 17.09.13. It was decided to get the cover released on 21.08.13 at Dehradun. Necessary approval was taken from the CPMG office and we all eagerly waited for the yatra to commence. I met the then CPMG Sh. Ramanujam and also got approval for media post cancellation and two customised ‘My Stamp’ featuring Nanda Devi Mountain and four horned sheep.

But as the saying goes "Man proposes God disposes", flash floods created havoc on 15-16 July 2013 in which thousands of people lost their lives. Element of doubt loomed over the Raj-Jaat. Some were in favour of the yatra as the yatra route largely remained un-affected. Others wanted it to be postponed as there was huge difficulty in providing the logistic supply to the yatra, but no official announcement was made.

Shree Nanda Devi Raj-Jaa Media Post PC
Media Post Cancellation
Shree Nanda Devi Raj-Jaa My Stamps
Customised My Stamps

The letters were franked with media post cancellation inviting people to attend Raj-Jaat, from first week of August-2013 onwards. There were two variations in the media post, though the design was essentially the same. Sh. Tarun Vijay was busy in co-ordinating the release function and I helped him in my limited capacity. As my both daughter's birthday happen on 18th August, I was busy preparing for the evening celebration on that day. There was a surprise visitor in form of Sh. Tarun Vijay jee at my residence. He blessed my daughters and both had a nice time with him. On 19th August the two customised my-stamps were made available to the public at Dehradun GPO. The special cover and the special cancellation were released on 21st August 2013 by Sh. Vijay Bahuguna, Chief Minister, Uttarakhand and Sh. Tarun Vijay in the presence of CPMG, Mayor Dehradun and other dignitaries. The CPMG promised to provide a cancellation at Nauti, from where the yatra starts.

Shree Nanda Devi Raj-Jaa 2013 Special Cover

Finally on 24th August 2013 it was officially announced that Nanda Raj-Jaat has been postponed and it will happen in 2014.

On 4th February 2014 at the auspicious day of Basant Panchami the Raj-Jaat schedule was officially announced by the organising committee. It was scheduled from 18.08.2014 to 06.09.2014. On 17th Aug. and 07th Sep. pooja was scheduled at Nauti. On Basant Panchami day, the Kunwars (descendants of the king of Chandpur Garhi) of Kansuwa village visit the royal priests "Nautiyals" of the king at Nauti village along with "Chatoli" (umbrella) and gold idol of Maa Nanda Devi. . They worship the sacred "Shree Yantra" at Nauti leading to invocation of Maa Nanda Devi to visit her parental home. The Chatoli is placed at Shaileshwar Mahadev temple in Bainoli as "Mannat" (wish). From this day onwards celebration starts because people believe that Maa Nanda Devi will be with them for six months till she is sent off to her in-laws home in the form of Nanda Raj-Jaat later in August. As a part of celebration people sing "Jagar" (songs) in praise of Nanda Devi. Around this time only "Khadu" (four horned sheep) is born, which subsequently lead the Raj-Jaat in August. The Yatra program is so scheduled that it reaches "Homkund" on the day of "Nand-Ashtami" i.e 03. 09.2014. It is believed that Maa Nanda Devi was married to Lord Shiva on this day.

I wrote a letter on 21st July 2014 to the present CPMG Sh. Uday Krishna for getting a cancellation released at Nauti village on 18.08.2014 during the commencement of the Yatra. I got a reply on 04.08.14 from the CPMG office to submit the design. As usual Rajesh, designed a stunning cancellation of Maa Nanda Devi and I submitted it on 08.08.14. In the meantime I identified that out of the nineteen stoppages of the journey, eight had a post office. I despatched letters to all these post-offices containing self-addressed post-cards with a request to post them on the day the yatra arrived there. In the meantime I planned to undertake the Yatra in its first leg i.e from Nauti to Idabadhani. I along with my friend Bhagwati Prasad (stalwart of Antarctic wintering) and Lokesh Navani (owner of Winsar Publication) decided to start on 16th afternoon and reach Nauti on 17th afternoon so that we can take part in tree plantation conducted by Sh. TS Rawat of the "Maiti" movement. Sh. Rawat planted thousands of saplings in 2000 Raj-Jaat which is now a fully grown "Nanda Van". I would take this opportunity to mention that "Maiti" is a movement started by Sh. TS Rawat in which people plant trees during wedding and other ceremonies as part of ritual.

On 13.08.14, I got a letter from CPMG office stating “Please intimate as to why the proposal for special cancellation is not sent by the organizing body of aforesaid yatra. How you are associated with the yatra. Whether the proposal of special cancellation is in the knowledge of organizers." I was deeply annoyed and fired a befitting reply. It unleashed a war of words between us in form of letters/emails. I will write about the high-handedness and British Raj attitude of the CPMG office on some other occasion.

Raj Jaat Yatra Road Condition
Road Condition
Tehri Lake
Tehri Lake
Raj Jaat Yatris
Raj Jaat Yatris

On 14th and 15th August there was torrential downpour in the Pauri region and significant portion of the highway from Rishikesh to Srinagar was washed away by massive landslides. All the bus services were suspended from Rishikesh onwards. We tried frantically but nobody agreed to take us to Nauti in such a situation. We were not able to leave on 16th August. Somehow Lokesh Navani managed a taxi from his friend. Myself along with Bhagwati Prasad, Lokesh Nawani and Shailendra Singh Negi (professor and educationist) started on a difficult journey at 0630 Hrs on 17th August 2014 from Dehradun. At Rishikesh we were asked by the policemen to go back as the route to Srinagar was still in a bad shape. We were determined to reach Nauti to witness the commencement of Raj-Jaat.

We took alternate route and tried to reach Srinagar via Narendranagar, Chamba and Agrakhal. The roads were barren and rivers were flowing freely on them. On the way we saw Tehri lake in all its grandeur. Somehow we reached Srinagar by 1600 hrs with steering oil leaking, axle cracking and tyre punctured. We witnessed many vehicles being stuck on the road-side due to pathetic and dangerous road conditions. We tried to fix our vehicle in Srinagar but were successful to a limited extent. We reached Nauti at 2130 hrs in the dead of night. We reached Bainoli (6 Kms ahead of Nauti) by 2200 hrs for night stay. We met Sh. TS Rawat there, who was surprised about our making it to Nauti in such land-slides. The village was like a family and each one of us was accommodated in different household. We attended "Jagar" in the night and sang the traditional Nanda Devi songs with the local people. It was a divine and life time experience.

In the morning of 18th Aug. we offered pooja at "Nanda Chaura" and "Shaileshwar Mahadev" temple of Bainoli and proceeded to Nauti. The weather was excellent but due to damaged roads, not many people were able to reach Nauti. It was Janmashtami and the post-office was closed being a holiday. I called Sh. Jaipal, post-master of Nauti B.O and handed him my letters with a request to post some of them next day and others on 06th Sep. when the Yatra finally comes back.

The four-horned sheep and the Chatoli were brought in the Nanda Temple of Nauti village. Elaborate pooja was performed of the Maa Nanda Devi and the Shree Yantra. Governor of Uttarakhand Dr. Aziz Qureshi was present on the occasion. Traditional folk-dance was performed in the temple premises. We also worshipped the Maa Nanda Devi. It was a heavenly experience and everyone was "Nandamay" . After the pooja the procession started with "Khadu" in the front along with "Nanda Chatoli" and everybody following. Whenever the procession reached some village people welcomed Maa Nanda and offered "Pooja" in traditional way. When the procession left the village, people cried as if they were sending off their own daughter. By evening the "Yatra" reached Idabadhani after completing a distance of 10 Kms. My wish of being part of the Nanda Raj-Jaat was fulfilled.

Author at Nauti Temple
Author at Nauti Temple

We drove from Idabadhani and reached Srinagar University Guest House by 2200 hrs. By now the road to Rishikesh has been opened for small vehicles. To my utter astonishment I met Sh. Tarun Vijay jee in the University Guest House. He was coming with the President of India offerings to the Raj-Jaat and was on his way to "Kurud". I reminded him that on this very day, a year back, he came to my house on my daughter's birthday. It was a sheer coincidence but it reminded me that the world is a small place.

 

Cover posted from Nauti on 19.08.2014

Author at Nauti Temple
Kansuwa B. O.

Sh. Tarun Vijay jee affectionately asked me to accompany him to Karud, but I politely refused as I had been sanctioned leave for only two days from the office. Later I repented my decision. If I would have gone with him, I would have attended few more legs of this spiritual journey. It will now take place after twelve years.

On 19th we started from Srinagar to Dehradun on the regular route. Though the road has been opened but it was very unsafe. Bhagwati tried counting the number of landslides but stopped after fifty. We reached Dehradun by 1400 hrs in the afternoon.

S. No.
Date
Place
Height
(mts.)
Destination
Distance
(kms.)
Post Office and Pincode
From
To
1.
18-08-2014
Nauti
Idabadhani
1050
10
Nauti B.O, 246487 Chamoli
2.
19-08-2014
Idabadhani
Nauti
1575
10
 
3.
20-08-2014
Nauti
Kansua
1319
10
 
4.
21-08-2014
Kansua
Sem
1350
12
Kansua B.O, 246440 Chamoli
5.
22-08-2014
Sem
Koti
1585
10
 
6.
23-08-2014
Koti
Bhagoti
1410
12
 
7.
24-08-2014
Bhagoti
Kulsari
1130
12
Bhagoti B.O,246455 Chamoli
8.
25-08-2014
Kulsari
Cheprau
1280
10
Kulsari B.O, 246481 Chamoli
9.
26-08-2014
Cheprau
Nandkesari
1325
11
 
10.
27-08-2014
Nandkesari
Faldia
1405
08
 
11.
28-08-2014
Faldia
Mandoli
2120
10
 
12.
29-08-2014
Mandoli
Baan
2444
15
Mandoli B.O, 246193 Pauri
13.
30-08-2014
Baan
Garoli Patal
2722
10
Ban B.O, 246427 Chamoli
14.
31-08-2014
Garoli Patal
Bedini Bugyal
3000
09
 
15.
01-09-2014
Bedini Bugyal
Patar Nauchania
3885
05
 
16.
02-09-2014
Patar Nauchania
Roopkund
Juragli
Roopkund
Juragli
Sila Samudra
4790
5100
3645
08
01
06
 
17.
03-09-2014
Sila Samudra
Homkund
Homkund
Chandania Ghat
5200
3635
08
08
 
18.
04-09-2014
Chandania Ghat
Sutol
2235
18
 
19.
05-09-2014
Sutol
Ghat
1323
32
Sutol B.O, 246435 Chamoli
20.
06-09-2014
Ghat
Nauti
1575
40
Ghat B.O, 262529 Pithoragarh

I will briefly describe the nineteen parts of this religious journey which unites the Garhwal and Kumaon regions of Uttarakhand.
1. Idabadhani – It is believed that Nanda Devi once promised Jadouda Gusai of Idabadhani, that she will visit his home before going to her in-laws, to accept his worship. To keep that promise, Raj-Jaat goes from Nauti to Idabadhani.
2. Nauti – While coming back to Nauti, people starts joining the Raj-Jaat.
3. Kansua – This is the village of the king’s descendant. The farewell of Nanda Devi is heart touching. “Chatoli” (umbrella) of Malethi and Naini village joins the procession.
4. Sem – In the Mahadev Ghat temple of the village the sacred “Chatoli” is transferred to the Brahmins of Dundi. From here it proceeds to “Chandpur Garhi” the royal seat of erstwhile Garhwal kings.
5. Koti – The “Chatoli’s” of other village amalgamates at Koti. “Latu Devta” (brother of Nanda Devi) of Bagoli joins the Raj-Jaat.
6. Bhagoti – This is the last village of Nanda Devi parental home.
7. Kulsari – This is considered as the first halt of Nanda Devi at her in-laws area. The Raj-Jaat always reaches here on “Amavasya” (dark night). In the night the grounded Maa Kali Yantra is taken out and worshipped.
8. Chepedyu – The Yatra reaches here via Tharali. A fair is organised here.
9. Nandkesari – The “Chatoli’s” from Kumaon region meets the Raj-Jaat here via Kausani, Garud, Baijnath and Gwaldham. The Garhwal and Kumaon culture is united at this place.
10. Faldia – Near Faldia are temples housing ancient idols.
11. Mundoli – Special dance is performed here by the women of Mundoli.
12. Baan – This is the last habitat place in the Yatra route. The Nanda Devi of Dasoli meets the Yatra here. The “Latu Devta” temple which is situated here is specifically opened during the Raj-Jaat for worship. 
13. Gairoli Patal – The view of the Himalayas is astounding from here. One starts to see the “Bugyals” from here onwards.
14. Patar Nauchania – One can see Brahmkamals and other flowers at this place.
15. Shila Samudra – While coming to Shila Samudra the Raj-Jaat passes through mysterious “Roopkund” lake and the highest point of the Yatra, Juragli.
16. Chandania Ghat – On its way to Chandania Ghat the Raj-Jaat passes through Homkund. The four-horned sheep is bid-adieu at this place signifying the sending off of Maa Nanda Devi to her in-laws place.
17. Sutol – After Baan, the Raj-Jaat enters the habitation at this place.
18. Ghat – At Ghat the travellers take rest after such an arduous journey.
19. Nauti – From Ghat the Raj-Jaat reaches Nauti via bus.

Kulsari B. O.
Mundoli B. O.
Kulsari B. O.
Mundoli B. O.
Ghat B. O.
Nauti Post Office
Ghat B. O.
Nauti Post Office
Cover Posted from Nauti on 6.9.2014
Cover Posted from Nauti on 06.09.2014

After coming back I again started writing emails for getting a special cover released. I wrote to scores of people. I knew that CPMG will not budge but out of my sheer persuasive nature I kept persisting. On 23rd August 2014 I was pleasantly surprised to learn from the newspaper that our companion during Yatra Sh. Shailendra Singh Negi stood first in the Uttarakhand Provincial Services Examination. In the meantime my postcards and letters started arriving back. Out of the eight postmasters, five has responded and were kind enough to send back my covers and postcards. Though, some of them have not posted them on the desired dates but still I am thankful to them. Yet another surprise was waiting for me. I do not really know if my emails had created any effect, but I was informed on 09-09-2014 that Uttarakhand Tourism Development Board is willing to get a cover released on the successful completion of the "Raj-Jaat" Yatra on 12-09-2014. We readily provided our consent for our design to be used in the cancellation. The CPMG office refused to acknowledge our name on the back of the cover, but it was not a big issue. By the release of the cover on 12-09-2014 my objective was fulfilled and I really do not care for anything else.

Raj Jaat Yatra Special Cover 2014

It all started in April 2013 to embellish my philatelic appetite. After one and a half year I must admit that my soul stands embellished with the firm belief and faith of the people in our religious and traditional culture. Shree Nanda Raj-Jaat showcases the sheer grit and determination of the people of Uttrakhand to survive among all odds and their perseverance to undertake such an arduous journey. These cultural traditions provide an invisible binding force that makes us ONE.

Reference: Prakiti Path – Nanda Path by Sarvesh Uniyal & Harish Bhatt ; Winsar Publishing Company, Dehradun

Contributed by Abhai Mishra, Dehradun

About the Author: Abhai Mishra is an amateur philatelist since 25 years. He is an ardent photographer and has designed over fifty special covers and cancellations for Department of Post. He is actively involved in spreading philately among children at grass-root level through interactive workshops. As a philatelist he specializes in the area of Indian Antarctica and Uttarakhand. He has authored a book titled "Uttarakhand - A philatelic Journey", published by Department of Post, Uttarakhand Circle. He has been to Antarctica with the twenty-first Indian Scientific Expedition as a communication officer.

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