Nanda is considered to be the daughter of Himalaya and Nanda Devi Peak is the residence of Goddess Parvati. Nanda Ghunti is the Sasural and Nandakot is the Darbar of Nanda. Nanda is worshipped in two forms. One Mahishasur Mardini and Singh Wahini. She is considered to be the Shakti. In Kumaon, temples of Nanda Devi are situated in Nainital, Almora,Ranikhet, Ranchoola, Malla Danpur and at many places in Garhwal. Nanda Devi is considered to be the worshipping deity of Katyuri Kings. During the period of Chand Kings, Nanda Devi worship took the shape of a Fair. The Fair started from Junagarh Fort situated in Garhwal. Kumaon King Raja Baj Bahadur Chand alias Baba Gusain established Nanda Devi Shikti Peeth as a sign of victory in the temple at Malla Mahal (At present Court). Prior to this Nanda Devi was being worshipped, but at that time only an idol of Nanda Devi used to be worshipped. The custom to make two idols started from the period of Baj Bahadur Chand. Even today only one idol is prepared in the remote villages.
The Nanda Devi Fair used to be arranged by Chand dynasty Kings sometimes back. The bull was also slaughters by the King. The last King Raja Anand Singh used to live in Dyori Pokhar. The heirs of Chand dynasty Kings, K.C.Singh Baba participates in the Fair every year. About the place where Nanda Devi is held at Almora, there is a story that during British period the then Kumaon Commissioner, Mr. Trail lost his eyes during Nanda Kot Yatra. After reaching Almora, he shifted the Nanda Idol from Malla Mahal to Udyot Chandeshwar Temple and arranged worshipping of the Nanda Devi. With the blessings of Nanda Devi, he got back his eyes, since then the Fair is held from this place.
The present Nanda Devi Mandir was constructed by Chand King Udyot Chand in 1678-1693. Prior to this the temple was named as Udyot Chandeshwar Mandir. After establishment of Nanda Devi in this temple, it was called the Nanda Devi Temple
This fare commences from Bhadrapad Shukla Panchami in September. On the Panchami day the devotees go to invite Banana trees for the celebrations. Amidst chanting of Ved Mantras, four Banana Trees are selected by the devotees. The tree, which shivers first, is selected to prepare the Nanda Devi idols. Nanda Devi idol is given the shape of Nanda Devi Peak. The second tree is used to prepare the idol of Sunanda. The third and the fourth Banana tree is used as stand bye, because in case the first or the second tree is somewhat damaged, the third or the fourth is substituted at its place. On the seventh day, the four trees are cut and brought with great fan fare amidst the beating of drums, Nagare and Nishan. The idols are prepared from the banana tree. To make the face of the Nanda and Sunanda the cane wood is used. It is covered with yellow cloth so that it gets the shape of a face. To give colour to the idol rice in liquid form, Kumkum, Roli, Sindoor, Ingoor and Urad (horse-bean) is burnt to make black colour. The eyes are prepared from Biswar (liquid rice). Now the eyes are prepared from silver as well.
The idols are decorated with the traditional attire of Kumaoni bride The idol is decorated with Sindoor on the head, Mang Tika, Bindi on the forehead, the eyebrows are decorated with Sun and Moon on the right and left eyebrows respectively, large nose ring (Nath) on the nose, necklace on the neck, Swastika sign on both the cheeks, Kundal on the ears, with Choli and Ghaghara on the body and Payjeb on the feet.
There is a story that Nanda and Sunanda (Gaura) were the daughters of a King. While walking in the forest a bull chased them. They could hide themselves behind a banana tree. A goat came there and ate away the banana leaves with the result Nanda and Sunanda were visible to the bull, which killed both the sisters. This is the reason that goat and bull are sacrificed during the celebrations.
The main function is held on Astami. The idols are worshipped right from the morning. Ladies do the Kirtan and Bhajan On the nineth day on Navami, Bull is slaughtered as sacrificial offering at the altar of Maa Nanda Devi and the meat is distributed as Prasad. The devotees put the blood Teeka on their foreheads and the Nanda Devi idol is given round of the Bazaar with great fanfare. Devotees shower flower petals while the idols are taken around the city. The idol is ultimately immersed in the river.
During the fair, people dance in groups and sing Jhore, Chanchari, Bhagnaul Bair etc. The dance is accompanied by Hurka, a local traditional small drum. The Fair gives an opportunity for rejoicing to the villagers. Folk dancers come in large numbers and dance to the tune of Hurka in groups. The Patal Bazar, which Almora is famous for, becomes a place of rejoicing. The crowd gathers around the group dancers and people enjoy the Fair.
At Ranikhet Nanda Devi Mahotsav started in 1890. Prior to the construction of the temple Nanda Devi function used to be held in the house of a person who has space in the ground floor of his house in Zaroor Bazar (Shiv Mandir Marg). This continued till 1997. In the beginning a goat and bull used to be slaughtered. In 1997 Ravindra Lal Sah s/o Late Shanker Lal Sah, of Zaroori Bazar saw Nanda and Sunanda in his dreams. The Maa asked him to construct a temple in the present site. A small temple of the Maa was constructed. In 2002 the temple was renovated and a large temple was constructed in it’s place.
Previously Banana trees were brought from village Airoli and Khaniya. Now that the banana trees are available in Ranikhet itself, the trees are cut from the city and are taken round the city with Band, Nagare Nishaan etc. The present executive consists of Kishan Lal Sah (Kanha Seth) as President and the Secretary of the executive is Harish Lal Sah who participates actively in the entire Mahotsava. It is pertinent to mention here that Sah community considers Nanda Devi as their worshipping deity, hence they participate in the celebrations in a big way and with the cooperation of the members of other communities they celebrate the festival with great fanfare.