Nainital is a delight to watch during festive seasons adorn with people from various religious sects who have lived and settled here through generations. Though Structure of Temples and Sculptures have varied drastically due to changes in time and era and look more like those made in Plains, the old age fairs and festivities are still celebrated in full splendour as these places of worship form the core of social and cultural activities of the Kumaoni people.
The best time to visit all these fairs and festivals are post harvest season when people retire a little from their daily hard chores at fields. They find more time and reason to celebrate and do so in a relaxed and fun filled atmosphere As the Sun transits from one constellation to another, a 'Sankranti' is religiously observed followed by a fair and festival connected to each of them.
Nanda Devi mela or Fair is celebrated in most places of the Kumaon region. It was King Kalyan Chand who conceptualised it. He used to rule this region in the 16th Century during the Mughal period. The venue of worship is generally seen in Nainital, Almora, Nauti, Dhandi-Dhara, Ranikhet and Munsyari starting with a procession of the Nanda Devi's Dola in Almora and followed with prayers and offerings by many devotees. The fair is held in Almora Nanda Devi Temple made by King Udhyot Chand during the month of September dedicated to Goddesses Nanda and Sunanda.
Naina Devi Festival is succeeded by folk dances like the 'Phooldeli' [Phooldeyi] celebrated around 14th March to April, where young girls adorn their own home and other's home entrances with the first blossom of flowers considered a lucky charm for the entire year. On the 1st day of Navratara [7 days fasting period], women sow 7 types of grains and on the 10th day, the Harela ['yellow leaves'] are cut and placed on their heads and behind their ears. This is called the Chaitra month that falls between March and April when brothers gift their sisters with presents named 'Bikhauti' on 14th April. To commemorate the wedding of Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati, the monsoon season and new harvest or Hariyala [16th July], a festival is celebrated between July and August, also called the month of 'Shravan' when devotees make clay statues of Lord Shiva and Parvati and worship them. On 16th August on the first day of 'Bhado' another festival follows called the 'Olgia' or 'Gheeya Sankranti', when the harvest is really green with vegetables and when milch animals like cows, goats, buffaloes who provide us with 'milk' are really productive. Many gifts like axes, oral harp, ghee, vegetables etc. are exchanged and people eat Urad Daal stuffed Chapattis with Ghee and walnuts. Post this, on 17th September, the 'Khatarua' festival is celebrated with the commencement of autumn when Bonfires are surrounded with dancing children and cucumbers are offered to this fire to mark this festival in order to abolish all evil.
'Uttarani' or 'Kale Kauva' is a fair celebrated during mid January in numerous towns of Uttaranchal. This is when the Dola of a local God 'Chaumu' is taken to Pancheshwar Temple followed by the 'Uttarayani' festival celebration. Basant Panchami is a famous fair celebrated at the arrival of spring season and end of winter between January and February, also called the 'Magh' traditional month and offer prayers to Goddess Saraswati adorn with yellow coloured clothes and a large tilak smeared on their forehead. Vasanotsav is another spring festival held in Ramnagar every year from January to February participated by many foreign and domestic tourists followed by the Garjiydevi fair.
The 'BatSavitri' is the major Sankranti observed in Nainital during 'Krishna Amavasya' of Jayestha [The last day when the month is half dark]. Married women offer prayers to Goddess Savitri [Who fought her husband's soul back from the Lord of Death, 'Yamraj']. In February, the Chhota Kailash Fair is celebrated every year during Shivratri. Sharadotsav is celebrated in October which is filled with folkdances and songs visited by many domestic and foreign tourists. The Holi-Mahotsav is also a popular fair organised in Nainital that reflects all cultural and traditional collage of the Kumaoni region.