The people of Kumaon & Garhwal have a golden inheritance of folk deity worship. Every folk god has a unique story and every one is worshipped through some peak, temple or jagar (a form of ritual folk poem). The worshipping traditions go back to ancient legends and still follow with genuine dedication.
Godess Parvati is also known as Naina Devi. According to popular legend after Sati committed suicide by jumping into a sacrfical fire, lord Shiva was taking the body with him, her eye dropped at a place near the temple of Pashan Devi in Nainital.
Nanda Devi, known as the Goddess Nana, came to the Himalaya with the Indo-Greeks and Kushan kings. Nanda Devi is very popular in this arena. She was a Greek Goddess revered by the people of Kumaon with dignity.
He is known as the reincarnation of Lord Shiva. The Chand King, Udai Chand, handed over his kingdom to his younger surpassing the elder son. The elder son, after travelling a long period of time settled in Almora with his pregnant wife. But the king ordered to cull them. The son, wife and their unborn child became ghosts and people began worshipping them. The Bholanath temple is at Champawat.
There are Gwalla temples at Champawat, Chitai and Ghorakhal, the temple at Chitai is however most popular of them. Banners and flags are placed up over many temples in respect of Gwalla. Gwalla is also known as Gorilaa or Golla Or Golu.
Gangnath was the son of King Vaibhav Chand of Doti (western Nepal). He fell in love with a Joshi Brahmin woman Bhana and because of that he had a confrontation with his father. So he left his father’s home. Later Bhana’s father made a blacksmith kill Ganganath. The Jagar singers of Kumaon are heard often sharing tales abouth the love affair of Ganganath and Bhana. There are many Ganganath temples in Kumaon.
It is said that Airy, whose eyes are on the top of his head, is devoted like God Shani. His attendants are namely ‘Sau’ and ‘Bhau’ and they ride on dogs. Airy is believed to take care of animals. The temple at Byandhura is the main temple and there are lots of temples of Airy in this region.
Kali Bisht is known as the generous of the folk gods. He played the instrument flute. He was a Rajput shepherd named Kallu (Kali Bisht), who was accused of having a love affair of Shrikrishna Pandey. The matter was brought before the king, but he refused to punish Kali Bisht as he saw the impression of a trident on Kali Bisht’s forehead and a kadamb flower on his feet. Later Kallu was murdered by stealth. The temple of this god is near Bisnar.
This god is known as the protector of animals. There is strong folklore about a man who was travelling to Champawati with a Shivlinga in his turban, which he put down on the road while trying to drink water. But he could not pick it up again. Later local people began worshipping this place.
Nagarja is most popular and central deity of Uttarakhand. There are dances and songs dedicated to different life stories of lord Krishna. Krishna is rather praised as human being than supernatural avatar in the Uttarakhand Jagar.
Nirankar also known as ‘Bada Devta’ is actually lord Shiva. The Harijan class worships Nirankar in the form of Dance-songs (Jagar and Ghadela). The Ghadela is performed during the period of new crop harvesting. The dance form is similar to the vibrant dance of tandava of lord Shiva.
Nagela is believed to be Nag Raja and that is Krishna. Nagela is the god of fame and prosperity.
In popular Uttarakhand belief, Narsingh is not the incarnation of lord Vishnu. There are fifty two brave people which are included in Narsingh’s Jagar. There are two major forms of Narsingh deity- Dondya and Dudho Narsingh.
Bahron is prayed before the start of any new work. Bharon is known to be the disciple of lord Shiva and is the deity of defense and protection. The instruments used in Bharon jagar are Dhol, Damau or Daur, thali and females also join the males as Bharvin in this dance.
Individual families and communities perform Ghadela to worship Devi by singing many folk stories for the Ghadela of Devi dance-song.
Ufrain Devi is the deity of fame and is praised through musical instruments – Dhol, Damau and Jagar.
Mamanda Beer is the god of defense and protection. He protects the worshippers from Devilish spirits and mishappenings.
The popular Hanuman finds an important position in Uttarakhand. The prayer of hanuman through dance song is very unique as the ‘Paswa’, dances with valor and pulls out big bush for putting shrub into the fire of Mandan. Musical instruments used in Uttarakhand music are the dhol, damoun, turri, ransingha, dholki, daur, thali, bhankora and masakbhaja. Tabla and harmonium are also used to some extent.
Many other folk gods are worshipped in Kumaon also viz. Haru, Bhumia,Balchan, Ferinag, Nauling, Nagnath, Bhandari Golla, Badhan, narsingh, Lataul etc.
Anyari and Ujyali are the famous goddesses.