The Garhwali people, hailing from the Garhwal region in the Indian state of Uttarakhand, boast a rich cultural heritage deeply rooted in their beliefs, mythology, and rituals.

Beliefs and Rituals

The Garhwali people predominantly follow Hinduism, with their beliefs and rituals closely intertwined with the broader Hindu pantheon. However, their religious practices showcase regional nuances and variations that set them apart. One key aspect of their beliefs revolves around the worship of local deities known as 'Deva-Devta,' with specific deities associated with different villages and regions. The worship of these deities involves a range of rituals, including prayer offerings, ceremonial processions, and the practice of Jagar, a form of ritualistic storytelling performed by a Jagariya, a local priest or shaman.


  • Nanda Devi: The principal deity of the Garhwali people, Nanda Devi, is the goddess of prosperity, happiness, and abundance. She is revered as the benevolent protector of the region and is often depicted with a serene smile, holding a lotus flower in her hands.

  • Bhairavnath: Often associated with the broader Hindu deity, Lord Shiva, Bhairavnath is considered the protector of livestock and is worshipped to ensure the well-being of the local community. During the worship of Bhairavnath, elaborate rituals involving offerings of food, incense, and prayers are observed.

  • Haru Devta: Haru Devta is another important deity worshipped by the Garhwali people, particularly those residing in the Tehri Garhwal district. Known as the god of justice, Haru Devta is believed to punish wrongdoers and protect the innocent.

  • Kandu Devta: Kandu Devta is a lesser-known deity believed to protect the region's forests and wildlife. Local folklore suggests that this deity resides in the form of a serpent and demands respect and offerings from the local population in exchange for protection and prosperity.


  • Raj Jat Yatra: This pilgrimage, conducted once every twelve years, traces the mythological journey of Nanda Devi from her husband's abode in the Kumaon region to her paternal home in Garhwal. The yatra signifies the cosmic union of Nanda Devi and Lord Shiva and embodies the deep connection between the natural world and the Garhwali people's cultural beliefs.

  • Pandavas in Garhwal: The Garhwali people believe that the Pandavas, the legendary heroes of the Hindu epic Mahabharata, spent a considerable part of their exile in the Garhwal region. Numerous temples and sacred sites are associated with the Pandavas, including the famous Tungnath Temple, dedicated to Lord Shiva.

Mythological Creatures

  • Banjhakri: A mythical creature prevalent in the Garhwali folklore, the Banjhakri is a forest-dwelling shaman believed to possess magical powers. It is said to have the ability to heal the sick and guide lost travelers to safety.

  • Naag: The Garhwali people believe in the existence of Naag, a serpent-like mythological creature, which is often associated with the worship of Kandu Devta. The Naag is believed to protect the forests and maintain ecological balance.

Unique Beliefs

A noteworthy unique belief in Garhwali culture is the concept of Bhumiyal Devtas, the guardian deities of land and territory. These deities are believed to reside in specific locations, such as hills, forests, and water sources, and are responsible for maintaining the ecological balance and protecting the inhabitants of the region. Each village in the Garhwal region typically has its own Bhumiyal Devta, which is worshipped by the villagers through a variety of rituals, including annual festivals, ceremonial processions, and sacrifices.

Another unique belief in the Garhwali culture is the tradition of Jagar, which serves as a means to communicate with the deities and ancestral spirits. The Jagar rituals involve the Jagariya, a local priest or shaman, entering a trance-like state through which he can invoke the deities or spirits to provide guidance, blessings, and solutions to the community's problems. These rituals are performed during significant events, such as weddings, childbirth, and times of crisis, and involve the recitation of folklore, poetry, and songs to invoke the spirits.


Ramman, religious festival and ritual theatre of the Garhwal Himalayas, India