Naina Mata Festival is one of the most important Hindu festivals celebrated in the northern parts of India, especially in Himachal Pradesh. The temple of Naina Mata is one among the famous fifty one Sakthi Peeths in Asia. This temple is located on the top of the Naina hill of Siwalik Range and is on the northern shores of Lake Naini in Nainital. In fact the city of Nainital is named after Mata Naina Devi.
It is a well known pilgrim center and attracts devotees in large numbers from all over the world. The festival of Mata Naina is mostly celebrated in the month of September or October every year. It s a nine-day festival, also popularly known as Navratri.
During Navratri, Goddess Naina Devi is decorated in various forms. People fast on these nine days and worship Maa Naina. The temple and its surroundings look colorful with a variety of floral patterns. Puja is done five times a day followed by five different aarties including Mangal Aarti. Different type of Bhog is offered to Maa Naina. Devotees can offer Bhog which can be brought from home or bought from outside the temple. Along with these, a coconut and a red silk stole are being offered to Goddess Naina by devotees.
During this festival a large fair is organized. At this time people of Nainital adorn their houses and shops in various ways. Many religious activities, folk dances and cultural programs also become an important part of these celebrations.
Apart from Navratri, the other festivals celebrated are Shravani Mela and Chaitra Mela during the months of July-August and March-April respectively.
The devotees will have the darshan of three deities in the temple. Mata Kali is seen on the extreme left and Lord Ganesha is on the extreme right. In the center two large eyes are seen and they represent the Goddess Naina Devi.
The origin of Maa Naina Devi is associated with an interesting story. Sati Devi, the daughter of Daksha Prajapati married Lord Shiva. Once Daksha Prajapati decided to perform a Yagna. He didn’t invite Lord Shiva to take part in it. Unable to bear the deeds of her father, Sati went to his place to request him not to insult Lord Shiva and tried to reveal his importance to Daksha. In turn, Daksha humiliated her.
After this, Sati couldn t return to Shiva and killed herself by jumping in the sacrificial bonfire. Heard of her demise, Lord Shiva became furious and destroyed the Daksh Yagna. He carried half burnt sati’s body on his shoulders and roamed around the universe. Then Lord Vishnu decided to bring back Lord Shiva to normal life, destroyed Sati’s body using his Chakra. Her body was cut into pieces which fell at different places. These places became the powerful Shakthi Peeths. Naina Devi’s temple is one among them and was built on the spot where Sati Devi’s eyes fell. The word Naina in fact means Netra or Eyes.
There is another story related to this temple. There was a boy called Naina. One day when he was grazing his cattle, he was astonished to see a cow showering milk from her udder on a stone. This got repeated for many days. One night while sleeping, he saw Goddess Durga in his dream. She told him that the stone on which the cow showered the milk is her Pindi. Then this boy narrated the whole thing to Raja Bir Chand. When Raja witnessed this event, he believed the boy and built a temple on that spot and named the temple after Naina’s name.