Kumaon is one of the two divisions of the Indian state of Uttarakhand, the other being Garhwal. It includes the districts of Almora, Bageshwar, Champawat, Nainital, Pithoragarh, and Udham Singh Nagar. It is bounded on the north by Tibet, on the east by Nepal, on the south by the state of Uttar Pradesh, and on the west by the Garhwal region. The people of Kumaon are known as Kumaoni’s and they speak Kumaoni language.
Kumaon is believed to derive its name from Kurmanchal, meaning land of the Kurmavatar (the tortoise incarnation of Lord Vishnu, the preserver according to Hinduism).Historically, known as Manaskhand and then Kurmanchal, the Kumaon region has been ruled by several Hindu dynasties over the course of history; most notably the Katyuris and the Chands. The Kumaon division was established in 1816, when the British reclaimed this region from the Gorkhas, who had annexed the erstwhile Kingdom of Kumaon in 1790.
The Garhwal and the Kumaon regions have interesting legends woven around the Hindu pantheon of Gods and Goddesses. One such folklore that has a place of pride in the pahadi’s tale is that of Nanda Devi, presiding Goddess of the region. Nanda was a beautiful, young princess, daughter of the King of the Chand Dynasty of Chamoli, ran for her life from the shrewd Rohilla prince, who wants to marry her. As her father refused to give her in marriage to him, he waged war against the King and defeated him. To save herself, Nanda climbed up to the snowy pinnacles and merged with the holy mountain. This mountain (25,643ft) came to be revered as a temple for Nanda and she was defied as the Devi, the patron goddess. The Nanda Devi Massif has two peaks on its ridge; the western one is higher and is known as Nanda and the lower eastern summit, is Sunanda, her sister.
The culture of the Kumaon region is a fusion of indigenous people as well as immigrants to this region. Consequently, the myths, dialects, languages, culture, festivals, folk literature, fairs and forms of artistic expression are examples of creative influences of different cultural groups that frames Kumaon.