District Nainital has rich cultural traditions & heritage. The main towns of the district are cosmopolitan and its people are associated with various religions. Broadly eighty percent of population follows Hindu religion, the rest part belongs to Sikh, Muslim, Christian, Buddha etc religions. The major part of population follows Kumouni traditions.
Marriages are mostly arranged by the parents after matching horoscopes. The main functions of marriages are Ganesh Pooja, Suwal Pathai, Dhuliargh , Kanya-daan, phere, vida. The traditional kumouni barat take a lively colour in presence of Choliya Nritya (Dance) & playing of turais (trumpets), dhol, nagada. But now a days people are seen dancing on the tunes of bands in Barat.
People are mostly rice eating in habit but wheat, maduwa and other grains are also consumed. In pulses, people prefer Urad, Gahat, Bhatt, Masur . Meat is also common among the people. Ceremonial food consists of Kheer, Singhal, Poori, Pua, Bada, Kapa made of Palak, Raita, Khatai etc. Just like in any other place of India, Nainital also has its own unique combination of spices and herbs to create authentic dishes having a nice aroma, delicious taste, and a tempting presentation.
Rice or roti is an integral part of Nainital cuisine. It is a usually accompanied with different types of chutneys. People here use different varieties of rice for different recipes. Ras is a delicious recipe having a high nutritive value. It is a semi-liquid preparation made from different varieties of dals. It is normally eaten with steamed rice and bhang ki chutney. Ideally, Ras is prepared in an iron pan on a low heat to let it cook slowly in order to retain its nutritional content.
Life Style: At all auspicious occasions tilak made out of processed turmeric with Akshat & Pithya is put on the forehead. Village ladies are seen with a long pithya starting from the upper nose up to forehead. Various superstitions exists as common throughout the country. A black spot is put on the forehead of a child to ward away from evil spirits .
Courtesy calls are made on days other than Tuesday and Saturday. Mourning calls are made exclusively on Tuesday and Saturdays. Visit to sick persons are not made on Tuesdays , Thursdays and Saturdays. Females do not pay visit to their mothers on Thursday. Elders are greeted by touching their feet with ovation of pailagon and responded by chirinjivi bhav or saubhagyavati bhav.Others are greeted with folded hands using Namaskar .
Married women put round ingoor or sindoor on their forehead . On special occasions married women wear huge golden nose ring called nath. Black beaded ( Chareu) garland on their neck is considered to be the pious symbol of leading a married life for a woman. Golden necklace is commonly used but poor people use silver in the neck known as Hansuli. So far as the usual dress is concerned females wear sari but there is still a longing for the conventional dress of ghaghara-pichora . Every lady keeps it ready for ceremonial occasions.
People live in houses made out of stone or bricks. Few old constructions are made out of wood also. Wood carvings which was very common in the past are now very rare. In hilly area, roofs have slopes and roofing is done with the help of tin or slates of stone. In villages, animals live in ground floor called Goth and human beings in first floor.
Hill temples are the monuments having mixture of deep sense of art and culture. Sculpture varies with the time of inception of the temple. The mode of worship is also different in many aspects from that of plains. These temples act as the nucleus of the social and cultural activities. Hill people orgnise Jagars to please local deities.Golu, Bholanath, Sam, Aidi, Gangnath are some of the local deities.
The tradition of colorful ornamentation on Aanchal cloths is a unique Kumouni tradition, rooted deep in its long history. In all ritual ceremonies women wear pichora, also known as Rangwali. It is a piece of muslin cloth, 3 mts. in length & One and half mts. in width, which is dyed yellow, it is then printed with design with a padded wooden stick using red colours. At the centre is the sign of Swastik, and the motifs of sun, moon, bell and conch shell .
ceremonies and festivals the women set themselves to decorating the floor & walls of their houses with designs & patterns . The material used is the paste of rice mixed with ochre. The floor of the worship room & the seat of Gods & Goddesses, are decorated with specific tantrik motifs called Peeth or Yantra. A Yantra is a diagrammatic representation of the deity, and consists of linear or septal geometrical permutations of patterns considered as the plan of the terrestrial places where the deity resides.
For Namkaran Sanskar, the Aipan on the wooden chauki comprises motifs of sun, moon, bell etc. In the Janeu, the Aipan shows the zodiacal sign of Great bear arranged in hexagons, to invoke the blessings of Sapta-Rishis. In marriage ceremony, the Dhuliargh Chauki bears a design of big water-jar, symbolising primordial water from which the universe emerged.