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 Shri Ramakrishna Math & Mission - Sealdah - Bareilly - Shyamlatal - Sukhidhang - Pithoragarh - Belur Math - Sarada Dham - lake Shyamlatal - Mayavati Advaita Ashrama - Almora - Jageshwar - Bageshwar - Saattal  - Nainital

 

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Travelogue Uttarakhand, India @ Content Writer

Tour Of Shyamlatal, Mayavati, Almora, Bageshwar and Nainital

By Mr. Debashis Bose, Contributing Traveller

16.3.08 to 31.3.08 This time, only two of us went for this trip which was a pillgrimage as well as a trip for tourism. To the admirers and followers of Shri Ramakrishna Math & Mission, to stay at the guesthouse of any centre of the Math, is not only a pilgrimage and much cherished desire, but also fulfillment of heart's content. By the grace of the Lord Shri Shri Ramakrishna, and cooperation of the concerned Swamijis, we were permitted to stay at Shyamlatal, Mayavati & Almora guest houses, for three days each. And naturally, we are very much grateful to them.

Shri Rama Krishna Ashrama, Shyamlatal

Shri Rama Krishna Ashrama, Shyamlatal

16th March : We left Sealdah by Akal Takt Express, at 0740 hrs and reached Bareilly on the next day at 0630 hrs. We hired a car, started at 0805 hrs. and reached Shyamlatal via Tanakpur, Lohaghat and Sukhidhang covering a distance of 140 km, at 1210 hrs., Sukhidhang is on the way to Pithoragarh, at the altitude of 1525m. At the very outset, we observed a gate, decorated with plants, and a wooden emblem of the Belur Math at the top of it. Behind the gate, there was a beautiful garden and then the main building with the shrine. We met two Swamijis who greeted us as if we were well known to them, though we met each other for the first time.

We were allowed to stay at Sarada Dham, at a little distance, going through hilly track and well maintained gardens with plenty of flowers. There are other guesthouses too, mostly with double bed-rooms & attached bath, hot water was supplied by the workers of the Ashrama. As found in the hilly areas, scattered houses were here and there.

Nearby, close to Sarada Dham, there was the house, wherein Swami Birojanandaji Maharaj used to stay. The environment was quiet and serene. In the main building there was a dining room, wherein though vegetarian food was served, but they were varied and tasty, with lots of milk, curd and other milk products, four times daily. One Swamiji Maharaj took us to a nearby place, where there were three jersey cows and a new born calf, and they were free, we were told, that they are used to return to their place at dusk, and they were kept in closed doors to save them from wild animals. We went towards Sukhidhang, and found the lake Shyamlatal, from which the name of this place has been derived. Later on, we came to know, that previously, this place was known as 'Shy(n)la', and Swami Birojanandaji Maharaj renamed as Shyamlatal.

Tourist Lodge : KMVN - Shyamlatal

Tourist Lodge : KMVN - Shyamlatal

This lake is quite big, and it is at the altitude of 1525m. Beside the lake, a tourist lodge has been constructed by the Kumaon Mondal Vikas Nigam, and it is almost complete.

20th March, we left Shyamlatal with four other devotees, at 8'clock in the morning, and covering 65 km reached Mayavati Advaita Ashrama at 11.05 hrs. Here also, we were received with very sincere and intimate welcome by Maharajji.

Way to Mayavati Ashrama

Way to Mayavati Ashrama

Briefly, about this Ashrama - in the year 1897, Swami Vivekanandaji, after returning to India, was staying at Almora with his disciple Swami Swaroopanandaji Maharaj and British disciples Capt. Sevier and Mrs Sevier. He expressed his desire to his British disciples that if there could be an Advaita Ashrama nearby in the midst of Himalayas, where many sages and saints have meditated for centuries, that would be very nice for those who would meditate on 'Advaita' or the eternal truth of the Oneness of all existence. According to 'Advaita,' there is only one 'Atman' pervading all living beings and the universe. To fulfill the desire of Swamiji, the Sevier couple, with their effort and money established the Mayavati Advaita Ashrama, on 19th March 1899 - birthday of Shri Ramakrishna. At that time, this place was known as 'Maaipet', but Swamiji renamed it as Mayavati. Altitude of Mayavati is 2073m. Here, in this Ashrama, the room, where Swamiji stayed, is now the meditation room and library. The Saroda river flows quietly, further down this place. There are well maintained gardens with beautiful flowers. Atmosphere around is calm, quite and serene with birds singing and chirping.

Nearby, in front of the Ashrama, there is a house, earlier which was a guest house, but now it houses the Publication Deptt. of "Prabuddha Bharat", the English official monthly magazine of the Ramakrishna Math and Mission, and the press is just behind at a little higher place. After the path on the left hand side that goes uphill to Ashrama, if we proceed further, we shall find the Charitable Hospital of the Ashrama, a few steps downward. This hospital serves the poor suffering people of the neighbouring villages, free of cost. Patients come from 1,400 villages of 257 gram panchayats, either on foot, or on horseback, or on 'doli,' even from 80 to 100 km as well as from Nepal, sometimes covering the path in 4/5 days.

The guest houses are located a few metres ahead of the Ashrama on the right, a few metres downward, even the residence of Capt. & Mrs. Seviers are being used as guest houses, though these have an old time set-up and old furniture. There are two more guest houses, one is known as 'old guest house' and the other as 'new guest house'. We used to go to the Ashrama daily four times, for food and the food here too, was though veg. yet very nice, tasty and varied. The guest houses are well maintained, neat and clean, double-bedrooms with attached bath & geysers. Though there is electricity in the Ashrama and the guest houses and on the roads, but the road lights are switched on, only 10 minutes prior to dinner time, and for 10 minutes after the dinner, for convenience of the guests, and not continuously from evening to night, so that the birds and other animals are not disturbed. First day in the afternoon, we went to the Ashrama's dairy and the mediation room of Swami Swaroopanandaji Maharaj. Second day in the morning, we went for 45 minutes in the up-hill track, to a place known as 'Dharamgarh,' where there is the meditation room of Swami Vivekanandaji, a very calm and quite place, with snow-clad mountains which are visible. Third day, we walked on the nearby roads, enjoying nature.

23rd March, after staying for three days at Mayavati, we, with two other devotees, started for Almora our next destination, by a hired car, at 08.30 hrs. and covering a distance of 130 kms, reached at 01.20 pm. At Almora, the Ramakrishna Ashrama is known as Ramakrishna Kutir, situated at the outskirts of the city, and this area is known as Bright end Corner. Here it may be mentioned that, at Shyamlatal as well as at Mayavati, other than the Ashrama, there was no habitat visible in the near vicinity, so more calm and quietness prevailed. But at Almora, though the Ashrama is on a main road, after getting downhill from the road, within the Ashrama area it is calm and quite. Here too, we were received with warm and cordial welcome from Swamiji, who arranged for our stay etc. Same day in the afternoon, we visited 'Tagore House' located at the Army Cantonment Area. In May & June of 1937, Rabindra Nath Tagore lived here and wrote 'Sejunti', 'Nobojaatok', 'Akaash Pradeep', etc. poems and 'Bishwa Porichoy'- book on science, as well as he made a few sketches with local colours. At present, there is a govt. office in this house.

Tagore House Almora

Tagore House Almora

On the next day, we visited Jageshwar, 35 kms from Almora, which is believed to be the abode of the twelve Jyotirlings. It is situated in a small beautiful valley surrounded by magnificent Deodar trees. The complex, consisting of 124 temples and hundreds of statues, is famous not only for it's exquisite craftsmanship but also for the Swoyombhu Linga named Nagesh. It is at a height of 1,900m above the sea level and there is also  beautiful plantations of fragrant sandal woods. We also went to the temple of Goludevta at Chitai, which is believed to be the seat of Justice. Here, people offer metal bells of different sizes as their offerings to God and also file their complaints on judicial papers or plain papers, begging for divine Intervention and Mercy. So, there are hundreds and hundreds of bells hanging here and there.

25th March by a hired car, we went to the temple of Patal Devi, temple of Kasar Devi, Saroda Math, and also had been to the Handloom House for some purchases.

Temple of Patal Devi

Temple of Patal Devi

Next day we visited the house where Sister Nivedita stayed, also the house where Swami Vivekanandaji stayed.

 

Some more information about Almora : it's one of the popular hill stations of Uttarakhand, altitude is 1650m. It's also the cultural seat of Kumaon, midst of Nature, misty mountains, green valleys, fruit-laden orchards and innumerable temples. Also to be seen here, Collection Centre of Kumaon's Art and Culture, State Museum, Almora's main temple of Nanda Devi, Ashrama of Anandamoyee Maa, Simitola picnic spot, Kalimath, Deer Park, etc. etc.

Excuse me, my readers, please allow me to be a bit nostalgic, though I'm at a loss to find out proper words to express my deep and sincere gratitude, yet, when prior to our departure, from all these three Ashramas, we approached for their blessings, the concerned Swamijis, (who have discarded everything in their life, except respect, love and affection for each and everybody), blessed us saying "Intimate us on your arrival at the next destination", or, "Keep contact", or, "Come again" etc., we were moved with the feeling of eternal joy and peace only to be preserved with much care, forever.

26th March we left Almora at 02.30pm, by a hired car, to reach Bageshwar at 05.00pm, at a distance of 73kms. We stayed at the Tourist Lodge of the Kumaon Mondol Vikas Nigam, accommodation and other arrangements were quite good. This place is nestled in the Himalayas, at the confluence of the Gomti and Sarayu rivers, mainly clustered around the Baijnath Temple complex. It is surrounded by hills and is situated in a valley, and the altitude is 975m.

Temples of Bageshwar

 Temples of Bageshwar

In the temple complex the most prominent are Bhairav, Dattatreya, Ganga Mata, Hanuman, Durga, Kalika, Thingal Bhairav and Baneshwar temples. The temple of Goddess Chandika Devi is on top of a mountain and is at a distance of 1.5kms.

Other temples that can be visited are Shri Haru Temple, Agnikund Temple, Nileshwar Mahadev Temple, Trijugi Narayan Temple, Bhadrakali Temple, Jwala Devi Temple etc. etc. To the local habitants, the religious importance of this place is equal to Varanasi.

Bageshwar is also an important place for those, who are going to trek to Pindari, Kafni and Sunderdunga glaciers, as the trekking begins from here only.

28th March at 08.00am, we started by shared taxi to Bhowali, changed taxi for Nainital, and at a distance of 136kms from Bageshwar, reached at 02.00pm. Here we stayed at the Holiday Home of the Allahabad Bank, which is in the Ashok Hotel, and very close to the taxi stand. Naini Lake, around which Nainital is set, is only five minutes walk from the Holiday Home. Altitude of Nainital is 1938m in the Central Himalayas of the Kumaon region. It was discovered by Mr. P. Barrow, a sugar merchant of Saharanpur in the year 1841, who was much impressed by its serenity and natural beauty. Later on, it was the summer capital of the then Uttar Pradesh.

Dotted with many lakes, Nainital District is well known as 'Lake District' of India. The lake is surrounded by seven hills the Sapta Shringa. Legend goes like this Sati's eyes (Nain) fell here hence it is named after the Goddess Naini. In clear weather, snow peaks are visible all around, abundance of flora & fauna, crystal lake etc. all are the attractions to the Nature Lovers. Though there is a road encircling the Naini Lake, but it's two-thirds are for the vehicles and also known as Mall, one-third is restricted for pedestrians only. Vehicles are allowed to ply between 0800 2200 hrs., even cycle rickshaws are not allowed from 1800-2200 hrs. About the cycle rickshaws here they are quite comfortable and slight low than elsewhere, fare is Rs 8.00 (doesn't matter whether you are single or two), from one stand at one end to the other end, but you are required to go in "Q", though there are chairs for the waiting passengers. The lake is 1370m in length, 360m in width & 28m in depth.

Nainital

29th March in the morning we went to Naini Devi's temple, then by ropeway of 700m, to an altitude of 2270m, known as Snow View Point, from where, snow peaks, hill-top like camel's back etc. are visible through a telescope.

While coming down by the ropeway, due to load shedding we were hanging for a few minutes. This distance may be covered by two and half kms of trekking or on horseback.

After lunch and a bit of rest, we went to the High Altitude Zoo at 2075m, 1.5 km from the bus stand. This zoo is famous for housing variety of species of animals living at higher altitude. There are Siberian Tiger, owls etc. but the most interesting was two pure white peacocks. Though the entire path in the zoo is full of ups and downs and tiresome to the elderly persons, yet, it is clean and well marked, drinking water and toilets are available. The tickets : Rs10 for 5 to 12 years, Rs 25 for 12 to 60, Rs 25 for camera, and free for the senior citizens.

30th March Morning walk around the lake, and going around the market. We participated in the conducted tour known as 'Lake Tour' by bus, from 12.30 hrs. to 05.30 hrs.

In this tour, we went to the Saattal, 25 kms away, via Bhowali, altitude 1371m, said to be a complex of seven interconnected lakes and forming a beautiful picturesque view of the Kumaon hills with angling projects. Next our destination was Naukuchiatal, at an altitude of 1219m, and 4 kms short of Bhimtal, with nine corners, hence the name. According to the popular belief, the religious significance is, if one manages to see all the nine corners, he attains 'Nirvana' i.e. Salvation. This lake is ideal for fishing and also well known for migratory birds. During Ganga Dussera there is a festival beside the lake. Last point of our tour today was Bhimtal, which is larger than Naini Lake, is at an altitude of 1370m, 22 kms from Nainital. This place is packed with pristine aura whispering of the Deodars, and said to be created by mighty Bhim (one of the Pandava brothers).

Bhimtal

Bhimtal

 

There is a picturesque island almost at the centre of the lake. Boating to the island, fishing and having picnic beside the lake, are it's activities. At the north end of the lake, there is the temple of Nag Devta, and at the south, temple of Bhimeshwar Mahadev, said to be built by Bhim, as per the popular belief. Also there are temples of Kaalbhairav, NoboDurga and ChandikaDevi. While returning we visited Hanumangarhi, where a very big size idol of Hanumanji is there, may be, 8/10m high.

31st March last day of our this tour, we had a walk around the lake, some mementoes purchased.

Other places to be seen at Nainital - Naina peak, altitude 2610m, a trek of 5 kms from the lake, horses are available. From this spot, Nanda Devi a famous peak and many other snow clad mountains are visible. From the west of the lake, a trek of 4 kms, will take you to Dorothy's seat or Tiffin top, altitude 2100m, and from there, a trek of 45 minutes through the forest, you reach Land's end, altitude 2100m, from where, a beautiful view of the Khurpatal is visible. From the north-west corner of the lake, 30 minutes walk will take you to Garney House, where legendary Jim Corbett resided, though it is now a private house. Also, you can visit Khurpatal at 12kms, Kilbury at the altitude of 2528m. Gherkhet at 5 kms, Loria Kanta peak altitude 2485m, at a distance of five and half kms. etc. etc.

By Govt. bus at 01.00 pm, we started from Almora, reached Barielly at 06.20 pm. After the overnight stay there, we availed Amritsar Mail next day at 07.05am, and returned Home, Sweet Home on 2nd April. Now, waiting eagerly for the next tour.

About Contributing Traveller: Mr. Debashis Bose is a 72 year old retired Railway employee whose hobbies include travelling & tourism, photography and amateur radio. He is a nature lover and prefers to visit little known places as opposed to big cities with the aim of enjoying nature in abundance. Before going on his regular tours with family and friends, Debashis spends time in studying different places and collecting information about them. On returning from the visit, he prepares a travelogue, with sketch map & photos, so that he can inspire others to visit these places and enjoy nature. vu2dba@gmail.com

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