Travelogue Uttarakhand, India @
Tour Of Shyamlatal, Mayavati, Almora,
Bageshwar and Nainital
Mr. Debashis Bose,
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.
Rama Krishna Ashrama, Shyamlatal
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
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.
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.
to Mayavati Ashrama
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
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.
of Patal Devi
Next day – we visited the house where Sister Nivedita stayed, also the
house where Swami Vivekanandaji stayed.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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).
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
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.
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.
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