Jageshwar Dham - Almora

Complex of over 500 ancient temples, precisely nestled in fairytale surroundings....

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April 1, 2017

Mesmerized in Shimla

Some of the places are fortunate to be blessed with all-time pleasant weather and unmatched natural beauty. For such spots you need not plan, just pack your bags and go. Located at a distance of 350 km. from Delhi, Shimla is one such destination. No doubt Shimla is always a preferred attraction in Himachal Pradesh for  tourists from every part of the world. 

Snow-covered peaks and picturesque valleys make Shimla a popular choice for a weekend getaway from Delhi. Excellent road condition from Delhi will ensure a fun filled driving till Shimla. But there is a better option, take a night train from Delhi to Kalka and then enjoy the legendary toy train ride from Kalka to Shimla. If you can afford a little extra time, trust me to take the toy train. Lovely stations and amazing natural settings will bring out your camera much earlier than expected. Start with the lovely Toy train, running on the ancient narrow gauge rails...

The lovely Barog station mark, named after Colonel Barog, British engineer who was in charge of boring tunnels in Kalka-Shimla railway…

Once you land in Shimla, first spot to explore is the Mall Road. The Mall Road at Shimla is the most visited, most searched and perhaps the most blogged spot in India. Mall is a hub of social life and has amazing variety of cuisine from every part of the world, no doubt party never stops here.

When it comes to shopping, Mall ranks prominent besides any other fashion street of the world. The location of Mall in the twists and turns of the mountains also provide an ideal venue for a leisurely romantic walk too.

What separates Shimla from other hill stations is splendid colonial structures, old-world cottages and numerous options for charming walks. Likewise, one of the oldest churches in India, Christ Church is at the Mall...

and adjacent to the church is the State Library and a view point to check beautiful nearby landscpaes...
The Gaiety Theatre on the Mall is an imitation of an old British theatre and also serves as a centre of cultural activities. Other spots are State Museum on the Mall.

One can use the passenger lift from the Cart Road to reach the Mall, vehicles are not allowed on the Mall Road. Lakkar Bazaar adjacent to the Ridge is popular for its wood-crafts and souvenirs. 

There is also a spot at Mall by the name Scandal point, from where you can click awesome views of the lavish natural wealth spread on the mountains.

However, there is a story attached with the Scandal point - Maharaja of Patiala and the daughter of then Viceroy were madly in love with each other and both have eloped together from this point. As a result of this daring act, Maharaja of Patiala was forbidden to enter Shimla again. To retaliate Maharaja of Patiala made Chail his summer capital to much envy of British.

Have to move on from Mall now as there other attractions in Shimla; Indian Institute of Advanced Studies, housed in the former Viceregal Lodge building: With old English architecture and attractive lawns, this is one of the most historically significant attraction in Shimla. Located at the Observatory Hill, Viceregal Lodge was built in 1888. The entry in the institute is by ticket. Viceregal Lodge was the summer residence of British Viceroy and the entire sub-continent was administered from here, usually from April to October each year.

If you are driving yourself, please check about the route from local traffic police as some of the roads have been made one way and some of the roads are closed for certain time in order to manage traffic.
After this splendid experience at Viceregal Lodge, it was the time to pray at JAKHOO Temple. Dedicated to Lord Hanuman, Jakhoo temple is situated at the highest peak in the town. Get ready to shake hands with lot of monkeys in the premises. However, don’t worry monkeys will not trouble you at all and will accept anything you will offer to them. Start praying as soon as you step inside the temple, with sacred verses of Hanuman Chalisa painted on the walk way.

The main Jakhoo temple premise...

Also the temple has world’s highest 200 ft. high statue of Lord Hanuman. The temple has connection with days of Lord Ram. It is believed that when Lord Hanuman was going to Himalayas to bring the Sanjeevani herb for curing Laxman, he stopped at this place to know about the Sanjeevani herb from sage Yaksh. Due to weight of Lord Hanuman, top of the hill had got flattened and half of the hill went inside the earth. Subsequently a temple was built around the place where feet of Lord Hanuman were spotted.
Narrow approach road to the hill is a path where can relish the luxury of enjoyable walks and can have beautiful view of Shimla from here.

There is another temple dedicated to Lord Hanuman, Sankat Mochan Temple. It is situated towards the outer side of Shimla on way to Kalka. It was dark when we reached this temple, however the illuminated temple at night did not disappointed us. Poor people can have free food on every Sundays.

Continue further for around 11 km. towards Kalka Highways to reach Tara Devi temple. This is 250 years old temple and it is believed that Goddess Tara arrived here from West Bengal in order to protect this place.

Located on a hill top, Tara Devi Temple provides some excellent views of the countryside. Other than mystic peace, one can enjoy 100% clean fresh air.

Vow, every step and every lane is worth lifelong memories. To be honest I feel jealous about people who have got a chance to reside in this heaven. Now I understand why Shimla is so much sought after vacation spot, despite increasing population and traffic; charm of this place is still intact.
Shimla is surrounded by pine, deodar, oak and rhododendron forests. After city tour, it was the time to get ready for next day trip to surrounding locations like Chail, Kufri, Mashobra and Naldehra to check deodar/ pine forests’ covered ranges, valleys with whispering water streams and swaying fields. Please keep one spare day for exploring outskirts of Shimla, before you leave for Manali.
Keep traveling Guys...

March 19, 2017

Painted Shelters of Cavemen at Lakhudiyar, Almora

After crossing Almora town and driving for approx. 16 km. towards Jageshwar, we came across a signboard of Archaeological Survey of India saying painted cave shelters at Lakhudiyar.
None of the passing vehicles were stopping at this point, however putting aside our hesitation, we decided to move ahead and explore this point.
Situated on the Almora-Barechhina road, along the banks of river Suyal, we were just about to check into the secrets of the Stone Age. It is believed that early man or cave men during the stone age used to dwell inside these cave shelters to protect themselves from animals and weather.
While staying here the cave dwellers have expressed themselves by form of artistic portraits on the walls and roofs of the caves. With colours like white, red and black they have depicted their daily life activities like hunting. Red colour is still very distinctly visible, need to appreciate the composition of these colours which have withstood since stone age.

The main subjects which figure prominently in these paintings are human figures, animals, and trees. Going closer we can make out that Deer, fox and lizards are appearing as animal paintings and human resembling figures are like dancing in a row. Paintings are at a height of 3.75 metres. In one group 34 human forms can be identified while in the other group there are 24.

Lakhudiyar means “One Lakh Caves” and has been acknowledged as the best in terms of illustrated scenes and activities of the primitive men in this region. Such cave shelters are also found in some other locations of Uttarakhand and measure up to such paintings found in other parts of the world.
Spending around 15-20 minutes here visualising the times and lives of early men, we continued our voyage to Jageshwar Dham

March 1, 2017

Bodhgaya - Where Lord Buddha attained Enlightenment...

Long back a boy got so much disturbed on seeing the people suffering in the vicious cycle of life and dying. One fine day he left his house in search of divine knowledge which can provide freedom from the cycle of life and death. The name of the boy was prince Siddhartha. He travelled relentlessly across places in search of that knowledge. Finally, he decided to sit in deep meditation to attain that wisdom under a tree. Legend says the demons of darkness, illusion and ignorance were unleashed onto him, but his wisdom conquered all the devilish forces. By now prince Siddharth had become “Lord Buddha”, meaning the Enlightened one. And the place where he attained the enlightenment was Bodhgaya.
Far from the eyes of the popular travel itineraries lies the town of Bodhgaya, the most revered destination for Buddhists worldwide. Mahabodhi temple complex is the spot where Buddha had attained enlightenment. It is one of the earliest built Buddhist temples, still standing.
References found shows that the temple was initially built by king Ashoka around 246 BC and was further revamped in 5th -6th century during reign of Gupta dynasty. The main temple is 50 m. high structure built entirely in brick is a classic example of ancient Indian architecture.

Beautiful statue of Lord Buddha in this temple...

There are also a lot of small temples spread around the Mahabodhi temple complex.

Next to Mahabodhi temple is the giant 25 m. statue of Lord Buddha in meditation pose. The statue took 7 years for construction and unveiled in 1989 in the presence of Dalai Lama.

And of course there is a giant tree under which price Siddhartha attained enlightenment. However, the present tree is the 4th generation direct descendent of the original tree.

Ashoka Pillar at the premises; There were a series of pillars erected by king Ashoka across Indian sub-continent. However only nineteen pillars survive now with inscriptions, and only six with animal capitals as these were a constantly targeted by invaders.

Walking around the temple campus provides references to important events from life of Lord Buddha. Likewise, Buddha had spent 3rd week after enlightenment while walking around at Chakraman Sthal. Wherever he put his feet on the ground lotus blossomed out of the ground. Raised lotus platform depicts the place where Buddha had walked.

Muchalind Tank: Buddha was meditating (6th week after enlightenment) in sitting posture at this place. Legend says that snake king Muchalind protected Buddha during meditation from intense storm and rains sent by dark forces.

Statues of bodhisattvas stand in one of the gardens…

Since Bodhgaya is the most esteemed of the all the sacred Buddhist sites, devotees from all over the world come to this place to seek peace and freedom from life and death cycle, attain “Nirvana”. Countries like China, Japan, Thailand, Tibet and others have constructed temples at this place.
Thai monastery was built by monarch of Thailand in 1956. It is the only Thai temple in India and displays the beautiful Thai architecture.

Check the 2 guards at the entrance of the temple...
Statue of Lord Buddha in the Thai temple...

Beautiful caricatures at Thai monastery premises...

Tibetan Mahayan monastery was built in the year 1938. Tibetan monastery conducts various courses on Buddhism principles and also provide shelter to Buddhist tourists from around the world.

Festivals related to Lord Buddha are celebrated in these monasteries. Especially the Buddha Jayanti (birth of Lord Buddha) festival on a full moon night in the month of April-May to commemorate the Buddha's enlightenment. Prayers, lessons on the Buddha’s life, recitation of Buddhist scriptures, meditation and worship of the Buddha's statues are conducted in these festivals.
Other than Bodhgaya Lumbini in Nepal (Birth place), Sarnath (first teaching place) and Kushinagar (Mahaparinirvana) are important and sacred Buddhist places. After Buddha had attained enlightenment, he went to Sarnath to give his first teachings of Buddhism.
Gaya is situated along the Falgu River, a tributary of the river Ganga, it is also a major Hindu pilgrimage centre. People come here for an offering to free their ancestors from the cycle of birth and death. Vishnupad temple is the main temple which was built by the Maratha princess Ahalya Bai of Indore in 1787. It is believed that temple contain a footprint of Lord Vishnu.

To reach Gaya:
By Train: Gaya is located on Delhi-Patna/ Kolkata route and most of the express trains have a stop at Gaya. Bodhgaya is 16 km. from Gaya.
By Air: Closest airport is Gaya Airport, approx. 21 km. away. Patna Airport is about 130 km and a 4-hour drive by road. 
By Road: Gaya is well connected by roads to all major cities.
To stay in Gaya: There are a number of hotels within the town centre suitable to all budgets.
Keep travelling Guys...
Indian Bloggers

February 16, 2017

Exploring divine Almora...Day 3 & 4

After a wonderful exploration of Almora and Pithoragarh district, Day 3 was reserved for counting the numerous temples in Jageshwar Dham and visiting nearby temples and spots.

First in the list was the Jhanker Sam temple, located 6 km. from Jageshwar. Lord Jhanker Sam is an incarnation of Lord Shiva. The legend associated with this place is that Lord Shiva was meditating when lot of demons gathered to spoil his prayers. Furious Lord Shiva then opened his third eye and Lord Jhanker Sam was born out of it. He created an army of his Ganas (followers) to kill those demons. It is believed that Lord Jhanker Sam will return again to Jageshwar Dham to save humanity.

Next spot was the Vridh Jageshwar temple (Old Shiva Temple), 3km. uphill trek in the hills or 16 km. by road from Jageshwar Dham. It is older than Jageshwar temples and is considered to be an abode of Lord Shiva prior to coming down to present Jageshwar. 

As told by the locales once King Chand saw a cow milking itself on a stone while he was going for a battle. On further checking the place a ‘Shivling (holy symbol of Lord Shiva)’ was revealed. After returning victorious from the war, King Chand constructed this temple. Temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva, also houses a status of Lord Ganesha.

Try taking road to Vridh Jageshwar to cherish the vibrant natural beauty of the place.

Being situated on the topmost point in the Jageshwar valleys, the spot offers fascinating views of the nearby hills. If there are no clouds the snow-capped Nanda Devi peaks are clearly visible from this point.

Heavenly peace and beautiful landscapes; pilgrimage as well as adventures…Amazing Almora. Trekking enthusiasts can take a trek back to Jageshwar, this is the 3 km. trek from the back of Vridh Jageshwar temple…

And the last nearby spot was the Dandeshwar temple complex, dedicated to Lord Shiva. This is the biggest shrine of all the 500 temples in Jageshwar. Contrary to custom the Shivling here is a natural uncut rock. Flowing water steam and adjacent hills provide a fantasy tale setting to this temple.

Read more about DandeshwarTemple…

By late afternoon we were back at Jageshwar, the evening was totally reserved for exploring the Jageshwar temples and take part in the evening worship, AARTI at the temple.

There are around 500 temples spread across the hills surrounding the Jageshwar Dham. Keep on exploring the beautiful surroundings, keep on counting the temples. This is the most beautiful complex of temples in Almora or temples in India, I have come across.

Uttarakhand is called as देवभूमि, Land of the Gods. At Jageshwar there is no doubt Gods must have stayed or still are staying at this place.  There is also a museum, 50 m. from the Jageshwar Dham, which carries an intricate treasure of beautiful statues. Do take some time to visit this, you will be astonished by the art... 
Photography is strictly prohibited inside the museum...

The Aarti finishes by 6:30 PM and thereafter the Jageshwar town goes to sleep. That finished our Day 3 as well in Jageshwar. Perfect harmony with nature Jageshwar.

Day 4: After early morning worship at the temple, we set out for return journey to Kathgodam. We had night train from Kathgodam, so we had sufficient time to cover the Katarmal Sun temple and Bhimtal.

Katarmal is 16 km. from Almora town and hidden inside cluster of hills. Visit here is all joys and curiosity how such a gigantic construction took place at this spot. Once in year, the first ray of sun falling on temple enlightens statue of Sun God in the temple and many devotees from the nearby places visit this temple. Katarmal is one of the perfect offbeat attractions in Uttarakhand.

It will take around 1.5-2 hours to cover. Read more about Katarmal…

While cruising via Almora, do try the delicate sweets of this region. Bal Mithai (बाल मिठाई) is a brown chocolate-like fudge, made with roasted khoya (thickened/ dried milk by heating), coated with white sugar balls. Singori or Singauri is a sweet made with fresh Khoya and wrapped in maalu leaf.

In the way we came across a spot called “Frog Point”. Out of curiosity we stopped the car and went ahead on the suspension bridge to see this place. A huge rock resembling the shape of frog is lying at the river bed and most of the visiting vehicles stop at this point. Check out…

Finally, towards the end of our journey we arrived at Bhimtal. Prominent attraction here is the Bhimtal lake which is named after Bhim, the most powerful of the Pandavas. A huge lake with an island at the centre is a major attraction. One can enjoy boating in the lake, horse riding, mountain biking and hang gliding at Bhimtal.

Bhimtal is the place which connects Kathgodam to the Kumaun region and to Nepal and Tibet. It might have been the part of the famous ancient silk route. There is a big market nearby to lake and one can enjoy every cuisine in this market.
After Bhimtal, Kathgodam railway station was in sight and it was the time to cherish some amazing memories which we accumulated during 4 days of exploring undiscovered Almora and Pithoragarh districts of Kumaun region.

About Kumaun:
State of Uttarakhand consists of two regions Kumaun and Garhwal. Kumaun region is made up by 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.
People of Kumaun are known for their bravery, valour and indomitable spirit. They carry the title of martial race and Kumaun regiment is one of the most decorated regiments in Indian army.

To reach Almora:
Nearest major centres and railway stations are Haldwani (88 km.) and Kathgodam (85 km.). Regular bus services are available from Haldwani to Almora. If you are coming by train get down at Haldwani station as most of the buses start from Haldwani.
By Train: Haldwani/ Kathgodam are connected to New Delhi with regular train services.
By Road: Almora is well connected by bus services from Delhi and other nearby cities.
By Air: Nearest airport is at Pantnagar, 149 km. However very few flights operate for Pantnagar.

Keep travelling Guys...

February 1, 2017

Exploring Kumaun... Almora & Pithoragarh (Day 1&2)

Almora is a hill station in the Kumaun region of Uttarakhand. Unlike many other hill stations in India, Almora remained unknown to British. It has been preserved and developed solely by natives of Kumaun region and as a result, it is totally devoid of usual crowds at other hill stations. Almora district offers an ideal option to those looking for solitude in the arms of mighty Himalayas. Almora is also called as land of temples and the temples are located in some of the most stunning landscapes.
To enjoy the spiritual vibes along with unspoiled beauty of the undiscovered Kumaun region, we took early morning train from Delhi and landed at Kathgodam railway station at 11:40 AM. The objective was to explore the road to Almora to Jageshwar and Patal Bhubaneshwar.

Our Itinerary:
Day 1: Delhi-Kathgodam-Kainchi Dham-Almora-Lakhudiyar-Jageshwar Dham
Day 2: Jageshwar – Pithoragarh (Gangolihat – Patal Bhubaneshwar) – Jageshwar
Day 3: Jageshwar and nearby temples
Day 4: Jageshwar – Almora – Katarmal Sun Temple – Bhimtal–Kathgodam -Delhi

Outside the railway station there were many taxis available for Nainital, few to Jageshwar (120 km. from Kathgodam) but very less if Patal Bhubaneshwar was also included in the itinerary as well. Some negotiation and we were on the way to Jageshwar Dham. Estimated time for the drive was approx. 5 hours including halt at enroute attractions in order to attend the 6 PM “AARTI” at Jageshwar Dham. This started our Day 1.
First spot in the way is Bhimtal (21 km. from kathgodam), but we skipped to cover during return as we had to reach Jageshwar by evening.
Next spot in the way is Neem Karoli Kainchi Dham, which is 37 km. from Kathgodam and is dedicated to Lord Hanuman. Kainchi Dham was established in 1962 by the sage Shri Poornanand Ji of Kainchi village. Devotees can stay in the ashram and practice meditation.
This is the same place which Steve Jobs had advised Mark Zuckerberg to visit in order to find way ahead. You will love the atmosphere and surroundings of this spot. After having some snacks in the roadside eateries, we again started our drive to Jageshwar.

Exceptionally picturesque drive with dense vegetated hills and accompanying river streams was resulting in frequent halts for photography. So we decided to skip the Katarmal Sun temple (16 km. from Almora town) and not to stop in the way anymore before our next destination, Chitai Golu Devta Temple (52 km. from Kainchi Dham, 89 km. from Kathgodam). It was built during 12th century and is characterised by countless bells hung in the temple premises.

Chitai temple is 6 km. from Almora town and is dedicated to Golu Devta, an incarnation of Lord Shiva. Golu Devta in the most worshipped God in Kumaun region and has reputation of granting every wish, if requested with a clear conscience. People from far off places come here and convey their wishes/ problems written on a paper which are tied around the temple premises. We came across many official stamp papers hanging around with details about the litigations.

Once their wishes have been fulfilled, people come back and tie around a bell in the premises as thanksgiving to Golu Devta. Even people who have not got justice in court of law come here to seek the true justice and they have got the divine justice from Golu Devta. Now we realised why thousands of bells are hung around the temple premises. We too prayed and requested the all mighty for fulfilment of our wishes.

By now we were driving along with the mountains covered with Pine trees. Suddenly we noticed big heaps of fodder hanging around the tree trunks.

Well this heap is fodder for animals for winter, when fodder is not available on the hills due to snowfall. This has been tied a little above the ground to avoid animals finishing this in summers itself.
16 km. from Almora town we came across Lakhudiyar, where painted cave shelters which were inhabited by cavemen have been found. Colour of the paintings by cavemen is till intact.

Finally, we reached our destination for the day, Jageshwar Dham. Inside a small valley, adjacent to meeting point of 2 river streams (Nandini and Surabhi) and hills covered with Deodar forests, something out of the regular world. This was our destination for next 2 days. Main temple complex at Jageshwar Dham consists of 127 small and big temples. Most prominent being Mritunjaya Temple, Nagesh Jyotirlinga temple and Dandeshwar complex of temples. And yes we reached in time to attend the worship at Jageshwar Dham.
Next day, Day # 2: We started early morning for the Patal Bhubaneshwar Cave temple, which is 105 km. from Jageshwar Dham. One full day is required for this as travel time is approx. 4-5 hours, one side. During the drive we came across a truly wonderful place, unspoilt by civilisation. We were lucky to see the majestic snow covered peaks of Nanda Devi, Nandaghunti and Panchachuli.

Kumaun is a region where rivers flow with clear divine waters and hills covered with Pine, Oaks and Rhododendron ensure purity of the airs.

91 km. from Jageshwar we reached at Gangolihat in Pithoragarh district. Haat Kalika Mandir an important pilgrimage centre and is worshipped as one of the Shakti Peeths. The temple is the abode of Goddess Mahakali, who is believed to shift her place from West Bengal to Gangolihat. The temple is much visited by the Indian Armed Forces as well and is maintained by Kumaun regiment.

Another 40 minutes from Gangolihat and we were at our destination Patal Bhubaneshwar cave temple. This is the most important spot in the Kumaun region, the limestone cave is believed to be as old as the earth itself. As mentioned in Skanda Puran Lord Shiva resides in this cave and all other Gods and Goddesses come here to worship Lord Shiva.
Around 822 AD, Adi Shankaracharya arrived at this cave and established a Shivlinga, for Lord Shiva.

This is the place where the severed head of Lord Ganesha fall. On request of Goddess Parvati, Lord Ganesha was bought back to life. Lord Brahma had sprinkled holy water from his divine 8 petalled lotus (visible in stone) to keep sustain the body till the time head of elephant was implanted. 
One has to get down 30 m. underground to reach the magnificent world of Patal Bhubaneshwar Cave. Vow, it was one of the best experiences we had in our lives. Thanked Gods for such an opportunity to visit this heavenly place. Will surely come at least once more to this cave temple, that’s a promise. By the time we returned to Jageshwar it was pretty late in night. That was our wonderful Day 2.

Please note that there is a filling station just at exit of Jageshwar. And there is no petrol pump/ filling station for next 70 km. till Gangolihat. Make sure you do not run out of fuel.

Route map for Day 1 and 2, click here...

Continue reading for Day 3 and Day 4...
About Kumaun:
State of Uttarakhand consists of two regions Kumaun and Garhwal. Kumaun region is made up by 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.
People of Kumaun are known for their bravery, valour and indomitable spirit. They carry the title of martial race and Kumaun regiment is one of the most decorated regiments in Indian army.
To reach Almora:
Nearest major centres and railway stations are Haldwani (88 km.) and Kathgodam (85 km.). Regular bus services are available from Haldwani to Almora. If you are coming by train get down at Haldwani station as most of the buses start from Haldwani.
By Train: Haldwani/ Kathgodam are connected to New Delhi with regular train services.
By Road: Almora is well connected by bus services from Delhi and other nearby cities.
By Air: Nearest airport is at Pantnagar, 149 km. However very few flights operate for Pantnagar.

Continue reading for Day 3 and Day 4...