It is an English version of one of my Bengali write ups which published in one Bengali magazine ‘Tathyakendra’ on 1st April, 2009. We, a group of 15, all members from our family traveled Kumaon in the year of 2008. After 11 years I am reminiscing here one of my most memorable tours. It will help my readers as Kumaon tour guide those who wish to travel Kumaon.
On day 3 after breakfast we went to Mayawati Advaita Ashrama. It is a branch of the Ramakrishna Math, founded by Swami Vivekananda, with the help of his disciples James Henry Sevier, and Charlotte Sevier. Mayawati Ashram is located at an altitude of 1940 meters, 9 km from the town of Lohaghat. The ashram could be a major publication center of the Ramakrishna Order for books in English and Hindi, primarily through its branch in city. It also maintains a charitable hospital at Mayawati.
Today it is publishing the original writings of Vivekananda. As an ashram dedicated to the study and practice of Advaita Vedanta, no pictures or idols are worshipped there, not even of Ramakrishna; and no images were kept in the premises according to the Ashram ideals set by Vivekananda. Ref: Advaita Vedanta ( Adwaita P. Ganguly (2001). Life and Times of Netaji Subhas: From Cuttack to Cambridge (1827–1921). VRC Publications. p. 52. I)
Earlier, in 1895, James Henry Sevier who had served as a captain in the British Indian Army for 5 years, and his wife Charlotte Elizabeth Sevier, met Vivekananda in England. Later in 1896, for nearly nine months, they travelled with him through Switzerland, Germany, and Italy. It was in the Alps that Vivekananda, while travelling with the couple that he expressed his desire to have a similar retreat for the monks in the Himalayas. Advaita Ashrama, Mayawati, a branch of the Ramakrishna Math, founded on 19 March 1899 with the help of Savier couple. James Sevier died on 28 October 1900, and was cremated by the nearby Sarada River, according to Hindu traditions as he had wished.
Vivekananda visited the Ashram from 3–18 Jan 1901, primarily to console her, and his place of residence has now been turned into a library. Charlotte Sevier continued to remain at the Ashram for many years.
Then we started for Pithoragarh. On the way we visited Gangolihat. Gangolihat is a place completely enriched with ancient culture and legendry myths. Situated at a distance of 77 kilometer from Pithoragarh, the major attraction of the place is Mahakali Temple devoted to Lord Shiva. Lohaghat to Pithoragarh distance is 60 kms and we reached there around 3 pm. We stayed there at Hotel Pine Resort.
Pine Resort, Pithoragarh had an in house restaurant which gave an astonishing view to its guests those who were sitting to had their food. They had good rooms with amenities such as comfortable bed, packaged drinking water, room warmer and hot/chilled water supply. One can see the Pithorgarh valley from the rooms. The resort offered 24 hour front office, parking and generator facility. The staffs are courteous and helpful. The food was good. They had separate accommodation for the drivers. The location was quiet and serene. Rooms and bathrooms were clean and hygienic. The only drawback was the hotel was little bit far from main town.
After freshening up ourselves we went to Chandak. Chandak is mountain, a top where a temple of ‘Manu’ is located. There was also a monastery nearby. The popular activity was adventure sports. The view obtainable from here of entire town was really awesome. People also visit here to witness the setting sun.
Next day I woke up early. I came to our balcony and found Pithoragarh was a place of superb natural beauty and serenity. This fascinating town with enthralling forests around it was located at an impressive height of 1,645 m and is settled in a small valley. Pithoragarh town is a historical landmark. It was a significant center of power during the regime of the Chand Kings in Kumaon.
From here, pilgrims take their journey to the holy shrines, Kailash and Mansarovar. Saradotsav (Durga Puja) has played a significant role in conserving and sharing Pithorgarh’s unique culture. It showcases local culture through music and dance, often featuring performances in the Kumaoni language. The small town was extensively represented in a novel by Yankee author Bradley Swift, ‘From Pithoragarh to Pittsburg’. There is no mention of the book anywhere in the internet, also the author hasn’t had done much work in writing it seems.
My dream broke when our driver Girish came and told us to be ready as we have to leave Pithoragarh and start for Munsyari early.
The distance between Pithoragarh and Munsyari is 130 km. If you enter Kumaon through Tanakpur, you could take two routes-1) Pithoragarh- Thal- Munsiyari route or 2) Pithoragarh-Jauljibi- Munsiyari. We had taken the first route. There was no traffic jam anywhere. We finished our lunch in a place with awesome scenic beauty. Enroute we found deep gorge, high mountains and several small-big water falls. After Thal, the sky started becoming dark. We made river Ramganga our friend and crossed Nachni and Tezam. The road became stiffer here. Outside became darker and snowfall started. That was a lifetime view. Within few minutes the black road became white. Girish switched on jeep’s fog light. Snowfall lasted for half an hour. We reached Kalamuni top at 4 pm.
KalaMuni Top offers great views of Munsiyari. People also trek to this place, which is a short and fairly easy trek with picturesque views enroute. There was a Goddess Kali temple, Kalamuni Temple here after which the spot is named. This temple holds special importance among the locals. Thamri kund trek starts from just beyond this temple. After Kalidarshan when we reached our hotel it was near 5 pm. We stayed there in the rooftop room of Hotel Pandey Lodge. The hotel boy served us tea and with a cup of tea I sat on a chair to see Panchachuli.
The Panchachuli peaks are five snowcapped Himalayas peak. The peak is seen properly with such magnificence situation at Munsyari, giving such charming view at the backdrop which adds charming sight for the visitor visiting the place. The sunray and sunset may be a must look which give another situation that delight each folks there. The most regal view of the natural wonder. It is so amazingly beautiful that it simply made me spell bound and stunned about the natural beauty of the place.
After finishing our breakfast we trekked to Nandadevi Temple. It took half an hour to reach there. Nanda Devi temple dedicated to goddess Nanda or Parvati. It is a Hindu sacred site. The Nanda Devi Temple is a small white structure, having a conical shape façade. One can see a brightly hand-painted image of Lord Ganesha on the outer wall of the Temple. It is amongst the oldest temples in Uttarakhand. One can just experience numerous hours in abiding by the jaw-dropping sight encompassed by the Great Himalayan Panchchuli and some other tops. The place is welcoming throughout the year but the best time to be here is in winter times since the entire mountain tops are snow covered and the composition is just breathtakingly charming. It is remarkably very eye soothing and serene at the spot and those majestic mountains just make the walk worth everything. We spent there entire morning and came back to our hotel for lunch. Oh, I forgot to mention few points about Hotel Pandey Lodge.
Hotel Pandey Lodge was the first hotel as soon as we entered Munsyari is Pandey lodge. As I have already mentioned we stayed at rooftop room. It was little bit colder but the scenic beauty we viewed when we came out of our room that was life time achievement. They had a very good and efficient staff to take care of us. They served us with great smile. Food was also good. The owner was always happy to help and on the toes. Market and bus station was stone throw away. They had only a 360 degree view one room at the roof top. The view of Panchachulli from Mr. Pandey’s lodge is spectacular. Mr. Pandey greeted us personally upon arrival and checked in with us to ensure we had hot water (which we did), plenty of bedding (which is important in this cool climate), great food (the potato parathas delivered with our tea were delicious). I really wholeheartedly appreciate this lodging.
Post lunch we strolled around Munsyari. Embedded within the crown of Kumaon Hills, Munsyari is a precious gem whose beauty is in its tranquility and unhurt landscape. Munsyari is the group of villages in the Pithoragarh District in the hill-state of Uttarakhand, India. It lies at the base of the nice Himalayan mountain range, at a height of about 2,200 m and is a starting point of various treks into the interior of the Himalayan range. Situated on the banks of Goriganga River, it is a fast-growing tourist destination, and mountaineers, glacier enthusiasts, high altitude trekkers and nature lovers commonly use it as their hub or base camp. Munsyari also falls on the traditional salt route from Tibet and is at the doorway of the Johar valley, which extends along the path of the Goriganga River to its source at the Milam Glacier. It is haunted primarily by folks of some different caste teams as well as the Shauka tribe, dalits or scheduled Castes different people categorised in other general castes comprising Kshatriya’s and Pandits . We came back to our Hotel Pandey Lodge. In the evening the proprietor arranged campfire and that evening we enjoyed a lot and next morning we started for Chaukari.
Also read KUMAON DIARIES- PART 1