We reached Mukteshtwar late in the afternoon and checked into ‘Tourist Rest Houses’ run by the Kumaon Mandal Vikas Nigam.By the time we had unpacked and had some sumptuous snacks, it was almost evening and the sun had started its final run towards sunset.Mukteshwar township lies at a distance of about 360 Kms. from Delhi (Dwarka, New Delh) and it takes about 10 (ten) hours drive to reach here, with usual breaks thrown in.The quaint little township owes its very existence to the Indian Veterinary Research Institute, which was established by the British in 1898.The institute owns much of the land around the little town, including acres of dense virgin forest.
View of PWD Rest house in foreground and TRH, KMVN in background
The town's name apparently is derived from two Sanskrit words: 'Mukti' meaning ‘eternal life’ and 'Ishwar' another term used for ‘God’ in Hindi, and refers to an ancient legend in which a demon battles with Shiva, one of the three main gods of the Hindu pantheon, and, though the demon is defeated, he attains immortality. The small century-old Shiva temple, perched on an outcrop above the sleepy town, is a delightful place - serene, tranquil - from where you can look out across the magnificent valley spread hundreds of feet below.
View of tea pot used to brew tea for Jim Corbett at PWD Rest house
Below the KMVN run Tourist Rest House is the famed PWD guest house which had hosted the famous hunter turned conservationist Sir Edward James ‘Jim’ Corbett on many an occasions.A small library and the kettle used to brew tea for him, are the artifacts supposed to be preserved as legacy in the said guest house.As it was getting late, we decided to explore this place rather than venture further in the failing lights.However, the caretaker of the said PWD guest house informed me that the few books in the library had since been removed/stolen by some occupant a few years back and that only the kettle remains.I saw the kettle, which looks ordinary at first glance, except for the fact that its weight is extraordinary, weighing in around 5-7 Kilos.However, the view of the sunset from the small garden in from the PWD Guest house is indeed breathtaking.
View of Sunset from Mukteshwar
After having dinner we retired to bed early being tired because of the extended day long journey.The next morning I woke up amongst the constant chirping of birds and upon opening the verandah door, instantly got transported to a mesmerizing site of the sun breaking the dawn in millon hues of colours.I immediately took out my camera to capture the frame for eternity.The view at sunrise from the Rest house was breathtaking, and will stay a treasured memory for long.Thus, ushered in a memorable day for me and after having bed tea in the salubrious environs of Mukteshwar, we decided upon the future course of action for the day.
View of Sunrise from Mukteshwar
View of the rocky outcrop called 'Chauthi ki jali' in Mukteshwar
Rappelling in progress at 'Chauthi ki Jali'
View of the puncture/hole in rock edifice in 'Chauthi ki jali' (where the rituals take place)
Having had a sumptuous breakfast, we took the assistance of an old hand & guide Sh.Rawat to explore the sights from Mukteshwar.He took us through a old forest trail towards the ‘Chauthi ki jali’, which is a vertiginous outcrop of rocks, which is known for its sheer 3,000 feet fall and panoramic view of the valley below & places like Nanital, Almora etc. are also visible.This spot is also a great place for spotting eagles and other birds of prey as they circle the thermals.Along this rocky outcrop is a rock edifice having a huge hole in between and local legend has it that a disciple of Lord Shiva called Goraknath (credited with having started the ‘Nath panth’ of Sadhus), alongwith his disciples, wanted to have a session of devotional songs & dance to honour their deity, Lord Shiva, but his followers could not surmount the rocky outcrop.Enraged he hit the rock hard and on the fourth (‘Chauthi’ in Hindi) blow the rock gave away and a gaping hole emerged, the disciples climbed through this hole in the rock edifice and performed the song & dance ritual.At present during the month of ‘Sawan’ (July-August) a yearly ritual is held wherein childless couple perform a specific ritual whereby the husband goes and stands below the hole in the rock edifice and his wife (supported by others) clambers through this hole with her husbands help. This ritual is repeated four/seven/nine/eleven times and the more number of times a woman is able to clamber through this hole the chances of her conceiving increases, as per the local belief.This edifice has at present also become a source of livelihood for the locals as they paid rappelling sessions across the face of this rocky outcrop.
View of Mukteshwar Mahadev temple in Mukteshwar
Another view of Mukteshwar Mahadev temple
Thereafter, with the guidance of the guide we clambered further though the woody trail, which had a gradual gradient upwards till we reached the pinnacle of the hill which houses the famous century old Shiva temple.The view from above was breathtaking and having taken a detour towards the main township we returned back to the rest house later in the afternoon.However, till now we had not had a glimpse of the Himalayan ranges, as the horizon was smudged by clouds and air polluted with dust particles.By late evening the breeze had picked up brining in tufts of clouds and as nightfall approached there was a bout of drizzling.After partaking our dinner, made to order, we retired for the day.
View of distant Himalayan peaks from Mukteshwar
View of close-up of Himalayan peaks as seen from Mukteshwar
Early next morning, we were mentally prepared to leave for our next destination when we heard some commotion outside and when we stepped out to check out, we were pleasantly surprised to find that the magnificentHimalayan peaks were visible.I clamored back to my room to collect my Cameras and shot quite a few pictures, but the Camera lenses are no match for the lenses that God has granted us in form of eyes and the photographs do not do justice to the views one has with his naked eyes.From here one can see a range of peaks, including Neelkantha (Blue-throated Shiva, 6596 m/21569 ft), Nandaghunti (the Veil of the Goddess, 6310 m/ 19233 ft), Trishul (the Trident of Shiva, 7120 m/ 23282 ft), Nandadevi (Goddess of Bliss, 7817 m /25562 ft), and the majestic Panchhuli peaks.On a clear day, the peaks of Api and Nampa are also visible, over in Nepal.
Final peek from 'Chauthi ki jali'
Next I again ventured towards the forest trail towards ‘Chauthi ki jali’ for a last glimpse and behold all of sudden an animal darted for cover.We ran towards the edge of the forest and found a Himalayan Palm Civet clambering away before I could shoot it with my camera.There were quite a few birds buzzing & singing in the forest cover (you can hear them in the Video too).The place is resplendent with quite some mesmerizing flora as well.However, for the readers I have moving visual of the place alongwith the mesmerizing Sunrise in my video below -