Saturday, December 28, 2013

Revisiting - Almora & Ranikhet (a photo-blog)

Revisiting -  Almora & Ranikhet  (a photo-blog)

Sunrise over the Himalayan ranges - view from Ranikhet
   My blog about Almora is already available and the link is as follows - but as happens, you cannot visit every small temple or tourist spot at one go.  Therefore, as we were traversing back from Jalna, we found out that in order to reach Ranikhet, we had to return back to Almora and thereafter head towards Ranikhet.  We proceeded towards Saharphatak, this road further leads to Lohaghat from Jalna, till we came across another small village about 4-5 Kms. from Jalna called Lamgara.  Here from a small road bifurcates through some small villages and connect with the Almora-Pithoragarh road.  Instead of back tracking through the same route that we had used while travelling from Almora for Jalna, we chose this route instead to avoid monotony.
Huge cobwebs - absorbing the moisture from the clouds/fog enveloping the valley
Impatiens spp. - Balsam flowers
Terraced fields - on way from Jalna to Almora
        Lamgara is also perched at an altitude which is almost similar to Jalna and also offers some good panoramic view of the Himalayan ranges & the vales below.  The road that runs towards Almora from here can be best described as a little better than a dirt track, but it runs through some pristine forest area and regions untouched by the modern world gizmos.  The life these village still trudges at a slow speed that can be kept pace with and the lack of hustle & bustle leads to a sense of serenity in these region.  There were a lot of birds to see and photographer, but our friend’s father, who is almost an octogenarian, was getting impatient due to constant halts and hence we had to rush through.  He was more intent to reach Jageshwar temple complex, as it was the auspicious Hindu month of ‘Sawan’ and performing puja (performing Hindu rituals) at the various ‘Shivlingas’ (Shiva’s phalanx is worshipped in Hindu temples) is considered very auspicious by Hindus.  Most Hindus believe that Jageshwar is the place of Nagesh, 8th among the Dwadasa Jyotirlingas i.e. Ten plus two Jyotirlings  (the twelve resplendent Lingas of Lord Shiva established by Lord Vishnu), which is stated to exist in the forest of Daruka/Deodar (Cedrus deodaraor daruka van/forest.  Jageshwar holds a special position as being the first in the list of such Jyotirlingas
Brown fronted woodpecker
Asian Koel 
Yellow breasted Greenfinch or Himalayan Greenfinch
         We reached Jageshwar temple complex at around 11.00 A.M and found that the complex was almost empty.  While purchasing the ritualistic articles required for performance of the puja inside the temple complex, I struck up a conversation with the shopkeeper and he informed that during this year, because of the calamity that had struck Kedarnath region, the tourist influx had been badly affected in entire of Uttarakhand and the business was very poor, almost a slump of 80% from normal.  We too could sense this, as despite being a very auspicious month for performing Puja, the crowd of Hindu devotes were quite conspicuous by their absence.  But this offered us a window of opportunity and we could perform the Puja in an elaborate manner inside the temple complex, which otherwise would have been a luxury in case of heavy rush of pilgrims.  There is no definite dating of the construction of Jageshwar group of temples but according to the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), they belong to the post-Gupta and pre-medieval eras and are estimated to be about 450 yrs old. These temples range in the period from the 8th century (early Katyuri Dynasty) to the 18th century (Chand Dynasty). The temples were renovated during the reign of Katyuri King Shalivahandev. There is an inscription of Malla Kings on the main temple premises indicating their devotion to Jageshwar. The Katyuri Kings also donated villages to the temple priests for its maintenance. The Chand Kings of Kumaon were also patrons of the Jageshwar temple.  Numerous Jageshwar temples were constructed or restored during the Gurjara Pratihara era.  It is believed that while establishing the various maaths in Uttarakhand, like the Kedarnath and Badrinath dhams, Adi Shankaracharya too had visited Jageshwar and renovated and re-established many temples before leaving for Kedarnath. The Samsan ghat of Jageshwar is also the cremation ground of the erstwhile Chand Kings. The temples architecture belongs to the Nagara style, characterized by a tall curved spire surmounted by an amalaka (capstone) and a kalasha crown. Most of the temples enshrine a stone Lingam, surrounded by stone sculptures of various deities. The pilgrimage to Jageshwar is considered as sacred as the famous Chardham yatra.

Temple spire of Jageshwar temple - near Almora
Panoramic view of Jageshwar temple - near Almora
Inside the Jageshwar temple precincts
Idol of Kal Bhairav in Jageshwar temple complex
The ceremonial fire or 'Yagna kund' in Jageshwar temple
       The folklore in the regions around Jageshwar tells us a gripping story about building the Main temple Near Kot Linga Temple Complex. Lord Shiva selected this place to be his abode. During the Tapasya by Lord Shiva, demons obstructed his penance. Then God "Sam" came into being as Trinetra (the third eye of Lord Shiva), who sent his ‘Ganas’/Demons to kill these demons. It is believed that Lord Sam will come to Kot Linga temple premises to save humanity and Jageshwar in Kalyuga. Adi Shankacharya tried to build the maim temple at Kotlinga but to no avail as Lord Sam wanted Kotlinga to be specifically reserved for the Meditation of his beloved Lord Shiva. Old Ruins of a temple structure can be found near Kotlinga. Local People still believe that Lord Sam will come and built the real Jageshwar temple near Kotlinga and thus, save the mankind from adversities of Kalyuga.  It is also believed that anyone who prays here is saved from ‘akaal mrityu’/untimely or sudden violent death.  The temple city comprises a cluster of 124 large and small stone temples, dating 9th to 13th century AD, with many preserved by the  (ASI), which include Dandeshwar Temple, Chandi-ka-Temple, Jageshwar Temple, Kuber Temple, Mritunjaya Temple, Nanda Devi or Nau Durga, Nava-grah temple, a Pyramidal shrine, and Surya Temple.  The most famous of them is the Mahamrityunjay temple is the largest and oldest temple in the Jageshwar temple complex. This temple of Shiva is eastern facing and the Linga is worshipped as the saviour from death. The unique linga has an eye shaped opening. Pilgrims believe that reciting the Mahamritunjaya Mantra is a fruitful, auspicious and powerful method of self-realisation, removal of evil effects, and freedom from all kinds of fears, illness and negativity. The Mahamritunjaya Mantra is attested in the Sukla Yajurveda Samhita III/60.  Thus, having performed the Puja at the main temple, we proceeded further to visit another the famous temples that was missed by me during my previous visit i.e. Golu Devta temple in Chitai, Almora.
Outside view of Golu Devta temple in Chitai, Almora
Temple gate of Golu Devta temple in Chitai, Almora
Bells placed by devotees inside Golu Devta temple in Chitai, Almora
Inside view of Golu Devta temple in Chitai, Almora
Golu Devata is thought to be as an incarnation of Gaur Bhairav (Lord Shiva), and is worshipped all over the region and regarded as the dispenser of justice by the devotees with extreme faith.  Historically, he is considered as the brave son and General of Katyuri King, Jhal Rai and his mother was Kalindra, and his grandfather was Hal Rai and great-grandfather was Hal Rai. Historically the origin of Golu Devata is accepted at Champawat in Uttarakhand. His mother Kalindra is believed to be the sister of two other local deities Harishchand Devjyun (the divine spirit of Raja Harish of the Chands) and Sem Devjyun and both these deities are regarded by the locals as uncles of Lord Golu.  Another legend suggests that he was a General in the army of the Chand King , Baz Bahadur (1638–78), and died displaying exemplary valour at war, the temple at Chitai was erected in his honour, 8 km from Almora city.  On the other hand another legend says that Golu Devta was killed by the king of Binsar  due to some false doubt, and he was beheaded by the king and his body fell at Gairad at Dana Golu and his head fell at Kaparkhan, near modern day Binsar, a few km from Almora. At Dana Golu, there is the original and most ancient temple of Golu Devta.  The most popular story, however, about Gwalla talks of a local king who, while hunting, sent his servants to look for water. The servants disturbed a woman who was praying. The woman, in a fit of anger, taunted the king that he could not separate two fighting bulls and proceeded to do so herself. The king was very impressed by this deed and he married the lady. When this queen got a son, the other queens, who were jealous of her, placed a stone in its place and the child in a cage and put the cage into the river. The child was brought up by a fisherman. When the boy grew up he took a wooden horse to the river and on being questioned by the queens, he replied that if women can give birth to stone, then wooden horses can drink water. When the king heard about this, he punished the guilty queens and crowned the boy, who went on to be known as Gwalla devata.  Golu Devta is seen in form of Lord Shiva, his brother Kalva Devta is in form on Bhairava and Garh Devi is form of Shakti. Golu Devta is also prayed as key deity (Ista/Kula Devta) in many villages of Chamoli. Normally  a three days puja or a 9 days puja  ritual is performed to worship Lord Golu Devta also known as Goreel Devta in Chamoli District. Golu Devta is offered Ghee, Milk, Curd, Halwa, Poori, Pakauri (in order – Clarified butter, sweetmeat made out of wheat coarse flour, fried bread made out of bread flour, fried snacks made with chick pea flour batter & vegetables) and head of the sacrificed goat. Usually, two male goats are sacrificed (Bali is performed), preferably of black colored ones. One is sacrificed inside the temple complex of Golu devta and the other outside temple in a remote location. The sacrificed goat is received as ‘prasada’ of Puja. Golu devta is known as God of justice and prayed with great pride and enthusiasm. Golu Devta is offered with White Cloths, white pagari and white shaal.  Having visited the temple and performed the Puja/ceremony, we were famished by then and immediately proceeded to have our lunch at the nearby dhaba/local eatery joint.
Monsoon magic - all green valleys
Panoramic view of Almora township - view from road to Ranikhet
Sunrise over the distant Himalayan ranges - view from Ranikhet
Sunrise view from Ranikhet
As the clouds gather in the valleys below - view from Ranikhet
          Having have had our lunch, we immediately proceeded towards Ranikhet as we wished to reach there at the earliest before nightfall.  Although it was about 2-3 hours journey, but because of bad road conditions at certain sections, we were delayed and the intense fog & clouds added to our misery and it had already started raining by the time we reached Ranikhet.  As we were quite tired, after partaking dinner early we retired early to bed.  The next morning we got up to a bright new day, the cloud cover had all but disappeared and a glorious view of the sunrise over the Himalayan ranges enlivened our spirits.  There was a nip in the air due to overnight rains and we walked out to the adjacent market and had piping hot ginger tea (local tea with pieces of ginger boiled with water).  Since it was a pilgrimage tour, after having bathed we all headed for Binsar Mahadev temple that is situated at a distance of about 19 Kms. from Ranikhet.  I am not narrating the details of the place as I have already posted a detailed blog about this place and whose link is as follows -

Begonia bloom in Bhowali
Another variety of Begonia bloom in Bhowali
White Begonia bloom in Bhowali
Close-up of Begonia bloom in Bhowali
An ornamental plant after rains in Sattal
Morning glory
         After paying our obeisance at the famed Binsar Mahadev temple, we ambled back to Saattal on my request, with the intent of photographing some birds in the area.  But as the luck would have it, as soon as we reached Saatal around noon, the weather took a turn for the worse and it started pouring cats & dogs literally.  We could no do anything but to wait it out and the weather remained down under the next day too and as I was using a prime mirror lens with an minimum aperture of f/6.3, the low light conditions took away any chances of my photographing any of the exotic birds, but I did try to shoot some and the results are there to see, although not upto the mark.  After this short but rejuvenating break, we headed back to Delhi and the rains kept us company all the way back upto Delhi.

Black Drongo on its perch - Sattal
Asian barred Owlet - Sattal
Orange Minivet - shot against the light - Sattal
Orange Minivet - on the canopy camouflaged - Sattal 
White chinned laughing thrush - Sattal
Grey headed Canary  flycatcher - Sattal


  1. Wow..i really enjoyed reading your write-up. With plenty of natural beauty and serene ambiance, Almora and Ranikhet are great tourist destinations for nature lovers. Also, check out these hotels in Almora.

  2. Almora a famous jageshwar temple is a very nice, It is fantastic tour, It create the best tour option and provide the nice experience.

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