Baijnath Temple Complex in Kausani Uttarakhand
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Baijnath Temple and Bageshwar in Kausani


Kausani didn’t present us with the Himalayan spectacle we expected it to, but we took back memories of deep Uttarakhand valleys with a sliver of river cutting through looming rock, purple, white and yellow flowers smothering trees that form natural arches along the roads, industrious ‘pahadi’ women clad in bright pinks and greens working fields, hardy men following cattle into the distance, pink-cheeked children cheerfully walking miles to school and the unhurried way in which life progressed for its people.

I visited Kausani with my daughter, parents and my sister’s family in May during the annual school holidays, but the skies were so hazy that despite a perfect vantage point for a view of snow-covered Himalayan peaks, we couldn’t even make out an outline. The initial disappointment gave way to taking joy in bird watching – all kinds of beautiful birds, fluffier than their non-hill brethren, competed for space on the trees with unruly red-faced monkeys. Having reached in the evening after a longer-than-expected drive from Nainital, a familiarization walk and quick dinner later, we were ready for bed.

The peace and serenity of the Anasakti Ashram followed the next day. It’s so quiet that you suspect even the slightest rumble in your stomach might be heard. Apart from Gandhian memorabilia, the Ashram also houses photos of some historic moments from India’s pre-independence history. While the kids predictably were in and out of the place in a few minutes, I and my sister went around taking a look at this collection, some of which we remembered from a book on Mahatma Gandhi that our grandmother had given us. Like any other Indian kid at the time, we had also been told stories about the man, creating an aura which might have lasted a lifetime if we hadn’t read any other news/magazine articles later in life.

 

Visiting Bageshwar, which marks the confluence of Gomti and Sarayu rivers, presented a complete contrast in the kids’ behavior. My daughter is a ‘rock’ fan so, the bounty of rocks of all shapes and sizes in the waters was an irresistible call to action. The kids shot off ahead of us and we followed, only to be rudely shocked by how cold the water was. This is so typical of the hills in the North I thought to myself – it’s sweltering hot all around and the water is hand-numbing cold. While I looked at tiny fish, golden colored rocks and rainbows in the water, the kids collected half their weight in stones.

The Bagnath Temple, from which the city of Bageshwar derives its name, is dedicated to Lord Shiva, who is supposed to have visited his devotee sage Markandey, in the form of a tiger or ‘bagh’ at this spot.  I must confess though to being so lost in clicking pictures of statues, half broken, but still representing a piece of history, in an enclosure nearby, that all I recollect today is the cute stone idol of Nandi (Shiva’s bull) that the Chaturmukhi (four faced) Shiva seemed to be gazing at from inside the Temple .

Another fascinating find near Kausani is the ancient Baijnath Temple Complex in the town of the same name in Bageshwar district. The main temple has a beautiful idol of Parvathy, consort of Lord Shiva. Built by Katyuri kings in the 12th century, the temples seem to have an architecture similar to those in Odisha/Orissa. Around the main temple are scattered smaller structures which must have housed idols of other Gods and Goddesses at some point,  but which are empty now, possibly as a result of the idols being stolen.  An interesting natural annex to the temple is a lake, teeming with ‘Golden Mahaseer’, golden colored fish eager to grab all the food they can get from visitors. After a long session, the kids were dragged away so we could also feed the fire in our bellies.

We stayed in Kausani for two nights and I would love to say that we finally managed to catch a glimpse of the peaks glittering in the sunlight – but, that was not to be. So, second time lucky?

About Kausani

Kausani is a hill resort in Uttarakhand, well known for its excellent views of the 350 km stretch of the Himalayas. Peaks like Nanda Devi, Trishul, and Panchachuli can be seen on a clear day and Mahatma Gandhi is reported to have called it the ‘Switzerland of India’.

Getting there

By Air: Pantnagar is the nearest airport.
By Rail: Kathgodam is the closest railhead.
Private taxies or Uttarakhand state transport buses will take you to Kausani from the airport or railway station mentioned above
By Road: Kausani is well connected to the major cities of India

Accommodation

There are several hotels and lodges – the price often dependent on the view and other amenities like availability of hot water in the room etc. You could choose from Krishna Mountview Mountain Resort, Suman Royal Resort, Himalayan Village Resort, Pine Havens, Pratiksha Himalayan Retreat, Kausani Best Inn and Blossom Hotel and Resort, among others.

Things to do

Must dos are Baijnath Temple and Bageshwar. You could visit the Anasakti Ashram or a tea garden nearby.  Rudradhari Falls and Cave and Someshwar, both of which are on the Kausani-Almora route, also make for an interesting trip.

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