- Uttarakhand's Encyclopedia /
In 1841 Pilgrim (Barron), while passing through Pithoragarh, wrote : ” The first view of Pithoragarh is striking, in one instant, when you reach the top of the pass (Chandak) which overlooks it, a wide valley bursts on the view, with the small neat military cantonment, fort and scattecyan villages, and meandering streams, which distribute fertility to thousands of well cultivated fields……. I was apprehensive, too, that the beauties of Nainital had exhausted the store, and found that I was never in my life more mistaken.” The Pithoragarh town is located at a height of 1645 meters above sea level.The district lies between 29.4° to 30.3° North latitude and 80° to 81° East longitude along the eastern and southern part of the central Himalayas with Indo-Tibbetan watershed divide in the north and the Kali river forming a continuous border with Nepal in the east. The Pithoragarh district is surrounded by the national boundaries of Almora, Champawat, Bageshwar and Chamoli districts and extends over an area of 7,217.7 sq. Kms.
After its conquest by the Rajwar of Ukko Bhartpal in the year 1364, Pithoragarh was for the whole of the remaining 14th century by the three generation of Pals and the kingdom extended from Pithoragarh to Askot. According to a tamrapatra dating back to 1420 the Pal dynasty was uprooted by the Brahm dynasty of Nepal but subsequently following the death of Gyan Chand in a conflict with Kshetra Pal, the Pal supre- macy was restored. It is believed that Bhartichand, an ancestor of Gyan Chand, had replaced bums, the ruler of Pithoragarh, after defeating them in 1445. In 16th century the chand dynasty again took control over Pithoragarh town and in 1790 built a new fort on the hill where the present Girls Inter College is situated. Subsequently after the British domination, Pithoragarh remained a Tehsil under Almora district until it was elevated as a district in the year 1960. Pithoragarh District having its entire northern and eastern boundaries being international, assumes a great strategic significance and, obviously, is a politically sensitive district along the northern frontier of India. Being the last district adjoining Tibbet, it has tremendous strategic importance as the passes of Lipulekh, Kungribingri, Lampia Dhura, Lawe Dhura, Belcha and Keo, open out to Tibbet. The breath taking beauty of Pithoragarh – Himalayas, wide expenses of grassy meadow, perennial streams roaring down the zig-zag course, a stupendous variety of flora and fauna, above all,pure nature yet unsullied, seem to beckon the beholder into their folds, into a charmed world of virgin beauty.
Places of Attraction
Chandaak : Situated 7 Kms away by bus through an uphill climb Chandaak constitutes the northern of Soar Valley.The famous temple of Mostamanu is 2 Km. from Chandaak. Chandaak offers a fascinating view of the Himalayan ranges and the sprawling Soar Valley. It is a potential hang gliding resort and the magnesite mining factory is located too here.
Mostamanu : Some six Km. by bus and then 2 Km. on foot to the north of Pithoragarh is situated the temple dedicated to Mosta God. The temple premises are a center of a big lively fair held in August – September every year.
Nakuleshwar Temple : This temple has its location at a place about two km. removed from the village Shiling which it self is about four Km away from Pithoragarh. The word Nakuleshwar is derived from a combination of two words : Nakul meaning Himalaya and Ishwar meaning God and hence, Shiva the Himalaya God. The architectural design of the main temple is splendid and appears to have been modeled on the stylistic pattern of Khajuraho. In all, there are some thirty eight stone images of Shiva-parwati, Uma-Vasudev, Nauvarga, Surya, Mahishasur mardini, Vaman, Kurma, Narsingh etc. many of which are broken and disfigured because of neglect and age.
Kamaksha Temple : To the north east of Pithoragarh at a distance of about 7 Kms near the army contonment base is situated the Kamaksha temple on the top of a hillock over looking the surrounding mountain ranges.
Kapileshwar Mahadev : In the Soar Valley right above the villages of Takaura and Takari overlooking Pithoragarh town, is situated the cave temple dedicated to Mahadeva. The legend goes that the great sage kapil meditated here. The passage through the cave is very long and branches out to several indeterminate destinations and has hence been closed. The temple is situated some ten meters deep inside the cave. There is another cave temple of this kind also dedicated to Mahadev at a place called Rai which is about half a Km to the north-east on Dharchula-Pithoragarh road.
Ulkadevi Temple : On Pithoragarh chandak motor road close to where the tourist rest house is situated stands the Ulkadevi temple besides which has also been built a memorial for the martyrs who laid down their lives in defense of the mother land. The temple offers a remarkable view of the sprawling Soar Valley.
How To Reach
One can reach Pithoragarh either by train (upto Tanakpur or Kathgodam) or directly by bus or taxis. Tanakpur is the last railway station from where one can travel by bus or taxi. The distance from Tanakpur to Pithoragarh is 151 Kms. From Delhi one can come via train up to Kathgodam, and from Kathgodam buses and shared taxis are available for Pithoragarh via Almora.The distance from Haldwani to Pithoragarh is about 210 kilometers. The approximate taxi rates from Haldwani to Pithoragarh are from Rs.160 to Rs.170 and from Tanakpur to Pithoragarh approximate taxi rates are from Rs. 100 to Rs. 120. These rates are only indicative and latest rates can be confirmed from Local Administration/ Taxi Stand in these areas
The whole district, within and from without is conveniently well connected by all weather motorable roads and is served by public and private sector transport companies like K.M.O.U. Ltd. The principal road links to the district from the railway terminals at Tanakpur and Kathgodam are Tanakpur-Pithoragarh and Haldwani-Pithoragarh mettled roads with buses, jeep and other light vehicles regularly in service everyday. There are yet a few remote areas of the district possessing the wild romantic beauty of their own which an adventurer would love to explore and feel. The difficult mountainous terrain of these areas would not permit traffic of any kind except the traditional modes of Yak, Horses, mules and sheep which carry people and head load in a manner which provides the pleasure of novelty to a city-bred.
Nearest railway terminals are :
Tanakpur in Champawat district connected with Pithoragarh by 151 Km long motor route via Champawat and Lohaghat. Kathgodam in Nainital district connected with Pithoragarh by 212 Kilometers long motor route via Bhowali, Almora, Daniya and Rameshwar.
Local airport situated at Naini Saini some 5 Km away from Pithoragarh town. The airstrip at Naini Saini at Pithoragarh is an answer to a long felt need in favour of easy accessibility to this district possessing remarkable tourism potential. Many adventures & expeditions to the distant locations of untrodden beauty did not materialize due to awe of the travel sickness associated with a long journey through serpentine hill roads. Nearest commencing airport is Pant Nagar in Udham Singh Nagar district.
Festivals/ Fairs & Mahotsav of Pithoragarh
The fairs of Pithoragarh are not only an expression of the religious,social and the cultural urges of the people but have also sustained the folk culture and have been central to the economic activities of the people. Jauljibi and Thal fairs are primarily trade fairs. During the navratri fair at the Mahakali temple at Gangolihat the devotees turn up in a very large number and thus these fairs are manifestly religious in nature.
The other famous fairs of the region are :
Mostamanu fair held in Aug. – Sept.
Kapileshwar fair held on Shivratri.
Krishna Janmastami fair held at
Kalapani and Gunji
Kanar Devi fair at Baram in GoriValley.
Honkra Devi fair at Birthi
Dhanlekh fair at Askot
Lacchar fair at a place Naini Patal.
The Nandadevi fair : The Nandadevi fair is held at Almora, Nainital, Kot (Dangoli) and also in the far flung villages of Johar ( like Milam and Martoli). In Johar, people come from far and wide to Danadhar, Suring, Milam and Martoli in order to worship the Goddess.
Chhipla Jaat : Chhiplakote is situated in the heart land of Kali and Gori rivers,south of Panchchuli mountains.The highest point of this mountain-Najurikund (4497m)- is the seat of Chhipla Kedar. The people of 15 – 20 villages of Dharchula and Gorikhal regions reach Kedardwe and Najurikote every third year on Bhado Purnmasi. The principal yatra starts from village Khela near Tawaghat. It goes through thick forests, rocky lands and Bugyals. People go there barefoot even in these days.The dhami burha or bonia (folk priest) finalizes the dates of the jaat (journey). With folk drums, bhankaras (metalic pipe instrument) and neja (the flag of red cloth pieces collected from all the families of the villages) the jaat goes to Barmano, which is 6 Km from Khela. On the second day the yatris go through a thick oak forest. After crossing Bunga,Garapani, Mangthil gwar, Ganbhujdhura (the blooming bugyal) comes Brahmkund (18 Km). Around 100 people can stay at the udiyar (cave) of Brahmkund. From this point one can have a glimpse of Chaudans region and the peaks of W. Nepal. On the third day the route is on the back of Najurikote, which is full of buggi grass and brahmkamals (Saussurea obvallata). At Kedardwe pond sacred dips are taken and the worship is performed.
Chaittol : In the village of Aath-gaon Shilling, Bin, Saatshiling, Chaunser etc., chaittol is celebrated on the Astami and Nawmi of Chaitra. On this occasion the deity Deval samet who in fact is a human medium possessed by the deity, is taken around in a dola (palanquin). The temples dedicated to this God are situated in Bin, Chensor, Kasni, Jakhni and Bharkatia villages. The fair in fact is an extension of a convention among the inhabitants of Kumaon, enjoining upon a brother to make to his sister on endowment, in the month of Chait every year, in cash or kind called Bhitola or Bhetna in local dialect. At the beginning and end of Chaittol the villages assemble, sing in chorus and join hands in rustic dance to the beat of the drums and hurka in gay abandon and the whole process of merry-making is called Khel in local dialect.
The whole paraphernalia of the chaittol includes Dola (palanquin), Chattra, nissan (Symbol), golden Janevo (holy thread) , morpankh (peacock feathers), tails of the chanwar gay (cow), silver Dhagula (bracelets), Chunni, traditional costumes including jhagula (frock) for dhami, the cover over the chatra and a length of rope. With the brush made of the tail of chanwar cow the deity exorcises evil spirits and the rope is used to raise and lower the dola when carried through the difficult mountainous terrains. The deity Deval samet, i.e. the possessed medium, is danced in the mode of Tandava Nritya in 22 villages.
Kandali : In the Chaudans region of Pithoragarh district, a flower – Kandali (Strobilenthes wallichii) – blooms once every 12 years (last in 1999 and next in 2011) and the people celebrate Kandali festival between the months of August and October. In the week long festival the local people – Shaukas or the Rangs – participate with gaiety enthusiasm in different villages of the region. Some stories are associated with this festival, associated with this festival, which express the marital tradition of the Shaukas. In the first story, it is said that by tasting the poisonous flower of the Kandali the only son of a widow died. In the second story, this flower is the symbol of famine and poverty. According to the third and most popular story, the region was once attacked while the menfolk were away for trade. The brave women repelled the enemy, who hide in the Kandali bushes, and they attacked the bushes and destroyed the enemy. The festival commemorates their bravery and the women therefore destroy the plant ceremonially to remind the local people of the incident and to prevent further mishaps. The festival begins with the worship of a Shiva Linga made of barley and buck wheat wheat flour mixture. Local liquor is traditionally used during this festival. Every household performs it in a decorated corner of the courtyard. People pray for prosperity. The individual pujas are followed by a community feast. Then, the women and men, in their traditional dresses and laden with gold and silver ornaments, assemble around a tree on the sacred ground of the village. Strips of white cloth are tied to the tree and a flag is raised. A procession is formed behind the flag. The women lead the procession, each armed with a ril (an implement used in compacting carpet on the loom) followed by children and men armed with swords and shields. As they sing and dance their music echoes in the valley. On approaching the blooms, war like tunes are played and war cries uttered and women attack the bushes with their rils. The menfolk then come to their aid, and the bushes are hacked with swords. They uproot the bushes and take them back as the spoils of the war. Festivity, dancing and music continue throughout the night.
Hilljatra : A festival of pastoralists and agriculturist hilljatra came to Pithoragarh valley from West Nepal and at once found fevour in Kumaour and Bajethi and in its modified form as Hiranchital at Kanalichina and Askot. It is associated with ropai (paddy transplantation) and allied agricultural activities of rainy season. In was introduced in Soar by the Chand king ‘Kuru’ and is, in fact, an elaborate masquerade under the open sky where in various pastoral and agricultural activities are represented. The folk legends based on the victory of traditional deities over the demon are enacted in a fantastic masquerade replete with the chiming of bells and hymns in the local dialects supported by loud instrumental music and the booming dhool nagara (drums).