Uttaranchal - the Holy Region
India's largest and most popular state is Uttarakhand, the holiest region of the Himalayas. Garhwal and Kumaon, have been named after the names of two famous and former mountain kingdoms. Garhwal consists of district of Pauri, Chamoli, Tehri, Dehradun and Uttar kashi and that of Kumaon, consists of Nainital, Almora, and Pithoragarh. Uttarakhand has some of the famous Indian hill stations like Mussorie and Nainital, but in India, it is most famous for the Dev Bhumi, land of Gods, in Garhwal.
The Dev Bhumi
Garhwal is believed to be the land where most ancient Hindu scriptures and the vedas. The vedas refer to the land of the 'SAPTSINDHU' - the seven rivers - as the home of vedic people, the Aryans. These seven rivers are the seven streams of Ganga or Ganges which flow through Garhwal. They are the Vishnu Ganga (Alaknanda), the Dhauli Ganga, the Nandakini, the Pinder, the Mandakini, the Bhagirathi and the Nayar.
The Ganga begins its long journey at the Gangotri glacier in Garhwal. According to the belief, the goddess Ganga was brought to earth as a result of performance of the sage Bhagirath. Lord Shiva received the full force of the great river in his matted locks so that Ganga would not fall directly upon earth and destroy it. The sage purified the ashes of 60,000 of his kinsmen in Ganga's waters and they found eternal rest. The sanctity of Dev Bhumi is not only due to Ganga. It also possesses the four mountain pilgrimage sites, the four dhams, visit to which are believed to ensure salvation. These are Vamunotri , the source of the river Yamuna or Jamuna; then Gangotri, the source of Ganga; then Kedarnath, the abode of Lord Shiva; and finally, Badrinath, the valley of Lord Vishnu.
Road to Dev Bhumi
Hrishikesh, 24 kilometer (15 miles) from Haridwar, is a town of ashrams and temples, overlooked by tree-covered hills. At Hrishikesh, you get a strong impression of the Ganga tumbling from the mountains. Here, Chandrabhaga river joins the river Ganga.
Temple of Hrishikesh
Hrishikesh is among the last railheads for Garhwal. Most trains terminate at Haridwar, from where Hrishikesh is 24 kilometers away and Mussoorie is 77 kilometers away. Tours are available from here to Yamunotri, 288 kilometers away, Gangotri, which is 258 kilometers away, Kedarnath at 228 kilometers, and Badrinath at 301 kilometers away.
Sights to see
In the southern part of the town are the bus and railway stations, and the tourist office, on railway station road. The northern , known as Muni-ki-reti is more attractive.
Muni-ki-reti at night
The best view of town and the river can be had walking across either of the two suspension bridges - the Ram Jhula and the older Lakshman Jhula. Many ashrams cater to foreigners who want to learn yoga and more about Hinduism. Then Divine life society founded by Swami Sivananda. Then there is Maharshi Mahesh yogi's Transcen dental meditation centre, which drew beatles to Hrishikesh in the 1960s. On the same side of the river, this ashram is a path leading up to the temple of Neelkanth Mahadev which is ar 11 kilometers from the town. Among other temples to visit are the Lakshman Temple, 3 kilometers from the center of town and the Rishikund and Raghunath temple where Lord Ram is said to have bathed.
To the four Dhams
North of Hrishikesh, the road rises steeply to Narendra Nagar at 1067 metres which is the raja of Tehri's own hill station and the site of his summer palace. His capital of Tehri is somewhat 83 kilometers long from Hrishikesh and guess what, only 770 metres above sea level. It is at the bottom of the valley which in summer is nearly as hot as the plains. The road then runs along the river valley to Dharsu which is atmost 120 kilometers away , from where another road branches off to Hanuman Chatti, which is at the distance of 13 kilometers from Yamunotri. for this, you need to do trekking to reach Hanuman Chatti. Then the main road continues to uttarkashi. It is a properous town in Bhagirathi. It too have many temples but that of Lord Vishwanath is the most propersous to visit.
Then the road from uttarkashi takes you right up to Gangotri temple. This temple is over 250 years old and was built by Gorkha commander, Aman singh thapa. The roads from Hrishikesh to Kedarnath and Badrinath runs past the picturesque Deoprayag. Here, Alkananda joins the Bhagirathi from Gangotri and the river from this point is known as Ganga. Then there also rises shikhara of Raghunath temple which was established by great Hindu philosopher, Shankaracharya. Some 35 odd kilometers further , leads to valley of Srinagar, the ancient capital of Garhwal which was rebuilt after the destruction of floods.
Nainital is divided into two parts : Tallital, at the lower of the lake and has a crowded bazaar and a bus station : Mallital, at the upper end of the lake, is the main centre of the town. The two are connected by the north mall running along one side of the lake and the soutn mall, the bridle path, along the other. Rowing boats will help you to migrate from Tallital to Mallital. If you like enjoying small boat sailing or want to have a small drink, then you should give a definite visit to boat house club, originally known as Nainital Yacht Club which was established in year 1890. This club offers temporary membership which entitles visitors to use a spacious lounge bar with its leather arm chairs, also have billiards room.
Boats on Nainital Lake
Nainital is in the bowl of mountains and to see the surrounding countryside, you have to climb to the rim of the bowl. The Uttaranchal state Astronomical observatory stands on Manora peak at the height of 1950 metres above sea level on a bridle path some four and half kilometers from Tallital bus stand. The observatory can be visited by prior appointment on certain days. You cannot or you are not allowed to visit observatory on any day on any time.
Corbett National Park
Corbett National Park is one of the finest tiger reserves in India. Also with tiger, there are other animals like elephants, leopards, crocodiles. The park covers 520 square kilometers of deciduous forest in the himalayan foot hills. It remains open from November to June each year. The main offices of the park are at Ramnagar and here, you have to confirm your reservation so that you can visit the park. for visitors travelling without the 'full bandobast' of car, cook, utensils of kitchen and food, the place to stay is the main settlement of Dhikala, 50 kilometers from Ramnagar.
Uttaranchal tourist offices in Nainital will help you out with reservation. You can also visit kaladhungi, a place where corbett spent much of his life, and see his house which has now been converted into a museum.
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