Kumaon is tens of thousands of square kilometres of mountain land, with Tibet to the north, Nepal to the east, Gahrwal to the west, and Uttar Pradesh to the south. Now divided into six districts of Almora, Bageshwar, Champawat, Nainital, Pithoragarh, and Udham Singh Nagar, Kumaon has its administrative headquarters in Nainital. The traditional Indian pilgrimage route to Kailash Manasarovar passes through Kumaon. The Jageshwar temple complex of over a hundred temples is in Kumaon (For an earlier blog post on Jageshwar, click here). Bageshwar, Mukteshwar, Paataal Bhuvaneshwar, are all in Kumaon…
So where are we headed to?
We are making our way to a place called Dwarahat in the district of Almora. One of my blog readers asked for a map… So here it is… The yellow block-arrows shows, roughly, the route we took…. We started from Kathgodam, and are headed to Dwarahat, and then on to a special place in Dunagiri (a.k.a Dronagiri)…
Right now, we are past Bhowali, and in the map above, we are somewhere in the lower part of the curved block-arrow and climbing upwards.
Leaving Kainchi behind, we drive on… The stream accompanies the road, and now broadens…. At a certain point, Tara, our driver, points out a rock to me, and says “Frog rock” in Hindi… Here it is…
Driving on, we weave our way through some very beautiful mountain terrain. How can one even begin to convey the allure of this landscape?
Pictures is best I can do, and so here are a few of them….
Click on the pictures, to get a bigger ‘see’….
Kosi river, says Tara….
Ranikhet is another thirty kms or so….
We pass through Ranikhet…. A propah old British military outpost… Large army dwellings, broad roads, pretty trees, an inviting club….
Somewhere along the mountain path, we sight some foxes, as they do us…
Thirty kms from Ranikhet lies our first destination of the day, Dwarahat…
Dwarahat is an ancient place of pilgrimage…Known as ‘Uttari Dwaraka” (The northern Dwaraka), the little town, Dwarahat was visited as a part of Teerth Yatra when pilgrims would go to Badrinath from Hardwar and come to Dwarahat on their return journey. Historically, one of the important seats of Katyuri dynasty of Kings (7th to 12th century AD), Dwarahat has a cluster of over fifty temples built during that period, and is considered Khajuraho of Kumaon. For a town that has a current population of around 2500 people, thats a lot of temples!
We are headed to Dwarahat, because we plan to stay at a special Ashrama there and then visit a special cave in the hills of Dunagiri. Which cave, you ask? Its the cave of Mahavatara Babaji…. Yes!
My introduction to the great sage Mahavatara Babaji was nearly thirty years ago, when I first read the book “Autobiography of a Yogi”, by Paramahamsa Yogananda. What a book! Babaji was the Parameshti guru of Swami Yogananda (Babaji -> Lahiri Mahasaya -> Swami Yukytagiri -> Swami Yogananda). Recently, I also happened to read the book “Purana Purusha – Yogiraj Sri Shama Churn Lahiree”, a biography of Lahiri Mahasaya, the great disciple of Babaji… And now, here we were, on the trail of the Masters!
Sometime around 11 am or so, we reached Dwarahat.
Driving past the market, a km or two further down, we came to the Asrama….
A kind notice at the gate welcomes us to this spiritual retreat…
Entrez? Shall we!
Next post : The trek to Mahavatara Babji’s cave…..