Kumaon, Uttarakhand
Comments 53

A Short Visit to the Museum Of Almora; An Introduction to the Life and Struggle of Govind Ballabh Pant

Everything got decided last evening with the head priest of the Kasar Devi temple . I had to go to Almora City market to buy fruits, sweets, honey, Rudra beads and other things the next day for the Maha Shiva Ratri- The grand Night of Shiva.


Even though I wanted to make this city trip very short, an intention kept growing in me to visit something old. I started asking whomsoever I could If there is any museum in Almora? Or at least a gallery, any old building dedicated to the region, on rich history and crafts that this blessed state carried. But strangely I met no one who seemed to have any idea about it.


The Taxi guy wanted to extort 3x money from me for the tariff when I took a stern stance like I was one of the locals. He dropped me three Kilometres outside the city. I decided to walk. And while walking kept asking for a lift. One white scooty stopped. The rider introduced himself as a Lawyer. He had come back home after covid made living hard in the mainland cities. He had studied in Delhi University, and went nostalgic about those days within ten minutes of our ride. He was excited to learn when I asked him about the Museum and dropped me right in front of this old building on which Govind Ballabh Pant Public Museum was written.

Pandit Govind Ballabh Pant Public Museum
Entrance from the main road
A statue of Yaksha, 2nd Century

The Museum of Almora is located on Mall road in Almora City. It was built in 1980 to honour the noteworthy efforts of the great freedom fighter Pandit Govind Ballabh Pant in developing this special, almost unreachable Himalayan region then, Uttarakhand.

The Museum was empty. If I ignore one woman sitting, scrolling through her facebook on phone. There was no one and nothing but the fragrance of hanging dank wood welcomed me. A feeling which comes just before entering a wormhole. Or the back side of a cinema, closed long ago. As I put first few steps walking parallel to the blue wall looking at the old, outdated, never cared for large sized prints of venerable Temples and this city; nostalgia started to evoke silent, irrelevant screams out of those bare prints.

General view of Almora, circa 1880
Laxmi Narayan Temple
Almora market pathway

Of course, no one cares to see what this crumbling, outmoded looking museum has to say about the same streets outside which once were.

The museum had six rooms. Small rooms. Three on either side. And each room had a way to another room. As I asked the lady where can I start from, she put her phone down and lead me to the first room. She said, you can photograph this room :

Nanda Devi
Sri Yantra
A short passage on local folk art of Kumaon Region, Uttarakhand
Jyunti Patt, Mother Goddess

The first room was dedicated to the Goddess, and her various avatars. And other rooms had age old sculptures of Brahma and few of Shiva. But it it was Vishnu which people were praying to, crafting with so much adoration in this region that I was stunned looking at some of them which grabbed me by my eyes, for most were as old as 1st century A.D.

As rooms opened me to the world I had barely ever confronted, a unique collection of antiques belonging to the rulers of Katyuri and Chand dynasty emerged. The museum exhibited an impressive collection of Kumaoni style paintings called Aipan.

One could immerse in the splended and immersive art forms, textiles, crafts, miniature painting, woodworks, terracotta sculptures, coins, bronze items, musical instruments, ivory copper plates, manuscripts and things that i might be forgetting.

I wasn’t allowed to photograph any as the lady kept counting my steps. But the last room opened me to something more. Something which i myself had never cared to learn.

G.B Pant is a busy government hospital in the heart of Delhi. And I had never cared for where this name might have come from. Who was GB Pant? I never asked myself.

But right there as I entered that room. He became my centre or I became his, it could be a matter for later contemplation.

Govind Ballabh Pant was born on 10 September 1887 in Khoont village on the slopes of Shyahi Devi hill near Almora. He was brought up by his maternal grandfather, Badri Dutt Joshi, an important government official locally, who played a significant part in moulding his personality and political views.

Nehru with the tall GB Pant

Known as an extremely capable lawyer, Pant was appointed by the Congress party to initially represent Ramprasad BismillAshfaqulla Khan and other revolutionaries involved in the Kakori case in the mid 1920s. He participated in the protests against Simon Commission in 1928. Jawaharlal Nehru, in his autobiography, mentions how Pant stood by him during the protests and his large figure made him an easy target for the police. In those protests he sustained severe injuries which prevented him from straightening his back for the rest of his life.

Simon Commission March of 1928


In 1930, he was arrested and imprisoned for several weeks for organising a Salt March inspired by Gandhi’s earlier actions. During the Second World War, Pant acted as the tiebreaker between Gandhi’s faction, which advocated supporting the British Crown in their war effort, and Subhas Chandra Bose’s faction, which advocated taking advantage of the situation to expel the British Raj by all means necessary.

Also read: Knowing Gandhi and Learning from Mahatma and Knowing Gandhi

Gandhi, Patel and GB Pant
The Famous speech by Gandhi before Dandi March
Gandhi touching Salt at Arabian Sea coast near Surat


In 1940, Pant was arrested and imprisoned for helping organise the Satyagraha movement. In 1942 he was arrested again, this time for signing the Quit India resolution, and spent three years in Ahmednagar Fort along with other members of the Congress working committee until March 1945.

Pant took over as the Chief Minister of the United Provinces from 1937 to 1939.

In 1945, the British Labour government ordered new elections to the Provincial legislatures.[4] The Congress won a majority in the 1946 elections in the United Provinces and Pant was again the Premier, continuing even after India’s independence in 1947 till 1954.

Salt Tax march, Protestors at Dandi
Quit India Movement

His judicious reforms and stable governance in the Uttar Pradesh stabilised the economic condition of the most populous State of India.

Pant served as Union Home Minister from 1955 to 1961. Pant was appointed Minister of Home Affairs in the Union Cabinet on 10 January 1955 in New Delhi by Jawaharlal Nehru. As Home Minister, his chief achievement was the re-organisation of States along linguistic lines. He was also responsible for the establishment of Hindi as an official language of the central government and a few states.

During his tenure as the Home Minister, Pant was awarded the Bharat Ratna on 26 January 1957.

He suffered a severe Heart Attack in 1960 but somehow survived. Yet he could never fully recovered from the shock and died a year later at the age of 1973.

There were hundreds of his hand written letters to his friends and colleagues that kept my eyes intact as I found them curiously witty.

Also Read: Past and the Present Of the Tribal Cultures In Central India

Indira Gandhi with GB Pant


He was kind and very affectionate as I could make out from how he was received.

As rush had arrived back in my nerves to go back to Papersilly, I walked out. Saw the review register. And wrote under a small remark the most wonderful dedication I could come out with to any museum for making me quite rich that day.

The day looked bright and inspiring once again. Big clouds hovered above. I remembered the name of the Sweet Shop which was the oldest sweet shop in Almora. And people almost get in a queue is there is one to carry Himalayan favourite ‘Bal Mithai’ from it.


There were some. I hurriedly pressed myself to the shop. Bought it for myself. For the family I was staying with. And for my lord, Mahadev. On my way back sitting by the taxi’s window looking at the sky, at the Oak trees passing like moments do, I sought back recalling so much has to be sacrificed to attain what it is today. To have these mountains with us. They have all had their times and tales filled with sacrifices of men and women. Even numerous trees. I realised the sun had already started to turn old for today as the fourteenth night was waiting to arrive.

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Thank you.


If today is the first time you have arrived on The Road to Nara, you are heartily welcome ~ Namaste


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I will take this opportunity to introduce you to About me and importantly;

As a co-traveller, will take you through the Ten Lessons I learnt from several years on the roadbefore you coarse on youown Road to Nara.



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Image Courtesy : Various Sources on Internet. Write for Credit

53 Comments

  1. I can see on the first read that this is going to be a wonderful and fascinating essay, It needs at least one more read and careful inspection of the accompanying photos. I will be back later to comment on what looks like an unmissable treat.

    Joanna

    Liked by 2 people

  2. ‘The Taxi guy wanted to extort 3x money from me for the tariff when I took a stern stance like I was one of the locals. He dropped me three Kilometres outside the city. ‘ This right here had me in stitches and I could only relate to it too well.
    By the way, just a brilliant article. I’m gobsmacked.

    Like

    • Haha.. I think we travellers do come across people like that. Well I didnt mind the extra walk and to cherish that even after months today, i am happy that I stood my ground. Thanks for writing.

      Like

  3. Surendra Sharma says

    You are super writer narayan. You make a mundane day look like an important one.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Surendra Sharma says

    Mind you that is the mark of a talented writer!! All my wishes to you.

    Like

  5. Some very interesting history here. I am not familiar with the history of India other than Gandhi and the better known figures. So this was enlightening for me. Yes, for all of us, we are enjoying the benefits of things that we now take for granted and in the past others had to fight and sacrifice for.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Anne, yes. He wasn’t a towering personality like Gandhi or Nehru but was very well regarded nationally. Has many institutions named after him.
      Yes, its hair raising to even think what has gone in keeping what is now. As they say, nothing is for free. Thank you Anne.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. How wonderful that you happened by coincidence to meet the one person who knew where the museum was. I believe there are no coincidences, in fact. Just things that are meant to be. I am glad you had such a fulfilling experience. What a wonderful discovery.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Caro, absolutely wonderful that was, and even coming from the same city. I didn’t have to explain him anything. He knew. There are no coincidences for sure dear caro, everything is connected just like our breath. Constant. going. Thank you for your words.

      Like

  7. This essay illuminating the life of a great freedom fighter Govind Ballabh Pant is of great importance because not many people know the name of the inspirational man who devoted his life to freeing his country and later to creating modern India. Narayan’s talent is not only in the uniqueness of his writing ( Vishnu crafts that”grabbed me by my eyes”) but in discovering and writing fascinating essays about people we are glad to know through him. As Govind’s patriotic feelings were ignited after listening to a speech by Gopal Krishna Gokhale, our curiosity to know more, to learn more, and to extend our knowledge is awakened by reading Narayan’s eloquent works, one of many outstanding, previous essays. The political carrier of Govind Ballabh Pant, a highly educated lawyer, brought him to the attention of Mahatma Gandhi, and Jawaharlal Nehru, who invited him to join his government in New Delhi. Years before Govind spent fighting and suffering injuries that impacted the length of his life. We know from Narayan, what were Govind’s remarkable achievements as First Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh.

    I was so fascinated by the description of the Museum in Almora that I researched the art of
    Kumaoni-style paintings are called Aipan, which is a ritualistic folk art that commemorates auspicious occasions, and rituals performed during the death of a person. This art is known to
    offer protection against evil. The technic of painting is very unusual but this is not the place to describe it in detail, there are good pictures photographed during Narayan’s visit to the Museum, and let me just tell you that red mud and cooked rice are involved.

    The true effect of reading Narayan’s unique, heart, and soul-captivating writing is that we want to read more of his masterpieces, and wonder how long it will take for him to publish his much awaited book that I predict will bring him the highest literary achievement.

    Joanna

    Liked by 1 person

    • I am at most times out of words dear Joanna, of what can I write back as reply to you because saying thank you is a shame in this scenario and my affection towards you is way more than saying it in a word or even a short sentence.

      Your curiosity and your love for people, culture, animal and plant world has blessed you with many gifts rather many senses.

      It is amazing how you even the world works, but not everyone loves how you do.

      Thank you. You are most cherished.

      Like

  8. We like going to museums but unfortunately we missed this one. Thank you so much for three photos and for writing about Shri G B Pant. Every day we learn something. We love Bal mithai. We love to taste the local cuisine whenever we travel. They make our lives richer. Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Thank you for writing this blog, it brought back all my childhood memories of time spent in Almora during our summer vacations. Despite having roots in Almora, I never knew the prolific details of our culture and state that you mentioned.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. What a wonderful tribute and captivating writing Nara!
    Right off the bat I laughed and gave a thumbs up relating to this:

    “The Taxi guy wanted to extort 3x money from me for the tariff when I took a stern stance like I was one of the locals. He dropped me three Kilometres outside the city.”

    Nice job!

    And then to girl scrolling her phone to the smell of a wormhole in the museum. Too funny 😂!

    And this “Who was GB Pant? ”

    of course that’s what I thought.

    Loved this: “He became my centre or I became his”

    wonderful pics, history, rich with color sharing a man’s life that I would never have had the pleasure to meet, if not for you!

    He sounds like quite a guy and a rebel at heart, standing up to what he believed in like the author of this blog.

    Well done my friend.
    💖👏👏👏🙏🙏💖

    Like

  11. Thank you, Naryan, for the fascinating history lesson! As you know, the civil rights movement in the US was modeled after marches in India. How interesting to poke around in a forgotten museum, and remember someone who was a central part of the struggles. Of course, we remember Gandhi, but he did not work alone. 🙂 Lovely photos!

    Like

    • No Cheryl, i didn’t know that. About the civil rights movement were modelled after Independence marches in India.
      It was personally very uplifting for me. Thank you for sharing something important Cheryl.

      Like

  12. Michael Graeme says

    Thank you, Narayan, for another of your fascinating travels. The museum was hard to find and unpromising at first, but turned out to be a jewel of spirit and history. Always worth persevering with a quest when you feel the universe is pulling you in a certain direction.

    Like

    • Absolutely dear Michael. the museum was dipped with many artefacts and history of the region and one man you read about.

      But what you wrote here about going after the quest, I am feeling in some direction that I am not giving fully myself. So may be next few months I will start exploring and doing something about that.

      You are more than welcome Michael. As you know, Its my pleasure to have you.

      Liked by 1 person

  13. KK says

    This is a fascinating post, as always, but it’s more fascinating, because it talks of GB Pant, who was the first CM of my state. Pictures of historical importance are amazing.

    Like

    • Thank you Kaushal Ji. Yes I can sense your enthusiasm, reading anything about Almora, or Uttarakhand per say. And my research is very surfacial still of how I and we know there is about Devbhoomi’s any district.

      Liked by 1 person

  14. Pingback: 11/07 – 17/07/22 – James Webb Telescope, Human Intelligence & Museum of Almora | Observation Blogger

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