Kumaon, Uttarakhand
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Life and Home in Almora; A Brief History of Travellers Seeking and Importance of Kasar Devi Temple

You might remember that sprightly taxi ride with the women of Almora on the first morning. And my meeting with the old man as I got down looking for a tea shop here :

Following Vivekananda and How one home found me in Almora

The way to the Cottage

The elderly man lead me on a short hike towards a visible forest. His walk had started to remind me something about Old age. Every step was whole. Slow but Complete. It was being kept with a mind behind. Each move had an expertise of someone many times hurt. He caressed some trees while passing by them. Bowed to examine some seedlings he might have planted. I soon learnt It was my prenomen who was leading me. His name was Narayan Singh. Even though he was the owner but it felt he was only. And he looked Quiet. Into the hike for more than five minutes and heaving when I realised that I only wanted to have tea. But I am climbing. Just when I got ready to declare this a trek, descent arrived, zig-zagging into a gorgeous personal valley of small huts.

Ayush Cottages
View from the above Hut

He stopped at a hut which was named ‘Radha’ and looked behind to inform me as a matter of fact. You won’t find such luxury huts in the jungle. These Cottages are only three easy kilometers before the main temple, he says. You are from Delhi. You are here because you need peace. Here is peace like You won’t find anywhere.

He commanded me. Go inside, See your room. I looked here and there.

Aur chai? And Tea? I asked.
Woh bhi milegi? You’ll get that too.

And he shouted from the terrace to the big Hut in the centre around 14 stairs and a Hill down.

My Hut ‘Radha’

How old are these cottages?
Not old at all. It was my son’s idea. He started building them a few years ago. He paused. But Corona… long pause. And he walked ahead.

I hadn’t planned coming here. And wanted to stay near the temple but this interesting old man, and soon his family, their story lured me into their world.

Old man’s daughter-in-law got tea for me soon. The Sun was out but the day was cold and my cosy bed was calling me for a stretch. Often overnight travel Stretches carry you to a certain slumberland. And It was a charming room where I was lead to. The bed’s calling and my sleep were meeting at crossroads. The room had a kitchen looking over the valley and even had a beautiful small old world chimney for winters. ‘Radha’, they called it.

But better were my hosts. Warming to say the least. As tea is not served alone, she sent alone a favourite; home made ‘Halwa’. As I ate with my eyes closed looking at the bed far i thought, who in this world can move on from people who have the strength to show you gratitude and Love. Not I.

I was staying.

Bed-living room with the chimney in the background
Kitchen with a view

The sleep that embraced me for three hours, left me floating in the symphony of absolute noiselessness. It was like soul refilling with ambrosian nectar liquor. Such tranquility that you start living the change when you wake up Kosher.

Around late afternoon, I thought of walking to pay my visit to the mother temple. And soon i started walking for the first time on the road looking up at the bright winter sky. Cactuses and enormous Aloe Vera plants were seen growing wildly on either side, eagles tarrying on trees. I carried my excitement in check as I walked towards the Ancient temple for the first time in my life as a goal for that day to find my cave.

I walked past seeing the spring slowly impregnating plants with flowers and fragrance, Shiva’s night- the darkest one arriving tomorrow seemed gifting me this, nature. I felt only happy to feel that this allowance came around this time.

Temple was three scenic kilometres away. On my left was Almora valley that I was seeing through a grand show of light and sound. Wide. Expansive. Like many valleys coming out of one. And on my right was a spectacle that Wizardry is made of. Peaks of Panch chuli, Trishul and the legendary Nanda Devi made this a Mount Cake walk. I kept looking on either sides. There was nothing to be left unseen. Some sights held me to stop, to just admire. And moving on only after sighing deeply.

But between beauty and man, came many a man-made urban café’s, look-a-like, mushrooming by the roadside, all inspired more by the memory ideals than what mountains teach us. Brick and cement houses have taken over the old wood and stone construction majorly. Big glass café’s and coffee houses, even Bars have come up trying to sell you everything from Bakery to Beer, handicrafts and even Ayurvedic herb shops which instead of making me want to explore; restricted me, pulled me away from entering, of course also out of my financial and aesthetic constraints. There were other restaurants and hotels but they were mostly rooms and roofs over another. All this display and feeling high walking-breathing memorising all those days when I wanted to come, when suddenly the temple door arrived, just like that. Standing alone with no pomp or show. A bird on the wire, shat. May be a good omen. I was at Kasar Devi.


There was no one when I arrived here. A lot of sun and apart from one monkey who cared less and continued his sunbathing. It was quiet and the premises carried deep layers of peace. It wasn’t an old looking temple. The walls of cement, beautifully painted, a perfectly laid out staircase and marbled seating made me feel that I was already late in life.

But this happening also had a history of yearning for years to come here. More so because I found rather she came to me in a book written by Swami Ji himself. And her blessings could be seen as I made it probably on the choicest of days there could be tomorrow. The day of Mahadeva Shiv, married the one on whose door I had come. I considered this nothing less or more than her grace. That I could find time and leave Delhi just at the right time.

The Life Around Kasar Devi Temple that Shaped the Quest towards Spiritual Awakening Amongst Mystics, Scientists, Writers and Hippie Wanderers

I went inside the sanctum Santorum where an elderly pandit was reading a scripture. I bowed. And sat quietly with my eyes closed at a corner. But opened them again and asked him for his attention. If he could inform me about the rich history of this place and when was it that the mother arrived here? Pandit Ji smiled for a change. His wrinkles spoke before he could, he closed and kept the book aside, removed his glasses and gave me a long hmmm.. so you want to know about the mother hmmm.. his bones creaked as he got up from his sitting posture, Come with me!


He limped. And took his time before saying anything. A monkey slept nearby on the rock. The wind blew giving bells a mild touch which kept playing the music in the background. Priest took his steps and started telling a tale of old, deep time:

“This place is older than the times, not exactly this temple. But this place. The way it came out to be. Older people knew of the importance of this place way before anybody did. They knew of the presence of nature’s energies. In our ancient literature, this exact place was mentioned as the place where Mother slew two demons, Shumbh and Nishumbh. It was this text, we call it Durga Saptashati, which Vivekanada had read and as soon as he learnt he came running to the mountains to meet with the mother here. As you might know he and his mentor Ramakrishna were her Param devotees. This temple is dedicated to Ma Parvati as Katyayani – A Durga Avatar.”

Kasar Devi was said to have become known first during the 1890s when Swami Vivekananda arrived here, he wandered around Almora and meditated at the temple for days. His experiences of this journey are well documented in his diaries. People like Rabindranath Tagore, first prime minister of India Jawaharlal Nehru and his sister Vijay Laxmi pandit who even owned an estate property here knew a lot before what NASA found out much later that the Earth under certain regions on earth is surrounded by two donut-shaped zones of high-energy particles held and captured by powerful magnetic areas known as the Van Allen belts. Simply put, the region surrounding the Kasar Devi Temple has an enormous geomagnetic field, endowed with a mystical cosmic energy that is found in only two other places on Earth apart from this temple. United Kingdom’s Stonehenge and my dream wish list trek, Peru’s Machu Pichu.

A view from Crank’s Ridge

As time passed this place saw many artists, scientists, poets like Bob Dylan and later Uma Thurman. Writers like Walter Evans Wantz, a pioneer in the study of Tibetan Buddhism who later translated the Tibetan Book of the Dead, stayed here for sometime. In the 1930s Danish mystic Sunyata Baba(Alfred Sorensen) came and lived here for over three decades. As did Ernst Hoffman, who became a famous Monk Angarika Govinda with Li Gautami. This led to a series of spiritual seekers from the west visiting them. In 1961 Govinda was visited by Beat Poets Allen Ginsberg, Peter Oriovsky and Gary Snyder. Here was a place that inspired the seekers to find clues of what they were seeking and the writers to further their search on the meaning of life. In the 1960’s and 70’s, the village became part of the Hippie trail attracting eminent personalities from the west like American singer and songwriter Bob Dylan, George Harrison, British singer Cat Stevens, and English writer D.H. Lawrence

English writer D.H. Lawrence (left) spent two summers at the home of American painter Earl Brewster; Italian writer Tiziano Terzani (right) spent years here meditating and writing in a tiny mountain hut. Photo Researchers/Science Source/Dinodia Photo Library (D.H. Lawrence)

Among them was the (in)famous American psychologist Timothy Leary who was fired from Harvard University for experimenting and advocating the use of psychedelic drugs like LSD. He, along with his followers, occupied a small ridge area near the village for conducting his eccentric research on spirituality, leading it to be named as ‘Hippie Hill’. The eccentricity was such that at one point, he streaked which led to another name of the same hill – Crank’s Ridge. Timothy Leary stayed here in the 1960s. Leary wrote majority of his ‘psychedelic prayers’ here.

In Later history, at the peak of the hippie movement, It became home to several bohemian artists, writers and western Tibetan Buddhists, and even visited by mystic-saint Anandmayi Ma. The ridge got its name amongst hippy circles, after American psychologist, Beatles guitarist George Harrison and Singer Cat Stevens, western Buddhist Robert Thurman came to Crank’s Ridge in the summer of 1971 to study under Lama Govinda. His daughter Hollywood actor Uma Thurman spent part of her childhood here. Other creative people who visited include Buddhist American Painter Earl Brewster. He lived at Snow View Estate where he was visited by his friend Writer D. H Lawrence.

Most interestingly, Snow View Estate is now a defunct Hotel, which I was unknowingly and nostalgically photographing while walking towards the Secret Simtola Hill Temple.

British citizens Krishna Prem and his disciple Madhava Ashish (left) founded the Mirtola ashram; Timothy Leary (right), Harvard psychologist and exponent of psychedelic drugs, was famous for streaking across Crank’s Ridge. Photos: Ullstein Bild//Contributor/Getty Images (Leary)


Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru vacationed in Binsar too, at his sister Vijaylaxmi Pandit’s khali estate. It is said that he used to ride on the horseback to the house of Rai Bahadur Harikishen Lal Shah Gangola, a philanthropist and trader from Almora, to play Badminton.

He lived here for over two years, kept visiting the temple and walking the alluring town of Almora. You can even see some names mentioned on the board outside the temple. By now, Pandit Ji and I had reached walking up to the Bhairon temple.

Out of nowhere, he asked me my name. Narayan, i said.
Aha ! Yourself is Narayan coming to Bhairon Baba. We are standing on the hill named Kashyapa, Pandit Ji continued. It was here, where Swami Ji meditated. Not everyone is allowed to go there. But there is another cave here, just behind mother’s abode, under that huge rock where you can sit quietly.

Before leaving I spoke briefly about Mahashivaratri preparations tomorrow. His face brimmed upon hearing this, he asked me if I am serious, and If It is true, I must get a few things from the market and come here around Sun Down.

The sun had started meeting with the stars.

I sat there that evening looking within. Praying, dwelling, levelling, filling in with anything and everything that surrounded me there.

As the orange red sky kept dressing my eyes. The night I was waiting for was arriving.


The Last Part of Kasar Devi Chapter ‘The Grand Night of Shiva’ will be published on Thursday 28.7.2022


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How to Reach – Where to Stay – Where to get the Bus From


From ISBT Anand Vihar,
Uttarakhand State bus at 2030

14 hour Bus Ride via Kotdwar-Nainital.

Get down at Almora Bazaar

Buses do not go towards Kasar Devi Road, You can either find a place in Almora if you want to explore the local market or walk ahead towards Bharat Petroleum Petrol Pump where you can find Taxis going towards Kasar Devi and beyond.

My humble Recommendation to Stay

Intuitively, I got down at a village called Papersilly. 3 Kilometres before Kasar Devi Temple. And met Raju’s father Narayan Singh He owns the most beautiful cottage huts known as The Ayush Cottage: The family went through a lot during Covid. And If you would like special recommendation/mention to stay at this place, please write to me at – nara@road-to-nara.com

Suggestion – Please stay here only if you love walking and can manage to ascend and descend enjoying the views, that these cottage presents. Home made food is lovely

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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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You might also like to know about My Little School Project. If you wish to come over for a visit someday, that you must, you will be heartily welcome here

If you would like to contribute to my travels, you can please do so here


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If you have anything to share, or feel like saying a hello, please feel free to write to me at nara@road-to-nara.com

To visit other long-term photographic works, please visit here.


To follow my walks through the rural Indian Subcontinent, find me at 
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This entry was posted in: Kumaon, Uttarakhand

by

Hi, I am Narayan Kaudinya. And i welcome you on this journey, the Road to Nara ! I am an Ethnographer and a practicing Indologist. I did my masters in History and further learnt Sanskrit, Yoga and Nerve-therapy. At 24, pushing most academic sounding, office sitting works away, i felt compelled to know and understand the world and my country, Bharat/India. I travelled, and as it happened i took up teaching in Kashmir and further up in the remote villages of Baltistan in the foothills of Karakoram Ranges. For around three years and many states later there came a time when i felt that it was only while teaching i learnt how to laugh, to see, feel, breathe, love and cry -with children, and mostly resource-less parents in the harshest-freezing border conditions. I write, and work as a documentary photographer and Filmmaker, with numerous published, exhibited and some awarded stories. In my travels and life i have let nature lead me, the divine mother, and as a Yogin, my resolve here is to share my experiences and thoughts as honestly, and through them to blossom in everyone the power and possibility in pursuing your breath, that you seek your true nature with courage and curiosity. Here, on this road i will share my spirit, my love for nature, the elements of life that are us. And in doing so, i'll be happy to see you along.

24 Comments

  1. Dear Narayan i love you bro. Birds always sht!. you give much. my heart flew into the photos.
    peace and love from your sis in oz. XO

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I love this part outside Almora. It has got quite built up in the last ten years, and there is more traffic on the road than before. But every time I visit Almora I stay around Kasara Devi. As you found, if you move fifty meters away from the road, there is a deep quietness. Last year when I went I was woken up every morning by the cheerful call of a Himalayan whistling thrush, and would fall into a nap in the afternoon to the call of barbets.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Today’s part of Narayan’s Indian odyssey is excellent on many points; as the readers know already
    the descriptive uniqueness of the words is here in breath-stopping glory – “The bed’s calling and my sleep were meeting at crossroads.” In his story about Almora, Narayan leaves nothing unsaid since he researched even the details not known to many readers. The discovery by NASA what it was that drew people for a very long time to a place that was special not only to mystics, like Swami Vivekananda, a genius, and poet, Rabindranath Tagore, the only Nobel Prize winner for Literature but to many writers, singers, and thinkers who felt the connection with Almora but is experienced in only three places on Earth: Kasar Devi Temple, Stonehenge in the UK, and Machu Pichu in Peru. What is this mystic connection with the universe? If you have skipped this, please go back and read it, as it is trilling and the news about seeing things we knew nothing about will expand your mind, one of the main reasons why reading Narayan’s works is so valuable and loved. It was interesting to meet Narayan Singh, the man who stopped to caress the trees while walking to the beautiful cottage to offer his guest, our Narayan, the tea and halva.
    All the stories are wonderfully illustrated by Narayan, a professional filmmaker, with his photos
    of the mountains, from the Himalayas, the temple, and its inside views, the profiles of the greats who once visited, the trees, the sky, and the only one I could not see properly, was the sleeping monkey.
    Once again, Narayan delighted and entertained us with his fascinating stories, and I predict that he is getting closer to the coveted place that was solely occupied by Tagore.
    Just keep on writing!

    Joanna

    Liked by 1 person

  4. KK says

    A very beautiful description of Kasar Devi temple and its surrounding region. What attracted me most was an enormous geomagnetic field that has a mystical cosmic energy. The text and pictures are superb, as always. Love the way you write your posts, Narayan ji. All the best!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Nayaran, my heart aches when I see such amazing beauty in the Creation that God has made, that so many do not know Him by Name. You are in my daily prayers to The God Who Is who calls Himself YHWH, I AM, and also goes by the name Yeshua or Jesus. I wish you joy on your journey.
    ❤️&🙏, c.a.

    Like

  6. Thank you for this beautiful piece with lovely photographs that bring it all to life. I had not heard of this temple or known the fact that Devi slayed the Shumbha and Nishumbha at this place. Makes one aware of how little the ordinary mortals of this sacred land know about its rich spiritual and cultural past.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Truly a beautiful spot Nara with amazing pictures. I love temples. So wonderful and as always your writing lifts my soul.
    Thank you!
    💖

    Like

  8. Absolutely beautiful pics. You do an awesome job capturing the scenery and adding content to each one. Your story flows. Very captivating place. May God bless all of your journeys. Thanks for sharing. God bless you. Have a wonderful week.

    Like

  9. You transport me to India and it’s rich history and spirituality. There is no place like it! What a beautiful pilgrimage you made. I was quite swept along by your description and photos. Thank you.
    Alison

    Like

  10. Michael Graeme says

    Thank you, Narayan. This was a fascinating read. Such a beautiful place, and your journey to it told with such affection. I can understand the attraction for “crazy” westerners, on their various spiritual journeys – thinking of Timothy Leary, who I don’t know much about, but quite a character by all accounts. And then the link to D H Lawrence, a writer I admire very much, and your account has prompted me to take a closer look at him.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Glad to know this Michael. This place and many more across the Himalayas were home to many a writers, painters, all kind of artists. Timothy was quite a character truly. There might be things you may found interesting Michael. Thank you for this affectionate comment.

      Liked by 1 person

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