Shafiq R Khan

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Fair treat at the hilltops in Champawat

GETTING AWAY
there is a fair treat at the hilltops in Champawat.

This fair is held in the compound of the Varahi Devi temple at Devidhura on the day of Raksha Bandhan. Devidhura is situated at a trijunction of Almora, Pithoragarh and Nainital districts and the fair is well known for its enchanting folk songs and dances as also for its Bagwal. During the Bagwal the two groups (khams) of people


throw stones at each other while they try to protect themselves by using big roof like shields. Even watching the Bagwal is a truly thrilling experience. The Devidhura fair has maintained its old vigour.

As the temperature in the plains rising with the each passing day, it is time to take a break and visit the mountains and enjoy the mystic beauty of nature. Natural streams flowing from the mountaintop, through the narrow gaps amongst the boulders and gushing with force as they hit the plains are a scene to watch. And the wind carries the smell and sound of wild flowers, lush green trees, chirping of birds and the sounds of different animals to the visitor. If these don’t impress you, the imposing forts, gurdwaras and temples with their legends and the quaint fairs in Champawat district in Uttaranchal will definitely do.
The Meetha Reetha Sahib, situated at a distance of 72 km from Champawat in Uttaranchal, is only one such place in the area where one could hear and see the nature in full glory. It is said that Guru Nanak had visited the place and held spiritual discussion with Gorakhpanthi Jogis. The gurdwara was constructed in 1960 at the confluence of the Lodhiya and Ratiya rivers, near Deyuri village. There are trees of sweet reetha (Sapindus emarginatus) on the gurdwara premises. Adjoining it is the Temple of Dhernath. A fair is held at the Gurdwara on Vaishakhi Purnima. There are several pilgrimage sites in Champawat district. About eight-hours’ drive from Delhi, the district was once the capital of the Chand dynasty. Its natural beauty, glaciers, meandering streams and pilgrimage centres have been an attraction for decades.
The temples of Baleshwar and Nagnath in Champawat are examples of ancient architecture. Baleshwar is the most artistic temple of the district. There are evidences to prove that the group of temples dedicated to Baleshwar, Ratneshwar and Champawati Durga had been built by the early kings of the Chand dynasty. These temples once had intricate structural features and a sanctuary with a ‘mandap’. The intricate carvings, still visible on the ceilings of these temples, are a reflection of their ancient glory and artistic excellence. Gwal Devta, also known as Goril or Goll, is a deity who enjoys widespread faith and influence. He is considered to be the presiding deity of justice. It is believed that when approached, Gwal Devta dispenses justice to a helpless victim of injustice and cruelty.
Historically, Goril, a Katyuric prince of Champawat known for his unwavering justice and fair play, was himself a victim of planned conspiracy hatched up by his stepmother, who had him thrown into a river and locked up in an iron cage. Held in high esteem as a symbol of justice, a temple was constructed in his honour after his demise at Golchaurh in Champawat. Ever since, he has grown into a deity of great influence. The temples attract innumerable pilgrims round the year.
Devidhura, situated at about 45 km from Lohaghat, is famous for its Varahidevi temple where the traditional Bagwal (a fair in which stone-pelting between two groups is the highlight) is held once every year on the festival of Raksha Bandhan.
To the east of Champawat, a temple dedicated to Kranteshwar Mahadev is situated on the top of a lofty hill. It is also called Kurmapad and Kandev.
Another attraction is Mayawati Ashram, 22 km from Champawat and 9 km from Lohaghat. This ashram is situated at an altitude of 1940 metres. It shot into prominence after the Advaita Ashram was established here. The ashram attracts spiritualists from India and abroad.
Abbot Mount, situated 11 km away, is another spot remarkable for its scenic beauty and is famous for peaceful secluded holidays.
The fort, Vanasur-Ka-Kila, situated at an elevation of 1859 metres, holds the visitor in awe with its majestic beauty and the high altitude at which is has been constructed.
Apart from the majestic temples and forts, several fairs are held in the district attracting many. Purnagiri Fair is held on the top of a hill and on the right banks of the river Kali. A number of fairs take place here during Navratras, when devotees in a large number come from surrounding areas to have a darshan of and worship the Goddess Purnagiri. The fair starts from Vishuwat Sanskranti and continues for about 40 days.
Meanwhile, the Devidhura Fair at Varahidevi temple in Devidhura, situated at the border of Almora, Pithoragarh and Nainital districts, is held every year on the day of Raksha Bandhan. A unique feature of this fair is the image of Goddess Varahi, kept in a locked brass casket and taken out in a procession to a nearby mountain spring where a blindfolded priest ritually bathes the image and puts it back in the casket.
The Goddess is worshipped the whole night. The next morning, the exciting ‘Bagwaal’ fair takes place. The event is marked by two groups of people fighting a battle in front of the temple, throwing stones at each other, while they try to protect themselves by using big roof-like shields. Thousands of people gather to watch this event. The fighting stops soon after the priest appears. Both sides then meet and reconcile among themselves.
Champawat
Champawat, the ancient capital of the Chand rulers is well known for its temples and natural beauty. The historical town 76 kms from Pithoragarh has an ancient fort, which is now headquarters of the Tehsil office. The mythological legends suggest that Lord Vishnu appeared here as 'Kurma avatar' (the tortoise incarnation). The story of Golla Devta is also associated with Gorilla Chaur of Champawat. Jim Corbett, the famous hunter came to this region in the first decade of the 20th century to hunt for man eating tigers. His first book, "Man Eaters of Kumaon" is related to Champawat.
Champawat was declared as a separate district on 15 Dec. 1997 by then CM of UP Ms. Mayawati, then it was a part of UP. Earlier Champawat was only a Tehsil of Pithoragarh district.
Champawat once been the capital of the Chand Dynasty is a historical place of Kumaon. Besides its historical importance, its very famous for the beautiful architecture and carvings on the temples, Baleshwar Temple being one of them. Champawat is a beautiful town with breathtaking landscapes and terraced fields, which cover the valley. A river snakes past these landscapes and fields forming a beautiful picture. Champawat offers the tourists with virtually everything they expect from nature, ranging from pleasant climate to varied wildlife and good places to trek.
Champawat district nurtures many other places of historical, cultural and religious importance. Devidhura, Pancheshwar, Poornagiri, and Baleshwar temple are a few to name.
Champawat is well connected by road with other parts of Kumaon. Hotels and Dharamshalas are available for night stay at Champawat.
Champawat is well connected by road with other parts of Kumaon. Hotels and Dharamshalas are available for night stay at Champawat.
Champawat: Georgaphical Data
Area 5 sq. Kms
Altitude 1615 Metres
Language Kumaoni, Hindi
Temperature Max. 34.5 0C. Min 3 0C
Accessibility
Nearest Air port : Naini Saini (Pithoragarh), 75 kms. Nearest Railhead : Tanakpur, 75 Kms. Champawat is well connected with state highway.
Places to see in
Lohaghat is surrounded by destinations that come as sheer tourist’s delight. All these are a single day sojourn from Lohaghat. One could enjoy peace and serenity of Abbot Mount, 9 kms away at an altitude of 2000 m, dotted with British period bungalows. The place is amid thick Oak and Deodar forest. A stroll down the charming landscape of Champawat, or a spiritual journey to Devidhura and Meetha Reetha Sahib will give you memories of a lifetime.
Mayawati Ashram9 kms from Lohaghat, at an altitude of 1940 m this place hold importance in the spiritual journey of Swami Vivekananda. He cam here in 1898 with his European disciples to establish “Advaita Ashram”
Meetha Reetha SahibAt a distance of 62 kms from Lohaghat, Guru Nanak Dev visited this place and held spiritual discussion with Gorakh Panthi Yogis. A Sikh shrine is built here at the confluence of Ladhiya and Ratiya rivers.
Vanasur Ka Kila7 kms from Lohaghat by bus and 2kms walk at a height of 1859 m, this place is belived to be the capital of demon Vanasur, who was defeated by lord Krishna, in a face to face battle.
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