Saturday, 24 December 2011

Munsiyari – A Multifaceted Destination On Kumaon Hills

7th November 2011 
We left behind Binsar, to head north, towards Munsiyari. Our first halt was at Bageshwar, a busy temple town on the bank of confluence of rivers Saryu and Gomti. Both the rivers of shallow depth, does not give the place an aura similar to any one of the Panch Prayag in Garhwal. From river bank, view of cluster of colorful temples adjoining famous Bagnath temple looked good. 

Temple View at Bageshwar
We entered through the arched gate of Bagnath temple on which is written ‘Om Namoh Shivay’ and came to yet another Shiva temple of Uttarakhand. The compound houses many rooms, including an exhibition room of artifacts, a place where two people were engaged in beating of a large Dhol and a small Nagara shaped drum. A few pilgrims were busy with their rituals in presence of pujaris. After darshan inside temple and spending some time, we came out and did some looking round for our driver, who had a tough time parking the car in the busy market place. 

Bagnath Temple
We continued our road journey, our next halt being at Chaukori, a famous hill station of Kumaon. Since we did not have a night halt at this place, we entered the lovely KMVN complex to see the Panchchuli and other Himalayan peaks on a clear sunlit day. The KMVN consisted of a main building and many cottages with flower beds and lawns all around.

KMVN Chaukori
Driving ahead, we came to a picturesque Birthi Falls, which is a must see sight –seeing place at Kumaon. The huge mass of water cascading down the hill with a roaring sound was little far from road. We had to reach Munshiyari before the evening darkness set in. So, we had a few distant snap shots of waterfall and moved on; planning to spend about an hour on our return journey along the same route. In spite of best efforts of driver trying to negotiate the hilly terrain, at some places the track was a muddy stretch, we were getting late. Dusk approaching with 5 km distance yet to be covered to reach Munshiyari, we came to a clearing free of dense trees and had a beautiful view of Panchchuli Himalayan peaks bathed in flaming red hue. Although, we would be staying full day at Munshiyri, we did not take any chance and shot the video of Panchchuli at sunset.

Sunset View from Munsiyari
When we reached Munshiyari, it was getting dark.  As per our driver’s recommendation, we checked in at Hotel Pandey Lodge. Mr. Pandey, the proprietor, greeted us and gave us an ordinary double room for        Rs. 500/-, which was the best he could offer. “The better and pricey rooms are booked through the hotel website,” he said. His clientele are mostly the Bengali speaking Indians and the overseas tourists visiting Munsiyari. Mr. Pandey has picked up quite a bit of Bengali and keeps his presence in the hotel all the time. He claims to arrive in hotel in early morning and leaves by late evening. The presence of the proprietor in the hotel at most of the time, has a huge effect in service, which is the best I have seen anywhere in Uttarakhand.  

Hotel Pandey Lodge
For the first time after beginning my journey from Haldwani, I had a taste of genuine Bengali non- vegetarian food, a chicken curry as cooked in our home style. A vegetarian curry was prepared in mustard paste to go with the Bengali palate.

8th November 2011
In all the Himalayan destinations, my task in the morning was to don all my warm clothing, shivering in icy cold winds, to watch the sunrise view on the snow peaks. Munsiyari was no exception. There I was on a small terrace in the hotel, with my tripod and Handycam in place, for the glorious day to begin. Soon I could hear loud and excited Bengali voices. We had a mini-Kolkata, with gents, ladies and kids, excitedly discussing the spectacular sunrise views they have seen elsewhere. Some guy had precise knowledge on various Himalayan destinations from where the snow-peaks are seen at their best. After seeing the effect of sunset over Panchchuli peaks, we had great expectation of sunrise view in bright cloudless dawn. However, the rising sun trying to peep in from behind Panchchuli, it became obvious that we would not be able to see the golden glow on them. Instead, we had to be content with the sunrise spectacle  limited to some distant snow-peaks. Having a 60x optical zoom in my Sony Handycam, mounted on a tripod, came in handy to get a closer view and the footages were satisfying.
Sunrise View from Munsiyari
After a refreshing hot water bath, we took to the car for a few km of drive to the entrance of Nandadevi Temple. We passed through the arched gate and walked in a gentle slope up the gradient on a cement track, surrounded by tall trees in a forested area. After 10 minutes, we came to a flat land, unfolding a magic like visual with colorfully decorated Nandadevi temple, small cottages, cows grazing on bhugyal and glorious panorama of Panchchuli and other snow peaks. 

Nandadevi Temple
Some tourists were climbing on Watch Tower to have a better view of snow peaks. After a darshan at the temple, photo shooting to our hearts content, in this scenic place, we climbed the stairs of green painted steel Watch Tower to get another angle of 360 degree vision of landscape and bird’s view of the temple. 
Retreating from the Nandadevi Temple, we came across two villagers, carrying small nagara shaped drums. We requested them to play some Kumaoni beats. To our surprise they obliged. We paid them a small tip and drove a few kms to reach the Tribal Heritage Museum. The museum has a good collection of ancient artifacts, currency, coins, Himalayan Herbs, stones etc. The attendant demonstrated, how in ancient times people rubbed iron on flintstone to produce spark for getting the fire going. He also demonstrated a machine which was used to produce thread from cotton. We had a good look at number of books on Himalayas which were on sale. The visit completed, we had a good view of Himalayas from the Museum gate. 

Tribal Heritage Museum
We were on the way to Kalamuni Top at a distance of 15 km from Munsiyari. The Kalamuni Temple compound, consists of a courtyard, a few single storied structures, serving as dwelling for sadhu sants and the temple with Goddess Kali as presiding deity. As is common in all temples in Kumaon, here also a huge number of bells were found hanging at various locations, contributed by devotees to invoke Goddess Kali’s blessings. After darshan, we stood on the road; a few overseas tourists were chatting away at the dhaba and some shooting Himalayan peaks; however they refrained from entering the temple compound. 

Himalayan View from Kalamuni Top
Back to Munsiyari at the Hotel Pandey Lodge, we just relaxed in the evening, the clouds enveloping over the Himalayas, we were deprived of another photo shoot of sunset view. Thankfully, to my relief, yesterday I shot the spectacle on way to Musiyari. Tomorrow we proceed to Patal Bhuvaneshwar.

* Author now makes available the video shot by himself on sunrise view of Himalayas from Hotel Pandey Lodge, which is a spectacle. Readers can access the following link to view the same:  

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