The mountains have always fantasized me; so when I came to know about the Almora district I found my fantasies take a shape. Almora Uttarakhand is in the Kumaun division, which is where the headquarters of Uttarakhand are situated. Almora is acknowledged for the cultural heritage that it flaunts; the handicrafts the people create, the fauna that you will not be able to resist and the cuisine worth falling in love with.
During the old days, Almora was the centrally located throughout the reign of the Chand dynasty. It was founded by Kalyan Chand and was formerly called ‘Rajapur’ or ‘Rajpur’. Positioned on a mountain ridge, Almora has two sides; the eastern is called Talifat and the western is called Selifat. At the junction of the Talifat and Selifat, is a market around 2 kilometres long and beautifully covered by stones slabs. Almora city once housed several Indian and French dancers, who enriched the culture of Almora. The Almora dance academy, on the outskirts of Ranidhara, has view of Himalayas.
But the nature’s essence is not the only thing to gratify you. The Almora tourist spots are mainly religious spots where you can feel the presence of the divine powers blessing you. Almora tourism guarantees the complete satisfaction of your religious needs. Also known as the ‘Temple City’, Almora sightseeing includes temples like Nanda Devi temple, Jageshwar temple, Kasar Devi Temple, Chitai Temple, Katarmal Sun Temple, Shri Ram Shila temple, Patal Devi temple and Jhula Devi temple are a few among the temples at Almora.
Places to Visit in Almora
Nanda Devi is one of the most famous sites of Almora. The mountain is named after the Goddess Nanda Devi, the consort of Lord Shiva. Every year a pilgrimage known as the Nanda Devi Jat Yatra is organized and people pay a visit to the recognized Nanda Devi temples. The main part of the pilgrimage is the distance which the pilgrims cover on foot in a trial to imitate the goddess who had been to her house on a difficult journey which she completed on foot. During the pilgrimage, a three day fair is held and enjoyed by the people who visit the region during the pilgrimage duration.
Dedicated to Lord Shiva, Jageshwar temple is around 34 km from Almora. It consists of 125 temples, were constructed in the 7th century. It is surrounded by deodar trees and the Jat Ganga flows through the site of the temple. It is considered to be a part of the 12 jyotirlingas, and an Akhand Jyoti keeps burning. There are two lingas in the temple where Lord Shiva is worshipped as the Jageshwar. The two lingas represent Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati. Maha Mrityunjaya temple is the oldest and the largest temple among the various temples. It is a belief in the locals that meditating here purifies the soul and leads one on the path of self-realisation.
Kasar Devi temple is a temple devoted to Goddess Kali, with scenic beauty as a bonus package. In the Kasar temple region there are spots where Vivekananda meditated. To add to the beauty of the place is the sunset point. Once you are at the temple, it is mandatory that you see the sunset. The temple is considered to be approximately 2000 years old and is a major attraction for people who are admirers of mythology and nature. Although a steep climb up the hill, Kasar Devi temple is place from where you will not like to come back once you reach the place. The whole charming city of Almora will be a worth seeing site from the height of the temple. A little drive from the temple is a great picnic spot, Kalimath. So if you have a day to spare at a beautiful and appeasing place, Kasar Devi temple should be among the top ten of your list.
Another well-known temple of the Almora district is Chitai Golu Devta temple, or “Ghanti wala Mandir” (or the temple of bells) as named by the locals. This temple is dedicated to Lord Golu who is believed to be an incarnation of Lord Shiva and is worshipped as the God of justice and peace. The thousands of bells hanging in the temple is gratitude from the devotees who come from around the country asking for the fulfilment of their desires from Lord Golu. 10 km from Almora, Chitai temple would be the place you would want to go if you have some unsatisfied desires. Who knows? Your desires might get fulfilled, just like the desires of the people who used to write petitions to Lord Golu and used to receive a satisfactory reply.
Another spot a devotee of Shiva would be more than happy to visit is Gannath. It is made of natural caves and consists of small shrines of Lord Shiva. The caves give a natural look to the Shiva temples and it seems as if they were to house the Lord who had spent a majority of his life wandering from one place to another. Every year, during Karthik Purnima, a fair is organized here which is really famous among the natives and the children who reside there or who visit the place during that time.
Katarmal Temple, a distance of 17 km from Almora, is a famous Sun Temple and is considered to be the second most important sun temple after the Konark Sun Temple. It is eight hundred years old and has historical and archaeological importance.
Situateded 20 km from Almora, Lakhudiyar is another archaeologically important spot. Lakhudiyar, or one lakh caves, is a spot where one lakh natural caves are present. These caves formed a canvas for the artists in the old days; a number of wall paintings have been found on the walls of the caves. These are beautiful paintings that inform about the culture of the people who vivified their thoughts on the cave walls. The paintings seem to be a medium for the artists to preserve history as they beautifully painted the pictures of birds, animals and dancers.
Budden Memorial church is also a religious spot which forms a major tourist attraction. It is a Methodist church and bears a Clock Tower which was constructed as a dedication to Reverend Budden in 1897. He had preached in the Kumaun hill for about 40 years. The church is stone built and forms a major attraction of Almora Tourism.
Ranikhet is a hill station, approximately 1870 metres above sea-level. The best time to visit the hill station is from the month of March till the October. During the winter season the temperature falls at the minus level and snowfall is observed here, especially during the months of December, January and February. For the rest of the year, you can come here to enjoy the beauty of nature. Typically one can observe barking deer or Indian hare in the beautiful forests of pine, oak and deodar trees.
Another spot of attraction, with which people interested in history will fall in love, is the Govind Ballabh Pant Museum. The museum brags about the ownership of those letters which were sent to Ballabh Pant from Sardar Vallabh Bhai Patel. It also has those brochures that were created for the protest march held when Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru and Mahatma Gandhi were jailed.
Shri Murli Manohar Mandir and Shri Ram Shila Mandir are two temples dedicated to the two different incarnations of Lord Vishnu, Krishna and Rama respectively. These two temples have their own list of devotees. These temples are just as charming as the other temples in the ‘Temple Town’ of Uttarakhand. Another temple dedicated to Lord Vishnu is the Banari Devi temple. The temple has a statue of Lord Vishnu which is partially broken. The Lord is lying on Sheshnag, believed to be his vehicle. It is believed that people who pray here with all their heart have their wishes granted.
Almora Fort is a fort built on the Almora hill, during the reign of the Chand rulers. Almora fort is, lived under the rule of the Chand kings. The beauty of the fort is spell-binding and you will feel enchanted by the beautiful work of the designers who designed the fort.
Two kilometres from the Almora is the Bright End Spot. Here one can enjoy the beauty of the sunrise, sunset and moonrise from the hilly viewpoint. This place allows a purification of your senses as you let them free to merge with the beauty of the nature. It is also a place where tourists come for morning walks. Nearby is the Vivekananda Library and Vivekananda Memorial which is a must visit.
Other important places at Almora are Binsar Wildlife Sanctuary and the Deer park. The sanctuary provides the tourists with a closer insight of the life of the wild animals who are housed here. It provides a safe accommodation for the animals which have been declared endangered and vulnerable.
To top the list of the tourist places in Almora is Kumaon Regimental Centre Museum and Memorial. This museum stock the symbols of bravery of the soldiers who had sacrificed their lives for the country. The museum was constructed in 1978 and every year a parade is held in the memory of those brave soldiers who died fighting for the safety of their countrymen.
Almora is a place which has preserved its history and culture. Even in this century the folk lore of Almora sing about the magnanimity of Gangnath, mythologies of Haru-Sem, Golu, Ganwara and Anchari. The tales of Narsingh and Ghana and Purukh Pant are very famous here. Melodies can be heard, speaking the mystical stories of Panchchuli, Trishul and of course, Nanda Devi. The songs also introduce to us the beauty of the region; its lakes, rivers, fields and forests are echoed beautifully in the folk songs of the region. The handicrafts which have gained popularity here are the Pashmina shawls, woollen shawls, carpets, statues of wood, decorative candles and copper wares.
Almora has also been the bosom of many great people. Swami Vivekananda had spent some days in Almora and had expressed a desire to make an ashram here. He had been pacified by the quietness of the place and had felt his soul merge with that of the Lord. Govind Ballabh Pant, who was a freedom fighter and the first Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh, was an Almora born. Sumitranandan Pant, a noted poet of Hindi literature was born here too. Sir Ronald Ross, who had discovered an antidote for the malaria parasite, was also born here. Many other world famous artists had also spent their lives here, or were born in the beautiful hills of the Almora district. The mesmerizing beauty of the region, it seems has inspired many to achieve what they have desired and has beautified their soul through and through.
Making summer the perfect time to visit, with a pleasant temperature of between 12° to 30°C, Almora deserves to be in the list of your to be visited places if it has not been accommodated in the already visited list yet.