Sunday, June 9, 2024

Ranikhet and Dwarahat

I had been to Ranikhet multiple times, though had not explored it thoroughly. So I decided to visit it once again, along with Dwarahat and Babaji's cave.

I was accompanied by my son as well to give him a taste of travelling in Himalayan hills!

Though nearest railhead to Ranikhet is Kathgodam, but we alighted at Haldwani. As Haldwani is a bigger town so more buses/cabs are available from here.

Museum at Ranikhet cantonment

Though buses were available, we decided to take shared cab as buses were full and also takes more time.

The cab took a little more than three hours to reach Ranikhet, covering a distance of about 85 KMs from Haldwani.

On the way we passed through Kainchi Dham. In recent years this place has become very popular as many people have started coming to worship this abode of Baba Neem Karori. As in hills, road are narrow and not many options of parking is there, this rush has resulted in big queue of vehicles, as one approached Kainchi dham.

We didn't stop there, owing to rush, will plan in our next trip.

Reaching Ranikhet, we searched for an hotel and took a room in Hotel Alka, which is in main Market near Gandhi Chowk. This is good overall, and location is also good. Generally, I prefer to take hotel rooms near market, where I can roam in evening looking into local items to buy and also to enjoy local delicacies.

It took us almost 4 hours to reach Ranikhet from Haldwani.

Ranikhet is a hill station and cantonment town in Almora district. It is the home of the Kumaon Regiment (KRC).

Ranikhet, which means Queen's Meadow gets its name from a local legend, which states that it was here, that Raja Sudhardev, a Katyuri ruler, won the heart of his queen, Rani Padmini, who subsequently chose the area for her residence, giving it the name, Ranikhet.

In 1869, the British established the headquarters of the Kumaon Regiment. 

Ranikhet has an average elevation of 1,869 meters.

After taking bath and little rest, we decided to explore Ranikhet. It was noon time and we still had good amount of day available with us.

In front of our hotel, there was a taxi stand and we bargained with a Taxi owner. Idea was to visit most famous places Ranikhet on same day and then take a visit to Dwarahat, Dunagiri Temple and Mahaavtaar Babaji Cave on next day.

The Ranikhet area is home to several tourist places. First place that we visited was Golf Course. This is one of the highest golf courses of Asia and is situated at a distance of 5 KMs from Ranikhet. It is very beautiful and its surprising to have this at such an altitude. Surroundings are very beautiful too. We roamed there for some time and captured the moments in camera.

The forest behind Golf course was in flames. Every year, despite strict warnings from administration, some people burn the forest. This is very unfortunate and must be dealt with more stringent laws.

On way to Kalika Temple
Next we went to Kalika Temple.

This famous ancient temple is located around 1 km away from Golf Ground and 6 km away from the city. It is situated amidst beautiful natural view. Ma Kalika is the reigning deity. We ascended some 50+ steps to pray the Universal mother and get blessed.

Chaubatiya Garden

Next we went towards Chaubatiya Garden located about 10 KMs from Ranikhet town. It is famous for fruit plantations across several acres. It also has medicinal as well as many varieties of other plants. It has apple orchards as well as plantations of apricots, peaches, chestnuts and almonds. 

Flowering Apple tree at Chaubatiya Garden

We took a guide for a tour. He showed us many verities of trees and took us for a walk inside the dense plantations.

Returning back, we went to famous Jhula Devi temple, which is on the way to Chaubatiya Garden.

Shri Jhula Devi Temple

The Jhula Devi temple is situated at a distance of 7 KMs from the town of Ranikhet. The temple is dedicated to Mother Durga, who is believed to have protected the villagers from wild animals, leopards and tigers, that roamed in the dense jungles around the temple. The temple has numerous bells owing to the tradition of offering a bell to the goddess upon fulfilment of one's wishes. 

We visited the temple and got blessed with darshan of mother Goddess.

From there we returned back to Ranikhet, evening was approaching, and we decided to visit Rani Jheel.

Rani Jheel

The Rani Jheel, located near Nar Singh Stadium, is a small man-made lake. Surrounding area has been developed as a picnic spot where people can enjoy peaceful moments with family and friends. This lake is full of different verities of Fish and feeding them is a big attraction for kids. Some tourists also enjoy boat rides. 

Haida Khan Baba Temple

There was still some day light left so we decided to visit the famous Haidakhan baba temple.

Situated 4 km from Ranikhet at Chilianaula, the Haidakhan Temple, constructed by Haidakhan Babaji, is dedicated to Lord Shiva. 

Haida Khan Baba Temple

Haidakhan Babaji appeared near the village of Haidakhan in Nainital district and taught publicly from 1970 to 1984. His followers maintain that Haidakhan Babaji is a Mahavatar, a human manifestation of God. He left his mortal remains in 1984, at an early age.

Sri Haidakhan baba established this beautiful Ashram between 1970 and 1984 and many new buildings were erected in recent years. There are also guest houses and Sri Baba Research Hospital.

This is wonderful place to be. Aura of the place is very blissful. We went to the temple and paid our reverence to the Lord. One can meditate in the peaceful surroundings.

On a clear day the view of various great Himalayan peaks are clearly visible here. Early morning is best time for that.

Evening was approaching fast and we returned back to Ranikhet town. After some rest, again we roamed in town and then a good dinner and sound sleep.

Second day morning, we had plans to visit Shri Mahavatar Babaji cave, which is near Dwarahat town. Weather prediction was rain and in morning it was cloudy. But we stick to our plan.

Rhododendron Flower

As we crossed Ranikhet, it started raining, though as we reached Dwarahat, sky was clear. We continued towards Kukuchhina village, from where the trek of about 2 KM is there for the holy cave.

From Kukuchhina village, we took a guide. Actually, from Village, the cave is about 4 KMs away, but first two KMs road construction in progress and only Jeeps can go through that so only about 2 KMs we need to trek.

Holy Cave of Mahaavtar babaji

We took the route to trek and in about an hour we reached the holy cave.

The cave has been blessed with presence of mahavatar Babaji, we gave Deeksha to Lahiri Mahashay here. This incident is described in detail in the famous book "Autobiography of a Yogi" by Swami Yogananda.

Meditation Hall near Holy Cave

Cave is small, there was some rush and it was full. After waiting for some time, we got opportunity to go inside cave and sit there in blissful environment.

Yogada Satsang Society has a ashram at Dwarahat and they have established a meditation camp also near cave. Another Ashram also under construction on the way in between Kukuchhina and the holy Cave.

One trek from here further goes towards Pandukholi, a famous trek, where Pandavas are said to have spend sometime. There is another route to this trek, which directly goes from Kukuchhina itself.

I also wanted to visit Pandukholi, but put it for next time.....

Happy and feeling blessed, we returned back to Kukuchhina and took cab back.

Next destination for today was famous Dunagiri Temple, in between Dawarahat and Kukuchhina, about 15 KMs from Dwarahat and 5 KMs from Kukucuhina.

The temple is dedicated to Goddess Durga in the form of Goddess Vaishnavi Devi and is located on a small hillock. According to the legend, when Hanuman ji was carrying the rock laden with Sanjiwani booty to rescue Lord Lakshman injured in the battle with Indrajit, a piece of the hill fell here. This incident gave this place its name Doonagiri.

Shri Dunagiri Temple

The temple is popularly known as Mangalikhan among locals. The Temple is one of the two Vaishnavi Shakti Peeth in India other one being Vaishno Devi temple in Jammu Kashmir. 

Considered to be one of the powerful Shakti Peeth, the temple offers a panoramic view of the Gogas Valley. 

We took the flight of about 500 steps to reach the temple and paid our reverence in the holy feet of the mother.

Now it was time to start back. By afternoon, we were back to Dwarahat and decided to visit Yogada Satsang Society Ashram, established by Swami Yogananda. 

It is small but beautiful ashram. Krishna Temple inside it is a must visit.

Yogada Ashram at Dwarahat

Dwarahat is also known as Sanskritik Nagari (Cultural heritage) where many temples were constructed by Katyuri Kings in 7th to 11th Century.

There are many ancient temples scattered across this town. There are Kedarnath and a Badrinath temple there and also Maha Mrityunjay temple.

We visited Maha Mritunjay Temple and bowed to the Lord Almighty.

A couple of more temples, approach was not through main road, we just took some clicks from a distance.

Mankameshwar Temple at Ranikhet

Evening was approaching fast and we decided to take the road back to Ranikhet.

Ancient Temple at Dwarahat

Third day, evening, we had return train in evening so we had almost half day at Ranikhet. 

Morning, we went to The Mankameshwar Temple, constructed and maintained by the Kumaon regiment. It is located in the middle of the cantonment, not very far from Gandhi chowk. Opposite the temple is a Gurudwara. 

MritunjayTemple at Dwarahat

Next we visited the KRC Museum, maintained by the Kumaon Regiment of the Indian Army. It was also at walking distance from Gandhi Chowk. It has a collection of pictures and artifacts, mainly focusing on the contributions of the Regiment during the World wars, Sino-Indian War, Indo-Pakistani wars of 1965 & 1971, the Kargil war and Operation Pawan. It has on display the various weapons captured, flags of enemies captured by the army and a LTTE boat captured during Operation Pawan. The museum also showcases medals and uniforms of the soldiers.

Ancient Temple at Dwarahat

Now it was time to say goodbye to Ranikhet for now. It was still morning hours so we decided to take a halt at Nainital enroute to Kathgodam. As our train was at late evening so we had few hours with us to do so.

We took a cab till Bhowali and then a bus to Nainital.

Nainital was buzzing with tourists. We put our bags at cloak room near bus stand, and then took a walk towards Nainital Zoo.

I had been to Nainital multiple times, but it was first time exploring the Zoo here.

This Zoo is very beautifully constructed and has Tigers and Leopards. The view of Nainital on way to this zoo is also very beautiful. It is a must visit if you are in Nainital.

Naina Devi Temple

It was afternoon, when we returned back to Nainital town and took our lunch. 

Then we visited Naina Devi Temple.

Naina Devi Temple

And then a walk on Mall Road and it was time to take road to Kathgodam! 

We took a bus and reached Kathgodam well in time to take the train.

Morning, we reached home...sweet home...