Hilljatra, a famous festival of Pastoralists & Agriculturalists of Uttarakhand
Hilljatra is a traditional festival of Kumaon region of Uttarakhand, especially in Pithoragarh district. The Kumaon people who are associated with agriculture mainly celebrate Hilljarta festival. This festival is mainly associated with the farming of paddy and other related tasks of agriculture in monsoon. The origin of Hilljatra festival is believed to be West Nepal where it is celebrated with the name of Indra Jatra festival. It is believed that the King of Nepal was happy with the four brothers of Nepal who celebrated and presented Indra Jatra festival as a gift to the four brothers of Kumaon (Kunwar Sing Mahar, Chahaj Singh Mahar, Chanchal Singh Mahar and Jakh Singh Mahar). The four brothers of Kumaon were also received many other items in the Indra Jatra festival of Nepal. When these brothers came back to Pithoragarh district of Kumaon, they celebrated this festival with the name of Hilljatra including some modifications in Indra Jatra festival. From then the Kumaon people celebrate Hilljatra festival for the well being and prosperity of their close ones.
Celebration of Hilljatra Festival in Pithoragarh
Actually Hilljatra means the worship of “Plough” which is a very important tool used agriculture. This is one of the important festivals of Uttarakhand. Hilljatra festival is celebrated in Aantho (8th day of Bhaado) in Kumaon region of Uttarakhand. This festival is celebrated in three phases. In Phase I of Hilljatra festival, the traditional ritual will be followed which is the worship and sacrifice of goat.
In the Phase II of Hilljatra festival, drama will be performed including various pastoral & agricultural activities. In second phase of Hilljatra festival, the characters of the drama will be wearing the masks that look quite expressive and entertaining at the same time. The main attraction of the drama is Lakhia Bhoot (Lakhia Ghost). Lakhia Bhoot is the main character of Hilljatra festival. When he appears wearing back costume, skin painted in black color, wearing rudraksha and thick rope tied in his waist, everyone starts taking the blessings from him. Everyone worship Lakhia Bhoot for health and prosperity of their family, friends and village.
In the Phase III, the people celebrate Hilljatra festival with performing songs and dance. They perform Chanchari Dance which is the traditional folk dance of Uttarakhand. In this dance form, people perform dance in a circle. In this way, the celebrations of the festival go on and on late night with enthusiasm & energy.
How to reach Pithoragarh:
Pithoragarh is one of the famous places to visit in Uttarakahand. Pithoragarh has the beautiful locations that are capable enough to grab the attention of visitors not only from Uttarakhand but from other cities of India as well. As far as Hilljatra festival is concern, you can plan your travel either by air, train or by road.
- Travel to Pithoragarh by flight
Pantnagar airport is the nearest airport to Pithoragarh. Pantnagar airport is situated in the Nainital district of Uttarakhand which is approximately 241 kms. from Pithoragarh. Buses and cabs are easily available from Pantnagar airport for Pithoragarh district. You can choose any of these options as per your convenience and reach at your desired location in Pithoragarh.
- Travel to Pithoragarh by Train
Tanakpur is the nearest railway station to Pithoragarh. The distance between Tanakpur railway station and Pithoragarh is approx 138 kms. After reaching at Tanakpur, you can either hire a taxi for Pithoragarh or can get a bus to reach at your destination in Pithoragarh.
- Travel to Pithoragarh by road
Pithoragarh is easily accessible from major cities of Uttarakhand such as Nainital almost 218 kms, Badrinath almost 329 kms etc. and even from Delhi as well almost 475 kms. Travelling by road is one of the widely used means of transportation to reach at any destination in Pithoragarh. You can easily get cabs or buses to reach Pithoragarh district and take part in the Hilljatra festival to experience endless moments of joy.Read More
Patal Bhuvaneshwar is a phenomenal place that is located in the state of Uttarakhand. It is situated in the Pithorgarh district in the Kumaon region. The exposure of Patal Bhuvaneshwar (Lord Shiva in the underground temple complex) is one of this unique way to help mankind. Enshrined in mystery and mythology, Patal Bhuvaneshwar is the hidden pilgrimage centre, near Gangolihat the famous Shaktipeeth. Located 91 km from Pithoragarh on the way to Berinag, at an elevation of about 1350 m, this highly revered shrine is dedicated to Lord Shiva. 16 Km to the north-east of Gangolihat and 20 Km to the south of Berinag is situated the Patal Bhuvaneshwar cave temple. The temple place comes under village Bhuvneshwar which is in the tehsil Didihat. The subterranean shrine of Lord Shiva is situated with sprawling interiors. Limestone rock formations have created various spectacular stalactite and stalagmite figures. The way to the temple is through a narrow tunnel shaped cave, giving a very thrilling experience. The main passage way opens into several small caves which have in them the stone carvings of many traditional Gods & Goddesses and can evoke weird romantic fancies and images in the religiously inclined person. The cave temple of Patal Bhuvaneshwar is traditionally believed to be the abode of thirty three crore deities.
Patal Bhuvaneshwar is not just one cave, rather a cave city. Caves within caves, one leading to another, each one unmasking deep secrets from within.The motorable road ends half a kilometer away from the cave entrance. You’ve to descend nearly 100 steps into this narrow cave, to reach the sanctum sanctorum, which gives an overwhelming feeling that you’re entering the centre of the earth.Each stone, each stalagmite within each cave or doorway, in magnificent erection revels the story of Hindu pantheon in the shapes of Gods, Goddesses, saints and known mythological characters. According to a belief King Rituparna of the Sun dynasty (Surya Vansha) discovered the cave in ‘Treta Yuga’. It has been described in the ‘Manas Khand’ of ‘Skand Puran’. Adi Shankaracharya visited this cave in 1191 AD. That was the beginning of the modern pilgrimage history, at Patal Bhuvaneshwar. The journey inside the cave has to be carried in feeble lights, holding protective iron chains. The stone formations of ‘Sheshnag’ can be seen, holding earth, heaven the world beneath. ‘Havan’ (fire sacrifice) is performed in a dimly lit, solemn atmosphere, under the spell of holy chants. You’ll also be impressed by the huge stalactites, called ‘Jatas’ of Lord Shiva, located at different locations inside the cave. It’s believed that Pandavas, the ‘Mahabharata’ heroes proceeded towards their last journey in the Himalayas after meditating here, in front of Lord Shiva. The priest family, the Bhandaris have been performing religious rites at Patal Bhuvaneshwar since the time of the Adi Shankaracharya. More than 20 generations in the line, they are a treasure house of legends, lore, anecdotes and information about this holy place.
Legend of the Cave:
The first human to discover this cave was Raja Ritupurna who was a king in Surya Dynasty who was ruling Ayodhya during the Treta Yuga. The story starts with Ritupurna and King Nala. It is said that once, King Nala was defeated by his wife, Queen Damayanti.In order to escape his wife’s prison Nala requested Ritupurna to hide him. Ritupurna took him to the forests of the Himalayas and asked him to stay there. While going back home he was fascinated by a deer which ran into woods and went after it. He could not find it and took rest under a tree. He had a dream where the deer was asking Ritupurna not to chase him. His sleep broke and as he woke up and went to a cave where a guard was standing. After enquiring about the cave he was allowed to go inside. Right at the entrance, Ritupurna met Sheshnag who agreed to take him through the cave. It carried him on its hood. He saw the marvels of Gods taking place inside. He all the 33-Koti (33 type not crore) gods and goddesses including Lord Shiva himself. It is said that after his visit, the cave was closed for ages with a slight prediction in the Skandpurana that it will be reopened again in Kaliyuga. Shankarcharya in Kalyug, during his visit to Himalayas re-discovered this cave. Since then regular worship and offering are being done at this place.
According to belief King Rituparna of the Sun dynasty (Surya Vansha) discovered the cave in ‘Treta yug’. It has been described in the ‘MANAS KHAND’ of ‘SKAND PURAN’. Adi Shankaracharya visited this cave in 1191 AD. That was the beginning of the modern pilgrimage history, at Patal Bhuvaneshwar. The journey inside the cave has to be carried in feeble lights, holding protective iron chains. The Stone formations of Sheshnag can be seen, holding earth, heaven the world beneath. ‘Havan’ (fire sacrifice) is performed in a dimly lit, solemn atmosphere, under the spell of holy chants. You’ll also be impressed by theto visit these parts form the celestial heights of His abode in Kailash. The cave, it is believed, is connected by an underground route to Mount Kailash. it’s believed that Pandavas, the ‘Mahabharat’ heroes proceeded towards their last journey in the Himalayas after meditating here, in front of Lord Shiva.This hidden pilgrimage situated at 1,350 mts above sea level is mainly dedicated to Lord Shiva.Almost every god that you would have heard of resides in this mystifying cave. It is also believed that you can worship at Patal Bhuvaneshwar is equivalent to worshipping at Char Dham of Uttarakhand. The priest family, the Bhandaris are performing religious rites at Patal Bhuvaneshwar since the time of the Adi Shankaracharya. More than 20 generations in the line. They are a treasure house of legends, lore, anecdotes and information about this holy place. It is also believed that this cave is internally connected to the four abodes /seats (Char Dham).
Beyond Patal Bhuvaneshwar:
Gangolihat: 14 kms from Patal Bhubaneshwar, Gangolihat is rich in folk culture, music and religious traditions, and had been chosen by Shankaracharya for the installation of Mahakali Shaktipeeth.
Berinag & Chaukori: 27 km and 38 km respectively from Patal Bhubaneshwar, these places offer the breathtaking views of the Himalayan peaks Nanda Devi and Panchchuli.
Weather Conditions Patal Bhuvaneshwar:
Patal Bhuvaneshwar experiences a mild and pleasant climate through the year and one can visit the place at any point. The rainfall is quite extensive during the monsoon season and this might make travel difficult. The summers are very pleasant and the temperatures are rarely extreme. The winter season is also a popular time to visit and the conditions are refreshing. The summer season is from April to June and the temperatures range from a minimum of 19°C to a maximum of 36°C. The humidity is limited and the place is generally dry during this period. The hottest month of the year is May.
How to reach Patal Bhuvaneshwar Gangolihat Pithoragarh :
By Air: The nearest airport to Patal Bhuvaneshwar is Pantnagar Airport. Pantnagar Airport is situated 244kms from Patal Bhuvaneshwar. Taxis are easily available to Patal Bhuvaneshwar from Pantnagar Airport. Patal Bhuvaneshwar is well connected by motorable roads with major towns of Kumaon.
By Train: The nearest railhead to Patal Bhuvaneshwar is Tanakpur situated at a distance of 154kms. Taxis and buses are easily available from Tanakpur Railway Station to Patal Bhuvaneshwar, Gangolighat, and Lohaghat etc. Tanakpur is well connected with major destinations of India like Lucknow, Delhi, Agra and Kolkata. Trains are frequent to Tanakpur Railway Station.
By Road: Patal Bhuvaneshwar is well connected by motorable roads with major destinations of Uttarakhand state. Buses from ISBT Anand Vihar are available to Tanakpur, Champawat, Pithoragarh, Lohaghat and many other destinations from where you can easily hire a local cab or bus to reach Patal Bhuvaneshwar.
The Haat Kalika temple is located 13 kms from Pataal Bhuvaneshwar (one of many Limestone Underground Caves) on the way from Pataal Bhuvneshwar to Pithoragarh, in Gangolihat. ‘Haat Kalika Mandir‘ was chosen by Adi Guru Sankaracharya for installation of one of the Shakti Peethas in Uttarakhand and this Peetha is more than a thousand years old. The temple complex is beautiful, surrounded with lush green hills and forest and this place has cool, pleasant climate. It is believed that the idol of Goddess Kali was shifted here from West Bengal.
Goddess Mahakali is highly respected by Kumaon regiment, and Goddess Mahakali is worshiped and praised during difficult times and at the time of war because it is believed that she brings prosperity and divine luck to the regiment. One can find valiant stories of brave soldier inscribed on the walls in the temple complex. Indian army has build many gates dedicated to goddess Kali inside the temple.
Elevation from sea level:
It has an average elevation of 1,760 meters (5,773 feet)
Gangolihat is situated in a valley, due to which a lot of variation can be seen in the temperature, summers are relatively warm here and winters are very cold. During the winters high locations receive snowfall and the temperature drops down to 2 °C from 5 °C. Gangolihat district have extreme variation in temperature due to much altitude gradient. The temperature starts rising from mid March until mid June. Temperature can rise till 32 degree Celsius. The annual average rainfall the place gets is 36.7 cm.
How to reach Haat Kalika Mandir Gangolihat Pithoragarh
By Air: The fastest way to reach this holy place is by air because the nearest airport is just 76 km away in Pithoragarh city. The airport receives regular flights from Delhi and Dehradun. And taxis are easily available from the airport to reach Gangolihat.
By Train: To reach the temple, Haldwani (Kathgodam) will be the nearest railway station which is 196 km away, from there one can hire taxis available at the railway station, and a 7 hours journey will take you to this holy place.
By Road: If you love long drives and traveling from Gurgaon/Delhi, it is NH 24 that will take you to your destination and you will encounter Moradabad, Gajraula, Rampur and Rudrapur while your travel. Then your journey will go uphill from Haldwani/Kathgodam where you have to take the Bhimtal route, reach Almora after approx. 80 km from Haldwani (which is just under 400 km from Gurgaon/Delhi that is close to 11hours) You can stay there for a night. Next day take the Badechhina – Sheraghat route, 5 hours of drive from Almora,and you will reach Gangolihat.Read More
Pithoragarh is a beautiful hill town which lies in the heart of the western half of the Soar Valley in the Indian state of Uttarakhand, was carved out of the district of Almora in 1960. This appealing tourist destination resembles the Kashmir valley, which is on a miniature scale. This beautiful tourist destination is known for its scenic views of the snow-capped peaks of Panch Chulhi, Nanda Devi and Nanda.
Pithoragarh is within the Kumaon division of Uttarakhand state. The Tibet plateau is situated to the north and Nepal is to the east. The Kali River originates from Kalapaani and flows south, forming the eastern border with Nepal. The Hindu pilgrimage route for Mount Kailash-Lake Manasarovar passes through this district via Lipulekh Pass in the greater Himalayas.
At the 2011 census, the total population of the district was 485,993. The total literacy rate was 82.93 percent.
How to Reach Pithoragarh By Air :
The nearest airport to Pithoragarh city is Naini Saini airport, which is around 5 kilo meters away from the region. You can easily get taxis to the reach any destination in Pithoragarh from Naini Saini airport. The fare for the Dehradun-Pithoragarh, Delhi – Pithoragarh flight has been fixed at Rs 4,000.
How to Reach Pithoragarh By Rail :
The nearest Railway Station to Pithoragarh is located in Tanakpur. The total distance from Tanakpur Railway station to Pithoragarh is almost 138 kilometers. Travelers can easily get numbers of buses and taxis to reach the exact destination from outside the railway station. Tanakpur is well connected by railway networks with major destinations of India as trains to Tanakpur are frequent with major destinations of India.
How to Reach Pithoragarh By Road:
Haldwani and Tanakpur are two entry points for entering Pithoragarh by Buses. Pithoragarh is well connected by metallic roads with all major destinations of Uttarakhand. Buses from ISBT Anand Vihar, ISBT Dehradun, New Delhi are available to reach Pithoragarh.
The shortest distance between Dehradun and Pithoragarh is 538 kms(334 miles), you will need around 14 hours to travel Pithoragarh by Road. The shortest distance between Delhi and Pithoragarh is 513 kms (321 miles), you will need around 16 hours to travel Pithoragarh by Road.
Pithoragarh Road Distance
- Agra via Kasganj 492 Km
- Almora via Daniya 120 Km
- Bareilly via Tanakpur 251 Km
- Dehradun via Tanakpur 538 Km
- Delhi via Tanakpur 513 Km
- Gwaldam via Berinag 206 Km
- Haldwani via Almora 218 Km
- Moradabad via Khatima 329 Km
- Nainital via Almora 188 Km
- Pilibhit via Tanakpur 215 Km
Askote Wildlife Sanctuary which is also known as Askot Musk Deer Sanctuary was set up in 1986 with a prime objective to conserve the habitat of musk deer. The hill station got its name from ‘Assi Kot’ which also means a place with Eighty Forts as ‘Assi Kot’. The sanctuary is situated at an astonishing height of 1600 mt. above the sea level and spread across 300 sq. kms. The habitat comprises of innumerable species of fauna and flora.
Flora and Fauna
Flora: This sanctuary has a variety of herbs, shrubs, trees and climbers and a rich vegetation such as Teak, Grevelia, and Eucalyptus.
Fauna: Musk Spotted Deer,Leopard, Black Beer, Spotted Deer, Snow Cock, Kakar, Tahr, Chukoras, Pheasant , Sparrow and a number of other species of birds can easily be seen here.
Bestseason to visit Sanctuary
Other then monsoons you can visit this place any time of the year, in winters high peaks of Askot receive regular snow fall and they are remained covered in snow till March. Summers are also good time for wildlife enthusiasts to visit Musk Deer Sanctuary as this place is normally colder than other north Indian parts.
How you can reach this place
How to Reach Askot:-
By Air : The nearest airport is Naina Sani in Pithoragrah,which is 60 kms away. From the airport you can easily hire taxis to reach the sanctuary.
By Rail / Road : There are two routes through which you can reach Askot. The first is tanakpur-pithoragarh route. Tanakpur railway station is 200 kms away. Second is haldwani-almora route haldwani Railway Station is some 235 kms from the sanctuary.Read More