Fateh Veer Singh Guram, Travel @ The Hush Post: Located in the Nainital district of Uttarakhand, Mukteshwar is a town which offers breathtaking, 180 degree views of snow capped peaks of the Himalayas. The town is famous for its 350 year old Shiv temple, and is also home to the summer campus of the Indian Veterinary Research Institute, which was initially built by the British in 1893. Robert Koch, a Nobel Prize winning scientist also visited this campus, and the instruments used by him have been kept in the museum being maintained here.
This sleepy town has been immortalised by Jim Corbett in his famous book ‘Man Eaters of Kumaon’, in which he has written a section about the tigers that once used to roam around the forests of Mukteshwar. Currently, there are no tigers in these forests, but a few incidents do take place when humans come face to face with the leopards which now live in the region.
Mukteshwar is situated at a height of 2,286 metres and is easily accessible by road. The town’s name is derived from two Sanskrit words, ‘Mukti’, which means eternal life and ‘Ishwar’, which means God. This is a reference to an ancient legend, according to which Lord Shiva fought with a demon, and the demon, upon losing, attained immortality. It is said that this town has been blessed by the Pandavas and many other Hindu gods.
Things to do:
Pray at the Methodist Church:
The walls and the tin roof of the church are well preserved, and the bell in the church was presented by someone named Barbara, on Christmas Day, in memory of her parents. The red coloured walls of the church can be seen from far away, and it is a short walk from the centre of the town. Open only between 3 to 4 pm on Sundays, the church is a quiet place and the views from the church are stunning.
Visit the highest point in Mukteshwar, at the Mukteshwar Temple:
The temple is situated atop the highest point of the town, and the temple is nearly 350 years old. It has a white marble shivling, with a copper yoni, and is surrounded by idols of Brahma, Vishnu, Parvati, Hanuman, Ganesh and Nandi, the sacred bull. This temple is one of the 18 main Shiv temples that have been mentioned in the Puranas.
The Mukteshwar Temple has been a place of worship for iron ore miners, known as the ‘Agaries’ since ancient times. They conducted important rituals and ceremonies here, and it is also believed that couples who long for a child should pray with mud lamps in their hand. Upon doing so, their wishes will be fulfilled and they will be blessed with a child.
The temple is located at a height of 2,312 metres.
Chauli ki Jaali:
A place where the rocks jut out from the hill face at a bizarre angle, Chauli ki Jaali is located right next to the Mukteshwar Temple. As per legend, a battle between a demon and a goddess took place here, and there are faint outlines of a sword, a shield and a trunk of an elephant which stand as testament to the battle.
Visit this place for a guaranteed adrenaline rush and some of the best views you will ever see.
Trek to the nearby villages of Sitla and Orakhan:
From Mukteshwar, a stone pathway descends to the villages of Orakhan and Sitla. The trek to these villages goes through dense forests, and there are patches where the views are mind blowing. An early morning trek is highly recommended, and watching the sun rise through dense trees is a sight to behold. After completing the nearly one hour descent, one can have hot maggi or omelette at the numerous dhabas that are located in these quaint villages.
In Orakhan, one can also visit the office of the Central Himalayan Rural Action Group, a local NGO that has done some pioneering work in the region of Kumaon. If you are lucky, the people there might give you a tour of their garden, where some splendid herbs and spices are grown. You can also visit their school (The CHIRAG School), which is a model school and is an important centre of education in the region.
Eat fresh fruits in the numerous orchards that are located around the town:
A walk around the region is a must, as the fresh Himalayan breeze will do wonders to your health and body. There are numerous orchards that are spread around the area, and offer the juiciest apples, apricots, plums and peaches. Ask the owners politely, and they will be more than happy to share the fruit of their labour with you.
Meditate at the Tapovan in Mukteshwar:
Mukteshwar is also the abode of a saint named Shri Mukteshwar Maharaj Ji, who used to live in the Top Cottage Temple, where his Samadhi is located now. Swami Sanshudhanand Ji, one of his disciples, stays there now. The entire temple complex is a Tapovan and is an ideal place where one can meditate.
Best Time to Visit:
Since Mukteshwar is located at a height of nearly 7, 500 feet, it experiences pleasant weather during the summers. However, full sleeves are recommended even in the summers, since the temperature dips in the evenings. In the mornings, the temperature rarely goes beyond 24 degrees.
In the winters, the month of January experiences snowfall, and it can become quite cold during this period. However, for those wishing to experience the Himalayan winter, Mukteshwar and its surrounding villages (Sitla and Orakhan) are an ideal place to visit.
How to Reach:
The nearest airport is at Pantnagar, which is located at a distance of 90 kilometres. The nearest railway station is at Kathgodam, which is located at a distance of 65 kilometres.
Nainital, the district headquarters, is located at a distance of 46 kilometres. Dehradun, which is the state capital, is located at a distance of nearly 287 kilometres.
Chandigarh and New Delhi are located at a distance of 474 kilometres and 287 kilometres, respectively.