Though I was not born and brought up in Kotdwara in Uttarakhand, my roots to my homeland were always nurtured due to my extended family residing here. I belong to the state of Uttarakhand which is known for its natural beauty. This state with 13 districts has innumerable places concealing spectacular beauty within. Some of them are famous and some not so.
The travel series- ‘From the Lap of Himalayas’, is about the places which I have had the pleasure to visit within this state. In future, it might extend to places beyond it but for now, let me take you to the place from where my first journey began…
Kotdwara In Uttarakhand
Kotdwara in Uttarakhand is a municipal town, geographically located in the foothills of Shivalik (the lower Himalayas). Many people who plan to visit Uttarakhand come across this small peaceful town on their way up the hills. Strategically located and connected with railways (to Delhi, Lucknow and Howrah) as well as roads makes Kotdwara an entry point to various hill stations and other famous places of Uttaranchal.
My relationship with Kotdwara has been since my childhood. It was the place where I had the first glimpse of the Himalayan range (the foot-hills of Himalaya to be precise).
What Does The Name Kotdwara Mean?
Some localities say that the name Kotdwar/Kotdwara came from the River Khoh(a seasonal river) which flows next to it. ‘It is the Gateway to River Khoh’, they say. Others debate that the word Kotdwar means Gateway to Garhwal.
Whatever be the reason, there is no denying the fact that Kotdwara became the Gateway of many of my journeys to other parts of Uttarakhand. But unlike the general perception, Kotdwar is not just a stop for refilling supplies for the journey ahead. It is a town with its own history and places to visit.
What Places To Visit In Kotdwara?
Kotdwara has many temples to visit and view-points to enjoy the natural and peaceful beauty of this place surrounded by hills. However, few landmarks which one can visit here are:-
Kotdwar Railway Station–
Though the railway station of Kotdwara in Uttarakhand is very small in size yet it is significant as it is one of the oldest Railway Station built in India under the British Rule. Constructed in the year 1890, this railway station was built to transport timber from the hills to plains.
On the outskirts of Kotdwara is Kanvashram. It is stated to be a place which is 5500 years old where sages like Vishwamitra and Kanva lived. The story states that Menaka was sent by Lord Indra to distract Sage Vishwamitra when he was meditating in this place. They left their daughter Shakuntla under the care of Sage Kanva in this very same place. Shakuntala married King Dushyanta and they had a son named Bharata. Legends say that he grew up to be a great king and few historians claim that it was after him that our country was named Bharat/ Bharatvarsha.
Kanvashram has been spoken about in many historical books. The famous book Abhigyan Shakuntalam by Kalidas also mentions this place vividly. But due to several invasions which happened in India, this place was lost in time. It was discovered only during the later part of British Rule when few hunters came around in search of wildlife. The famous hunter Jim Corbett is also said to have stayed in this place for a while.
The place is situated amidst natural beauty on the banks of River Malini. Many trekking trips also happen around this area. Kanvashram is very lively during the five-day celebration of Vasantotsav (Spring Festival).
Also, Read Ajanta Ellora
This can be considered as a landmark of Kotdwar. Siddhabali Temple is dedicated to Lord Hanuman. Anyone who comes to Kotdwara in Uttarakhand visits this temple situated on the banks of River Khoh. Within a span of years, the temple has become very popular among the devotees and every day thousands of people come to seek blessings of Lord Siddhabali here.
Initially, it was a small temple across the River Khoh on a cliff. They say that a sage who attained enlightenment from Lord Hanuman in this place built his idol here. Some others claim that there was a Muslim traveller passing by through the forest when he fainted out of exhaustion. In his dream, he was told to make this temple of Lord Hanuman here. There are many such other stories related to the origin of this temple.
Although being a small temple once, it has now transformed into a huge religious premise on the top of the cliff. The view from the top is breathtaking. Adding to the beauty is the fact that this temple is visited by all people from diverse religions. There is a ‘Bhandara’ (providing cook food for free to all who visit this temple) organised in the temple every day and it has been claimed that the all the dates till the year 2025 have already been booked. Such is the glory of Siddhabali Temple.
St Joseph’s Church–
A few kilometres away from the Kotdwara Bus Stand, off Kotdwara-Pauri Road, near the Government Hospital, stands another famous monument of Kotdwara – The St Joseph’s Church. It is known for its beautiful architecture, well-manicured garden and peaceful environment. People of all religions visit here to admire the beauty and peace around.
Apart from these famous places and various other temples, you will also find beautiful farmlands and orchards in and around Kotdwara as you move around.
Also, Read Ganpatipule
Where To Stay In Kotdwara?
You will find plenty of lodges and hotels to stay in Kotdwar. Since it is a small town, there are very few hotels which provide five-star facilities. Nevertheless, most of the hotels are neat and clean. Plenty of restaurants in the market area provide a good choice of food.
Kotdwara in Uttarakhand is a peaceful town. It has developed since few years but still retains its old charm. The time slows down here. People live a simple life fulfilling their basic needs. They are helpful and friendly in nature. All in all, staying here brings such a refreshing break to the busy life one lives.
As for me, Kotdwara is home.
Next post in this series will take you to a beautiful quiet hill station, near Kotdwara, which is slowly becoming popular – Lansdowne
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