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An enchanting path with stairs goes up the hill amidst the coniferous forest. While trekking, your eyes hold sight of the panoramic view of the Almora and Hawabagh Valley. And while you stop to catch a breath and look at a distance, you can see the majestic snow-clad Himalayas. Going up the stairs, you can finally spot the colourful and beautiful Kasar Devi temple. Sounds heavenly, right?
The Kasar Devi temple is located in the small village called Kasar Devi, which is named after the temple. It is near Almora in Uttarakhand. Although not that big, this village and temple is a popular spiritual and wellness destination. So let us delve more into Kasar Devi and its temple and learn why it is worth a visit.
The history and legend behind the Kasar Devi temple
Let us start with a brief history of the temple and the village. According to local history, the Kasar Devi temple was originally a cave temple built in the 2nd-century C.E. However, it was re-built in its recent form in 1948. The temple is quite colourful, with the pillars, walls, roofs and gate painted in orange, pink and red. The bright colours are a beautiful contrast to the greenery all around. And, two stone lions greet you at the entrance to the main temple. Nearby, there is also a temple of Lord Shiva which you can visit. Also, in November or December, during Karthik Poornima, the villagers hold the Kasar Devi Fair at the temple. So you can plan your visit accordingly if you want to witness the fair and the culture of the localites.
The temple is dedicated to an avatar of Goddess Durga, Kaushiki. According to mythology, the Goddess slew the demons Sumbha and Nisumbha at the hills of Kasar Devi. The main shrine of the Goddess is inside a cave, inside which is an everlasting flame or ‘Akhand Jyoti’. The ‘Havan Kund’ inside the temple burns daily for 24 hours!
Scientific Significance of the Kasar Devi temple
If you are into science, then this place should pique your interest. In the year 1958, NASA discovered that the earth is surrounded by two zones of high energy particles in the shape of a doughnut. The powerful geomagnetic field of the Earth captures these particles. The radiations in these zones are so harmful that it can kill you within minutes if you pass through them! These zones are called the Van Allen Belts.
Enough of the science talk. But the reason I told you all this is because the Kasar Devi Temple is one of the three places on Earth under the impact of the magnetic field responsible for holding the Van Allen Belts! The other two are located in Macchu Pichu in Peru and Stonehedge in England. Really interesting, isn’t it? Although the effect of the magnetic field is not known, some believe that the magnetic field gives an essence of peace and tranquillity to the people visiting the Kasar Devi temple, making it a popular meditation spot.
A Haven for Spirituality, Creativity and Inspiration
Although Kasar Devi is definitely very beautiful, at first glance it seems nothing out of the extraordinary. But interestingly, over the years, it has been a hub for great mystics, spiritual leaders, and artists.
Kasar Devi found prominence upon its mention in the diary of the great Swami Vivekananda. In the 1890s, Swamiji meditated on the hills near the temple and was mesmerised by the peaceful and serene ambience of the place. It was in the place of the Shiva temple near the Kasar Devi temple where Swami Vivekananda meditated.
Kasar Devi also attracted numerous other notable personalities including Guruji Rabindranath Tagore, dancer Zohra Sehgal, sitarist Ravi Shankar and dancer Uday Shankar. Many spiritual leaders, including Alfred Sorensen (also known as Sunyata Baba) and German philosopher Ernst Hoffman (later known as Lama Anagarika Govinda), also visited and stayed at Kasar Devi. Later, Govinda set up a Tibetan monastery and refugee centre here. D.H. Lawrence, an English novelist and poet, spent two summers here to get inspiration for his writings. Singers Bob Dylan, George Harrison from the Beatles, and singer-songwriter Cat Stevens came here in the 1970s. Even our first prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru vacationed at his sister’s estate in Binsar, which is very near to this place, and often visited Kasar Devi.
The reason I mentioned these visits is that there must be something alluring about this small place such that it has been able to attract such great personalities over the years. So you should also come here atleast once to experience the magic of this village and temple and immerse yourself in Kasar Devi’s rich history,breathtaking beauty and serene spirituality.
The Hippie Movement
Another interesting thing about Kasar Devi was the Hippie movement. In the 1960s and 1970s, the Hippie Movement lead various mystics, artists and wanderers to not settle and travel the world. And in their travels, Kasar Devi also became a popular spot for the Hippies. Among them was famous psychologist Timothy Leary. Leary was fired from Harvard University for promoting the use of psychedelic drugs. During his time here, Leary and his group tried out different things to achieve spirituality, including nudism and smoking Cannabis. It was because of this that the Kasar Devi region is also sometimes called Crank’s Ridge. Leary believed that the Kasar Devi had some form of special cosmic energy due to the magnetic field, which gives the place its healing powers.
Why should you visit Kasar Devi and the Kasar Devi temple?
Kasar Devi has something for everyone. Be it a religious person, a nature lover, backpackers, or people seeking some relaxing time, everyone will enjoy this place.
The Kasar Devi temple is a very holy place for the devotees of Goddess Durga. Disciples believe that the ash from the havan inside the temple can heal any ailment. There are also many other temples nearby which you can visit, including the Shiva temple I mentioned earlier.
Other than the temples, the presence of many prominent spiritual and creative personalities throughout history do pique the curiosity about the charm of this place. Even if the theories of cosmic energy are a myth, many believe that the place is filled with a positive vibe and relaxing experience. Hence this place can give you the much-needed peace of mind from the hustle and bustle of your busy life. You can trek up to the temple, walk around the beautiful hamlet, and indulge in some rejuvenating yoga and meditation.
In Kasar Devi village you will still get the Bohemian vibe with its single tarred roads, and cute and quirky cafes. You can walk around the local market and indulge in some local Kumaoni dishes. Do savour the local sweet ‘Baal Mithai’.
Also, if you are a fan of the mountains, then the view of the snow-capped Nanda Devi to the Panchachuli of the Himalayas is sure to melt your heart. Further, for nature lovers, you can visit the nearby Bindar Wildlife Sanctuary. There you can do bird watching and also spot other wild animals like wild boars and Himalayan Gorals.
So do not think much. If you have a few days to spare and want a relaxing retreat, do keep this place in your mind for your next trip.
Travelling tips: How to reach Kasar Devi and where to stay
If you are travelling via road, you can take a bus from ISBT, Kashmiri Gate in Delhi to Haldwani or Kathgodam in Uttarakhand. From Haldwani and Kathgodam you can get regular buses to Almora. From Almora, you can hire a private taxi or shared cab to Kasar Devi. You can also take trains from Delhi to Kathgodam or Haldwani railway station. The bus stand is nearby the station from where you can reach Almora. And by air, you can in the nearest airport which is in Pantnagar, and avail a bus or taxi to Almora.
As for accommodation, you will find many options for your sojourn at Kasar Devi. You can stay at the hostels like the HOTs Kasar Devi located 2 km from the temple. It will give you the perfect backpacker experience with the stunning view of the Himalayas, that too on a budget. You can also find cosy homestays and luxury hotels in and around the village.
All in all, Kasar Devi is unlike most other tourist places. It does not have many sight-seeing places you get everywhere else. But its charm is in its calm. Its aura is in the serene ambience while you trek up to the temple, or sit on the hill taking in the view of the Himalayas, or read a book from your balcony while sipping on hot coffee. It will help you disconnect from our materialistic world and bring out your creative juices. Or it will provide you with the peace of mind to introspect which you have always wanted. So for those who are yearning for a peaceful outing on a budget, then Kasar Devi is the place to go.