Mayabati - Shamlatal

#1 Oct 23rd, 2009, 12:49
Join Date:
Nov 2007
  • somnath biswas is offline
We had to scrap our annual tour in 1998 due to some personal problems and thus were rearing to go in 1999. After reading a book ‘ Tapobhoomi Mayabati’ by Sri Umaprosad Mukherjee, we decided to go there and started preparing from April 1999. The reason is very simple. One can’t go there without the prior permission from Ramkrishna Ashram (Advait Ashram). There are a limited number of guest rooms available. Ultimately we got the permission to stay in Mayabati and Shyamla Tal for two days each in the month of October 1999.

I came to know from Railway authorities that Amritsar Mail, which was supposed to depart from Howrah at 1930 hours, was delayed by 3 hours. Thus we left home at 2000 hours. The train started at 2230 and reached Mughalsarai within time. When we were counting hours to reach Lucknow, suddenly the train was halted at Pratapgarh. Later we came to know that at least 200 liters of Diesel had spilled between Banaras and Pratapgarh due to a leakage in the tank of the Engine. When asked, the station manager informed us that the train would start only when the engine would be changed at Banaras and it would take another 3 to 4 hours. Our plan was to reach Lucknow by 4.00 pm, and take the connecting train for Tanakpur at 9 pm. Even after 3 hours delayed departure we could have managed to get the train for Tanakpur – Naini Express. However with this mishap we were in deep trouble. When expressed our concern to the Station Manager, he advised us to take Kashi Biswanath express which reaches Lucknow at 8.30 pm. Our connecting train Naini Express was scheduled to depart from Lucknow at 9.10 pm. We took the train on S M’s advice and reached Lucknow at 9.00 pm. There were just 10 minutes left. We started running from one part of the station to another. Naini express starts from Meter gauge line and the station is quite a far from the main Junction. The train left as soon as we boarded the train.

Next morning we woke up with a pleasant surprise. The train was standing at a beautiful station called Pilbhit. The fact is, those bogies of the Naini express which have passengers going to Tanakpur are cut off at Pilbhit and attached to another train to be taken to the destination Station -.Tanakpur The stations we crossed between Pilbhit to Tanakpur were amazing. Passengers were getting on to cycle rickshaws from the platform which we have never witnessed before. Ultimately we reached Tanakpur at 9.00 am.

To our great surprise, Swamiji of Shymlatal had sent a jeep for us. My wife is a great devotee of Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa. With her membership reference of the Ramkrishna Mission we were allowed to stay at Shymlatal and Mayabati. It was a dream place covered with big mountains. We were given a nice cottage to stay in. The Ashram is not very luxurious but the warm welcome of the Swamijis and the ambiance of the Ashram made us feel at home.

Keeping our luggage at the cottage, we started roaming here and there in the Ashram. Food crops and vegetables were being grown by the Ashram committee, right from rice to pumpkins for their own usage. One young Swamiji helped us to identify the vegetables grown on the hill slopes. In the mean time I suddenly discovered that one Leech was stuck on my leg. It was bleeding profusely when I detached it from my leg . I was to some extent horrified by that incident. But Swamiji told me to rub some paper on it. I did so on his advice and the bleeding stopped almost immediately to my great surprise.

1500 meters above sea level Shyamla Tal is a beautiful natural lake at the bank of which is located Swami Vivekananda Ashram. The blue lake is spread over an area of about one and a half sq kilometer. This place has some ruins dating back to the days of early Chand rulers and others which were associated with the Pandavas.

Normally they prefer devotees and the disciples of Sri Ramakrishna to stay here. One can stay there free of cost. The Committee takes only donation, that too, voluntary donations

In the evening, we climbed onto a place called Bireswaranand Top. On the opposite side of the hill we saw two other lakes but due to darkness we did not venture to go near those lakes. The scenic beauty was awesome. Suddenly two women accompanying one man was passing by that side. They requested us to leave that place as it was full of wild animals. They were accompanying us till the main gate of the Ashram. That is the beauty of Himalayan people. At around 8 pm Swamiji called us for dinner. After taking dinner we saw dew drops falling from the roof top and it seemed as if it was raining. It was a life time experience for all of us.

Next morning Swamiji organized a Jeep for us to go to Mayabati Ashram. With tears in our eyes we left that place after breakfast.

En route Mayabati, we visited a place called Devidhura. There is a myth about that place. Devidhura temple is dedicated to Goddess Bhagwati. The famous hunter, Jim Corbett's tale 'Temple Tiger' is associated with the Devidhura temples. Once Jim Corbett went to kill a tiger at Devidhura. On his arrival at Devidhura the priest of the temple challenged Corbett that he won’t be able to kill the tiger at any cost. This tiger is under the protection of the Goddess. Corbett tried a number of times but failed on every occasion. We saw a big cave and an idol of a Tigress. It was being worshiped by the visitors. Devidhura is also famous for its Barahi temples. A very unusual fair, which attracts people from Kumoan, Nepal, and even other places, is held every year at the temple of Barahi Devi on Raksha Bandhan day. During this festival, known as Bagwal, two groups of dancing and singing people throw stones at each other, while they try to protect themselves with the help of large wooden shields. Devidhura is situated amidst tall deodar and oak trees surrounded by beautiful native flora and fauna. This is a wonderful place for trekking and being one with the mountains.

We reached Mayabati in the afternoon. On our arrival we were given a nice cottage to stay. The cottage is quite far from the main Ashram. The scenic beauty of the Ashram is mesmerizing. 22 km from Champawat and 9 km from Lohaghat, this ashram is situated at an altitude of 1940 meters. Mayabati shot into prominence after the Advait Ashram was established here. The ashram attracts spiritualists from India and abroad. Amid an old tea estate, is the Advait Ashram of Mayabati. During his third visit to Almora in 1898 Swami Vivekananda decided to shift the publication office of Prabuddh Barat from Madras to Mayabati, from where it is being published since then. The mighty Himalayas in their entire splendor enhance the peace and solitude of Mayabati . On request the Ashram provides board and lodging to visitors. There is also a library and a small museum at Mayabati.
In the ‘Goshala’ at Mayabati we saw at least 20 to 25 Jersey cows which is the milk supply line of the Ashram. In the evening we trekked a further 3 km up with the help of a guide. The panoramic view of the Himalaya from that spot was awesome. Swami Vivekananda used to sit here and the government has made a monument at that spot. The spot is a portrait of peace and solitude with the mighty stretching Himalaya across its background.
Next morning we started for Pancheswar by a car. It was not a very smooth journey because the condition of the road was pretty bad. There was no concrete road on our way to Pancheswar. Some times the dust blown by our car was so thick that the driver could not drive easily. However, the scenic beauty of the mountain helped us to ignore the somewhat unpleasant journey. The splendid natural beauty of the spot and the river (Kali River) flowing in between India and Nepal boarder was worth our hectic journey. On our return we stayed at Lohaghat KMVN for that night. In fact, we checked out in the early morning from the Ashram after donating something as per our means. Swamiji of the Ashram was happy that we had enjoyed the place and requested us to visit the site again.

Next day morning we met a person called Dhone Singh. Once Swami Gambhiranandaji went to Lohaghat and could not reach Mayabati Ashram from there as the path was fully covered by thick snow in the month of January. Then Dhone Singh had taken the responsibility to carry Swamiji on his shoulder. Later Dhone Singh became a disciple of Vivekananda Ashram and runs a small library at his home. We took one picture with Mr. Singh. After spending few moments with that great person we left for Almora, our next destination.
Last edited by theyyamdancer; Oct 26th, 2009 at 19:46.. Reason: Edited at Somnath's request and according to his instructions!
#2 Oct 24th, 2009, 20:23
Join Date:
Nov 2007
  • mousourik is offline
We also wanted to take a similar tour in March 2008. We went till Bareilly by Amritsar Mail, started for Lohaghat by a hired car. The road after Tanakpur KMVN went through a jungle, the road was bad in some stretches, but we really loved the jungle part. The feeling was so good - it was just at the foothills.

Our first break on that journey was the point wherefrom the Shyamlatal Road has started. We stopped at a roadside tea joint. The sky was blue - not pale blue, grey blue... it was blue. We loved it. We stayed at Lohaghat, as we didn't get any booking at Mayawati. Nest morning, we went to Mayawati, stayed for some time in Swamiji's room, went uphill towards the Goshala to look for any Swamiji so that we can take any meal there. After some time, we came back as there was nobody around.

We then went towards Pithoragarh, Munsyari and had plans to come back to Lohaghat for visiting Pancheshwar and then Shyamlatal, where we had booked KMVN. But illness forced us to come back through Almora-Nainital.

Very few Bengali tourists visit Panchshewar and Devidhura. We were not aware of the latter that time, but it's been on my radar for some time now.

Congrats that you made it - it's a less touristy route, but we liked it a lot. In fact, any region in the lap of the Himalayas has to be good.

Thanks for your write-up - you took us there again and revived the fond memory.

Wish we can again visit there before it becomes better known.
#3 Oct 26th, 2009, 15:40
It's all Greek to me, but Benglish will do
Join Date:
Dec 2005
over a 'wine-dark sea'
  • theyyamdancer is offline
This is a great trip report, Somnath, please continue...
"Blessed are they who see beautiful things in humble places where other people see nothing." ~ Camille Pissarro

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