Over the past few months of the lockdown, we’ve all had an existential moment or two. And it’s absolutely natural for stress to take over our mental and physical well-being.
We’ve been stressing about catching the dreadful virus, losing our jobs, and the unprecedented economic slowdown among other reasons. We have also not met our friends, family and colleagues for the longest time.
To make matters worse, there are those news reports about the rising death toll, and a speculated second wave. Now, that’s too much to handle for us mortal beings. We need to manage our stress more than ever and meditation is undoubtedly one of the best ways to keep calm and feel optimistic about everything.
When the talk comes around meditation, look no further than Uttarakhand’s Kasar Devi. Located in the Kumaon region at a kissing distance from Almora, the hill-top village has been a huge draw for mystics, artists, philosophers, free-thinkers and spiritual seekers. The village gets its name from the second-century Kasar Devi temple.
What makes the place what it is, is its positioning on the earth’s Van Allen Belt. Simply put, the region surrounding the Kasar Devi Temple has an enormous geomagnetic field, thanks to gaps in bands of radiation. As a result, Kasar Devi is endowed with a cosmic energy similar to that of UK’s Stonhenge and Peru’s Machu Pichu. There’s nothing quite like being one with yourself amidst a postcard-perfect landscape adorned with pines and deodars. Those who have meditated at Kasar Devi, including the writer of this piece, would vouch for the fact that it does reward you with a greater level of rejuvenation and inner healing.
Also known as Crank’s Ridge or the Hippie Hill, the area around the Kasar Devi Temple has always been a melting pot of art, spiritualism and poetry. Made popular by the likes of singer Bob Dyllan and actor Uma Thurman, Kasar Devi continues to host backpackers, who come here looking for answers to life’s challenging questions.
It was Swami Vivekananda, who first penned his meditative experiences in Kasar Devi in his diaries in 1890. Notable classical dancer Uday Shankar too practiced here with his troupe. Jawaharlal Nehru’s sister Vijaylaxmi Pandit also owned an estate here and the late prime minister spent many vacations in Kasar Devi. Other eminent personalities who have visited this hilly hamlet include writer DH Lawrence and his close friend American painter Earl Brewster, Beatles guitarist George Harrison, and singer Cat Stevens.
From the Kasar Devi Temple, it’s best you trek to the Crank’s Ridge near the Shri Sharada Math. It’s here that you will find yourself the perfect spot to just sit and let it all go. The point offers stunning panoramic views of Almora and the Hawabagh Valley, and a 360 degree view of the magnificent Himalayas.
Travelling to Kasar Devi not only transforms and heals you, but also gives you the wonderful opportunity to explore the wooded Binsar Wildlife Sanctuary, situated at a distance of 30km from here. Sprawling over an area of 46 sq km, the sanctuary provides great birding opportunities while the possibility of spotting denizens of the forest including Himalayan gorals and wild boars is always there.
The sanctuary is also home to a number of resorts and homestays, which are great for spending a quiet and cosy staycation with your loved ones. A number of quirky cafes have also sprung up in Kasar Devi over the years, where you can savour local Kumaoni delicacies, hear stories about the place from your warm hosts or swift through the pages of a nice coffee table book on the Himalayas. This makes Kasar Devi more than just a spiritual and wellness destination. In fact, it has everything that the backpacking traveller yearns for. It’s just the silences and the magnetic pull that make Kasar Devi absolutely special. You have to be there to believe it.
By Air: Pantnagar is the nearest airport.
By Rail: A Shatabdi runs daily from New Delhi to Kathgodam. You can hire a taxi to Kasar Devi from Kathgodam or take a shared cab to Almora, from where you can take another cab to Kasar Devi.
By Road: Kasardevi lies on the Almora-Bageshwar highway. If you are in the mood for adventure, you can also hike up to Kasar Devi from Almora.
Distance and route from Delhi: 395km;NH24 to Rampur; NH87 to Rudrapur; SH to Haldwani; NH87 to Ranibagh via Kathgodam; SH to Bhowali via Bhimtal; NH87 to Almora via Khairna and Suyalbari; district road to Kasar Devi via Binsar and Ayarpani.