Binsar- A nature reserve clad in a forest of oak, pine, and rhododendron

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All good things are wild & free, just like Binsar. And this destination was my mom’s choice. Her newfound love for youtube led us to Binsar. A beautiful mountain nature reserve clad in a forest of oak, pine, and rhododendron. She wanted to immerse herself in the unspoiled countryside, but her main objective was to visit the Chitai temple to accomplish a vow. So we decided on a weekend trip.

Binsar- Mountain Trails, Oaks & Rhododendrons
Panorama view of Binsar

This time we took the rail route, as it’s convenient & economical. The first train from New Delhi to Kathgodham is at 06:15 am, the Kathgodam Shatabdi Express, which arrives at Kathgodam at 11.40 am. It is a comfortable rail journey for 5hrs 20min, and the same train departs from Kathgodam at 3.35 pm & arrives in New Delhi at 8.50 pm. On reaching Kathgodam, you can hire taxis readily available outside the station or hail the Uttrakhand state buses to your desired destination of the Kumaon region. We booked a cab as we had a stay in Binsar.

Binsar- Mountain Trails, Oaks & Rhododendrons
Drive towards the Chitai temple

The sky was an expanse of sapphire blue, dotted with feathery white clouds, as we drove along the curves of the mountains. The Chitai temple is 88.8 Km(approx) from Kathgodam; as we went along, the heaven-touching peaks loomed in the distance. The famous temple of Chitai is located in Bhawoli, 10km from Almora. It is also known as Golu Devata temple- the god of justice. Golu Devata is considered an incarnation of Gaur Bhairav-Lord Shiva, a legendary god of Kumaon & the eastern Garhwal region of Uttarkhand. The temple has many historical & favourite local stories since he is regarded as the dispenser of justice by devotees with extreme faith. Golu Devata has many temples in Kumaon; the most popular are Chitai, Champawat, Ghorakhal, and Chamrakhan.

Binsar- Mountain Trails, Oaks & Rhododendrons
Chitai- Temple of Golu Devta

Devotees perform a unique ritual at Chitai; they petition at the temple by handwritten letter or stamp paper to seek the desired decree in litigation. On accomplishing their wishes, the deity is shown gratitude by offering a bell, white Pagari, shawl & cloth. A thousand bells of every size can be seen hanging over the temple premises, with stacks of letters pinned to those bells. Since my mom’s vow was accomplished, we also offered bells and prayers to seek the deity’s blessing.

Binsar- Mountain Trails, Oaks & Rhododendrons
Thousands of bells in and around the temple.

By the time we completed our rituals, it was late afternoon. We had to reach Binsar before dark, as the forest check post does not allow entry after 5 pm. Also, you must carry proper identity proof and booking details for your stay. So we skipped lunch. Instead, I sipped a hot tea with samosa from the local food stall. Binsar is 24.7 Km (approx) from the Chitai temple, an hour’s drive. And the possibility of exploring this beautiful region could not be resisted.

Binsar- Mountain Trails, Oaks & Rhododendrons
Himalayan-ranges view from the hotel

So I booked the Binsar KMVN rest house, as nothing can beat its location. Though it looks a little outdated, that only adds to the charm. The service is impressive, and the views will lure you into tranquillity. We reached around 5 pm, & amidst the jungle stands the Govt rest house. The time stopped for a moment when I saw the snow-capped Himalayas from that place and the jungle ablaze with bright red rhododendron.

Binsar- Mountain Trails, Oaks & Rhododendrons
The KMVN hotel

Talking Binsar- is a scenic, sleepy, off-track hamlet nestled amidst the orchards, silver streams and green meadows. It is perched on Jhandi Dhar hills, at a height of 2420 m from sea level. Binsar offers an unparalleled 360-degree panoramic view of Himalayan peaks like Shivlig, Chauhamba, Trishul, Panchachuli & majestic Nanda Devi. Binsar is a trekker’s paradise, as you can trek in the salubrious air amidst misty mountain trails, towering Oaks and Rhododendrons.

Binsar- Mountain Trails, Oaks & Rhododendrons
Panchchuli peak

We were lucky to see the beautiful path of rhododendrons, the flowers glittering like the red rubies on the tall green trees, and some fallen fresh on the roadside. Religious books describe this flower as used by Gods/Goddesses; it is the state flower of Himachal and Nepal’s National. They are known as “LaliGuransh,” with multifaceted and multitasking abilities. The evening was at our leisure, so I took my coffee mug and walked to the backyard to relax & absorb the serene beauty.

Morning is a blessing in the hills.

The supply of electricity is limited in Binsar to prevent the exploitation and degradation of natural beauty. It comes only for 3 hours from 6–9 pm, so the rest house provides electricity through a generator until 10 pm, post that only candles are available for light. Apart from KMVN, you can opt for Binsar Forest Retreat, which is slightly expensive; however, other places can also be checked. The seclusion of Binsar is the area’s attraction, so restaurants are virtually non-existent, but roadside Dhabba comes in handy in such a location. However, you can get meals in various resorts in and around Binsar.

View of sunset

Binsar was the Chand Dynasty’s summer capital, which ruled over Kumaon from the 7th to the 18th century. Binsar translates to “Without a Head” for mythological warfare between the King of Binsar and Golu Devata. In the battle, Golu Devta was beheaded. Local beliefs state that the trunk fell at Gairad Dana Golu near Binsar National Park and his head at Kaparkahan near Binsar. And there are ancient temples of Golu Devata in both places.

Another New Day

Binsar offers a salubrious climate throughout the year, but a few months are unsuitable. In summer, a trek must be due to its pleasant weather temperature, which varies from 24-32 degrees, while winters are great for snowfall witnessing temperatures of 5-15 degrees. Visit Binar between March and October; however, during monsoon, the rains make the surroundings completely green with mist and clouds but suggest avoiding the monsoon. I will say light woollens during the summers, whereas heavy woollen should be carried during the winter.

Captivating Sunset view

The next day mom and I woke up early morning & headed to Zero points; it was a small trek of 2 Km from our hotel. The sun bloomed on the horizon, golden petals stretching on the snow-capped mountains. It’s mesmerising to see the sunrise as the sun paints the sky with its pinks. Then we headed back to the hotel for a steaming cup of tea.

Sunrise view from zero point

Before breakfast, I wanted to take peaceful and serene walks in the forest, enjoying nature’s unmatched beauty. Watching the sunlight filtering through the tall oaks and deodar trees creates a dramatic light-shaded view. And the blood-red flowers on the treetop peeping like a newly married hill bride, few fallen like a springy turf underfoot carpet. It is an ideal destination for writers, nature lovers, adventure lovers, bird-watching, and wildlife photographers. While walking down the quaint trails, we could hear birds chirping from every nook and corner.

Rhododendrons or the LaliGuransh.

Post Breakfast, we packed to go forth. Since we had a time constraint as we had to catch a train, we decided to visit Katarmal temple instead of the sanctuary. But I recommend a must-visit. It’s on my circuit board when I revisit Binar. The Binsar Wildlife Sanctuary was set up in 1988, is spread over an area of 45.59 km, and is the home of 200 bird species. Which sanctuary has been declared an ‘Important Bird Area by The BirdLife International. ‘ The entry ticket is Rs 40 per person and an additional Rs 10 for your vehicle. If you wish, visit the museum to get a detailed understanding of the species in the Binsar Sanctuary.

Walk in the part of Binsar Wildlife Sanctuary.

Instead, we saw the beautiful Binsar Mahadev Temple, built in the 9th century by King Kalyan Chand of the Chand Dynasty. Lord Shiva is the presiding deity in the temple, but the idols of Goddess Durga and Parvati are also placed inside the sanctum. The Himalayas at the backdrop and lush green surroundings make the temple most suitable for meditation.

Binsar- Mountain Trails, Oaks & Rhododendrons
Binsar-Mahadev Temple

We drove towards Katarmal Sun Temple – also known as Baro Aditya temple, situated 97 km from Binsar. It is an 800-year-old temple dedicated to Lord Surya, & the first rays of the sun fall straight on this Sun temple. This temple has unique architecture, artistically cut stone and metallic sculptures, and beautifully carved pillars and wooden doors. Also, the image of Surya in the temple dates back to the 12th century. After the 10th-century idol was stolen, the temple’s intricately carved doors and panels were transferred to the National Museum in Delhi. It is surrounded by 44 small, exquisitely carved temples, along with the Surya deity called Burhadita or Vraddhaditya.In the synagogue, idols of Shiva-Parvati and Lakshmi-Narayana are also found in this.

Binsar- Mountain Trails, Oaks & Rhododendrons
Katarmal-Sun Temple

Katarmalla, a Katyuri raja, in the 9th century built it. In the early mediaeval period, Kumaon was ruled by the Katyuri dynasty. We had to trek for 3 km crossing Hawalbagh and Matela near the Kosi river. Katarmal Temple is incomplete reason dates back to the Mahabharata. It’s said this magnificent Sun Temple was built in a single day as a hideout by the Pandavas, but due to some reason, they had to flee the temple, and the structure was left uncompleted. Katarmal temple of Almora, whose portion of the roof is half-finished, is assumed to be that temple. Even today, the partially complete top of the temple is visible. The temple is a hidden gem among the thick deodars of these Kumaon hills. I wanted to sit and breathe, but it was time for our train, so we headed back to the railway station.

Binsar- Mountain Trails, Oaks & Rhododendrons
A cluster of an incomplete temple at Katarmal

I found solace in the dense forest beneath the clouds, burning with ruby-red rhododendron. I took a gentle walk through the woods. I only wanted my spend the day getting glimpses of my soul as I overlooked the snow-capped mountains. But it was not enough. I wanted to stop & get absorbed.

How to reach Binsar from Delhi:

By Air: The nearest airport to Binsar/Chitai Temple is Pantnagar, 140 km from Binsar and 115 Km from Almora. You can hail a cab from Pantnagar Airport for Binsar/Chitai.

By Rail: The nearest railhead is Kathgodam, approximately 105 km from Binsar and 83 Km from Chitai temple. Kathgodam is well connected to major cities, and trains are frequent to Kathgodam as this is a gateway for the Kumaon region. Taxis/buses are readily available from the railway station for Binsar/Chitai.

By Road: Motorable roads connect Binsar/Chitai with major cities in Northern India. Buses to Almora & Kathgodam can be re from ISBT, Anand Vihar Delhi. Or you can drive to Binsar. Almora is well connected with NH87 & NH87E. Taxis are readily available from Almora for other Kumaon regions. The distance between Binsar from Gurgaon is 402.3 Km, & Chitai is at a distance of 386.3 Km.









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