Udham Singh Nagar District
Udham Singh Nagar district is known as the gateway to Kumaon hills. It was a part of Naini Tal district before it gained identity as a separate district in October 1995. The district is named after the famous revolutionary leader Udham Singh who shot Michael O’ Dwyer in London to avenge the death of those killed in the Jallianwala Bagh Massacre on 13th April 1919. Michaeo O’ Dwyer was the Lt. Governor of Punjab those days and Udham Singh held him responsible for this massacre. He shot him on 13th March 1940 after 21 years of the Jallianwala Bagh tragedy. Udham Singh was hanged to death on 31st July 1940.
Tourism. In the district there are only two known tourist townships, Kashipur and Nanak Matta, which are famous for religious tourism.
Kashipur in ancient times was known as Ujanak; the great Chinese pilgrim Hiuen Tsang visited this place in the 7th century AD and has mentioned it as Govisana in his memoirs. The ruins of the ancient township and a fort can still be seen near the present city and is a great tourist attraction. The Kashipur of today was established during the medieval period by Kashi Nath Adhikari, one of the governor’s of the illustrious Chand dynasty, which ruled Kumaon. The other two important townships of Udham Singh Nagar were also established by the Chand rulers. Bazpur by Raja Baz Bahadur Chand and Rudrapur, the district head quarter of Udham Singh Nagar district by Raja Rudra Chand. Kashipur attracts tourists and pilgrims through the year.
Chamunda Devi located on the shore of Giri Tal was famous for migratory birds at one time, is now a great centre of religious pilgrimage. According to tradition the Pandavas sojourned here during the period of ‘Agyatvaas’ or the period of anonymity. The temple is a Shakti Peeth, i.e. the Centre of Cosmic Power of the Shakti Cult and its environs were the training academy of the legendary Pandavas and Kauravas. Some relics of the old temple can still be seen. The Chand dynasty developed this temple as a sacred grove during the medieval period and planted five different species of trees, ‘Pilkhan’, ‘Aam’, ‘Goolar’, ‘Barh’ and ‘Peepul’. The concept of ‘Panch Pallav’ or planting these five species of trees is still in vogue.
The Goddess is propitiated here as Chandi Mata or Ranchandi. She is the goddess of power and another form of Durga. The mother Goddess has big eyes; she is attired in red and green and is adorned with garlands of flowers. She is also revered as the fearsome aspect of the Divine Mother and of the seven Matrikas or Mother Goddesses. She is one of the chief ‘Yoginis’ or Tantric Goddesses, who are attendants of the Warrior Goddess, Durga. The name Chamunda is a combination of Chanda and Munda, the two monsters whom she killed. They were generals of the demon kings, Shumbha and Nishumbha. Chanda and Munda had undertaken penance for several years to please Lord Brahma. He was moved by their devotion and blessed them with the boon that they would rule the world. Consequently the planet was plunged into a state of chaos. The demons with their newly acquired power could not maintain their mental proportions. They became very greedy and attempted to conquer heaven and to take over the abodes of Brahma, Vishnu and Mahesh. The three Gods then went to the refuge of Goddess Parvati, who took the form of Chandi and killed them.
Bal Sundari temple of Chaiti
Bal Sundari temple of Chaiti is a renowned pilgrimage centre of Northern India. The temple is very ancient and was constructed during Aurangzeb’s reign by Gaja Din and Bandi. It is believed that the two while returning from the pilgrimage of Kailash Mansarovar sojourned here and witnessed a divine light emanating from the sanctum sanctorum of the present shrine. They decided to build a temple here and their dream was realized with the help of the Chand rulers. The temple is a ‘Shakti Peeth’ and it is said that the right arm of Sati fell here and its imprint can still be seen in the sanctum sanctorum of the temple. In almost mid of March every year a great festival is held in the temple for fifteen days and devotees from all over the country throng the place. The shrine is a spiritual marvel where nature smiles, butterflies dance, birds dive and the mild breeze whispers. Here one starts contemplating the true meaning of life and the idyllic clouds floating atop tell you that you are the chosen spectator here and the blessed one to witness the glorious rainbow of life arched across the sky.
Shree Moteshwar Mahadev
Shree Moteshwar Mahadev also known as Shree Bheem Shankar Mahadev is the abode of Lord Shiva. It is a great centre for pilgrimage and tourism. According to tradition the temple was constructed during the medieval period. Shree Moteshwar Mahadev is regarded as one of the 12 Jyotirlingas of Lord Shiva and symbolizes the Supreme Spirit synonymous with power, energy, spiritual strength, plenitude and the higher reality in which the entire material of life is subsumed.
The present appellation Moteshwar Mahadeo is derived from the stone, which after surfacing from the ground has assumed the shape of a phallus. It is supposed to be the divine phallus of Lord Shiva, which first surfaced in the hoary past according to Abhishek Nagar a local resident and a scion of the priestly class. The phallus of the present temple is huge and is still growing. This kind of divine phallus is not seen in any part of the country. Hitherto it has reached almost the height of the second floor of a big house and as it is thick and huge in size, the temple has been named as Moteshwar Mahadeo. The original temple was constructed arguably in 1302 A.D. and the present temple on the ancient site has been remodeled recently. In the temple premises is also housed a Bhairav Nath temple and a ‘kund’, a small water tank known as the Shiv Ganga Kund.
Regarding the historicity of the temple, Nitin Bhandari a local historian is of the view that in proximity to the temple was sited the ‘ashram’ of the legendary teacher Dronacharya who imparted military training to the Pandavas and Kauravas in this area. It is believed by the devotees that Dronacharya motivated his disciple Bhim to renovate the temple and this is why the shrine was named as Bheem Shanker Jyotirling. The great Chinese pilgrim Hiuen Tsang visited this place, Ujanak during the 7th century A.D. and has mentioned it as Govisana in his memoirs. The ruins of the ancient settlement can still be seen near the present city of Kashipur. The present township of Kashipur was however settled during the 16th century A.D. by Kash Nath Adhikari the military governor of the Chand Kings of Kumaon. During the British period this place assumed importance as a great centre for cotton growing.
Lord Shiva is venerated in the temple of Moteshwar Mahadeo in the phallus form. He represents the Supreme Being that dissolves to recreate in the cyclic process of creation, preservation and dissolution. His Natraj dance represents both the destruction and the creation of the universe and reveals the cycles of birth, death and rebirth. Those who worship him with a feeling of total surrender in the temple of Moteshwar Mahadeo, their desires are fulfilled and they can even achieve salvation and will be redeemed from the cycle of birth and rebirth. His dance of bliss is therefore for the welfare of the world. Under his feet he crushes the demon of ignorance as he is the bliss giving God and is revered here as a source life and benevolence. Lord Mahadeo is the lord of mercy and compassion and protects his devotees from the evil forces like lust, greed and anger. He is the God of the yogis, self controlled and celibate.
Drona Sagar is believed to be associated with Guru Dronacharya, teacher of the Pandavas and the Kauravas. According to tradition Drona Sagar was constructed by the Pandavas as ‘Guru Dakshina’ for their teacher. Skanda Purana mentions that the water of Drona Sagar is as holy as that of Ganga. Earlier, there were 32 temples around the periphery of this pond. The excavated site at Drona Sagar is protected by the Archaeological Survey of India. It is believed that the Ashram of Guru Drona was sited in close proximity.
Nanak Matta in the medieval period was known as Gorakh Matta owing to the followers of the Gorakh Nath Panth, who stayed here. Guru Nanak Dev visited Nank Matta twice, in September 1507 AD and again in 1517 AD to disseminate Sikhism. He sanctified this place and as per tradition had spiritual discourses during his first visit with the Kanphatta Yogis. Bhai Santokh has mentioned in Nanak Prakash that after the discourse, Nanak Dev sat below a ficus tree, which had dried up. But as soon as he took a seat below it, leaves started sprouting; the tree came to life and turned green. The yogis immediately realized the divine powers of Nank Dev and requested him to join their sect but he politely refused and told them that the Supreme Being who is omnipresent himself is my teacher. He resides within me and therefore my mind is always calm and composed. A yogi he said looks at all creatures with an equal eye and disciplines the mind against evil. I have attained the supreme yoga through union with my creator, and thus I require no other yoga.
When night fell the yogis kindled the fire and to brave the cold sat around it. Bhai Mardana who had accompanied Guru Nanak Dev sought permission from him and requested the yogis for a burning wood stick to light their ‘dhuni’. The yogis however refused to oblige. Shocked by their behaviour, Mardana related the incident to Guruji who appeased him and by his divine grace the ‘dhuni’ prepared by Mardana lighted on its own.
The yogis realized the divine powers of Nank Dev but were not convinced and to test him generated a powerful storm, which uprooted trees and bushes. The ficus tree under which Guruji was resting also started shaking with the outbreak of the strong wind. But he stopped it immediately from being uprooted and even to this day the roots which had surfaced about seven feet above the ground can be seen. The yogis then brought an empty vessel in Guruji’s presence and requested him to fill it with milk. Nanak Dev acceded to their request and not only filled the empty vessel with milk but also a well in the vicinity.
In Nanak Matta, apart from performing several miracles, Guruji gave new life to a dead boy and imparted divine knowledge to the yogis. The yogis thus came to know that Guru Nanak had already realized the eternal truth. They were all convinced and accepted his preaching. The yogis bowed before him in reverence and said that, “You are indeed a universal teacher and even a meeting with you brings deliverance to man.” Henceforth the place Gorakh Matta came to be known as Nanak Matta or the abode of Guru Nanak. After this a community lunch was held; Guru Nanak instructed his disciple Mardana to climb the banyan tree and shake its branches subsequent upon which different varieties of food started pouring down the tree. The yogis enjoyed the meal with Guruji and sang paeans in his name.
Today Nanak Matta is a great pilgrimage centre where pilgrims and tourists from all over the world throng alike. The neighbouring Nank Sagar Dam is a haven for bird watchers and provides excellent opportunities for water sports. There are two more dams which attract bird watchers, Haripura Harsan in Bazpur and Goolar Bhoj near Gadarpur.