Kasar Devi Mandir: the peak of Almora

Kasar Devi Mandir, Kasar Devi, Almora, Uttarakhand
Kasar Devi temple at Kasar Devi Mandir. The boulder on the right shelters the cave where Vivekananda meditated.

Kasar Devi Mandir is one of the most popular temples to visit in the Almora area, and indeed in Uttarakhand. We’re lucky that we have been living just three kilometers from the temple for the past few weeks. But even before we moved to Papershali, we walked the seven kilometers of uphill road from Almora to Kasar Devi a few times, drawn by the beauty of its setting and the peaceful shakti of the place.

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A hidden valley, a sky temple and a natural lingam-yoni

A typical lingam and yoni arrangement for worship of Shiva
Lingam and yoni in a temple, with lingam-like rocks found in nature arrayed on the shelf behind.

Over the years I’ve seen many examples of Indian religious symbols that occur in nature – things like the coco-de-mer, or rocks that resemble a Shiva lingam arranged in a temple and anointed with vermilion, just like formal sculptures of gods.

But up to now, I’d only seen these things in photographs, or displayed in a temple or museum. So it was special to discover for ourselves, a few days ago, a symbol of Shiva-Shakti in a mountain stream.

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Nanda Devi Mandir: a refuge in busy Almora

One of Nanda Devi's two thousand-year-old temple towers, and its ancient peepul tree. Almora, Uttarakhand.
One of Nanda Devi Mandir’s two thousand-year-old temple towers, and its ancient peepul tree.

Alan discovered Nanda Devi Mandir (“mandir” means “temple” in Hindi) during his first week in Almora, before I came to join him in India. We returned to this temple time and time again while staying in Almora, and now that we are living in a nearby village, we visit Nanda Devi whenever we’re in town for shopping or errands.

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Chandika Mandir in Bageshwar: a short urban hike

View of Chandika Temple high on a hill above the Saryu River, Bageshwar, Uttarakandh
View from Bhagnath Temple. Chandika Temple is on the right peak; zoom in and you can just see the buildings.

After arriving in Bageshwar yesterday afternoon from Almora, we were tempted to climb up to Chandika Mandir, a beautiful temple sitting atop one of the peaks that mark Bageshwar’s location at the confluence of the Saryu and Gomti rivers.

But after nearly four hours on a bus, with a speaker directly over our heads belting out Hindi film music, we really needed a nap. So we walked around Bageshwar for an hour or so, ate lunch, and had our rest, planning to make our Chandika Mandir visit the next morning.

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Morning walk to Gurudwara Bangla Sahib in New Delhi

Morning worshippers at the holy pond of Gurudwara Bangla Sahib, New Delhi
One corner of the holy pond. A few selfies were taking place here.

We wake up early, which is fortunate during the hot season. It’s been about 41° C here at the hottest time of day since I arrived two days ago, and humidity is high – nearly 50 percent. So getting out early for a walk is a good idea. Even at 6:00 AM, which is when we set out today, I was mopping myself with a handkerchief by the time we stopped for tea.

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Gokarna: Beaches and temples

Gokarna Beach, viewed from the south headland
Gokarna Beach, viewed from the south headland.

The cyclone that hit Kerala days ago, roiling the surf here at Gokarna, has finally arrived. We sit in the Prema restaurant, enjoying a cup of tea while we wait for our lunch to arrive. Wind drives rain against the small shops and tall coconut palms, and in sheets across the street. Deep puddles grow deeper, and even the vagrant cows huddle together under shop awnings, reluctant to emerge in such conditions. We drink tea, we eat slowly, we order more tea, as we wait for a moment when the rain pauses.

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A visit to Bhadrachalam: Sri Sita Ramachandra Swamy temple and more

Sunset
Sunset on the Godavari.

It took just one day in Bhadrachalam to make us decide we needed to stay longer than the three nights we originally booked. It’s a lovely small town, located upriver from Rajahmundry on the same side of the Godavari, offering plenty of temples, a couple of nice short walks along the river, and the chance to take a one- or two-day river trip among the scenic Papikondulu Hills. So we asked Mr. Ramachandran, the owner of the hotel where we stayed, if we could stay another eight nights.

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Ayyappa in the morning, aarti in the evening

Ayyappa devotees at Sri Ayyappa Swamy temple, RajahmundryDuring our time here in Rajahmundry, we’ve remarked on just how many men we see dressed in black. We know these are people going through the 41-day period of fasting and abstinence that pilgrims undertake before traveling to Sabrimala in Kerala, a temple dedicated to Ayyappa, or Ayyappan, as he’s also called.

I knew about these pilgrimages when I lived in India during the early 1980s, but I really didn’t know anything about Ayyappa. Today we learned a lot about this god when we stopped off in the early morning at the Sri Ayappa Swamy temple beside the Godavari River.

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