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Kausani - The Switzerland of India
Suparna Banerjee, Oct 07, 2010
Regarded as the Switzerland of India, Kausani stands 1890 metres above sea level, perched on a narrow ridge on Pingnath Peak, overlooking mountain vistas, while the rivers Gomti and Kosi flank the town. Kausani has a lot to offer: a panoramic view of the Himalayas, a quiet hill station bursting with fruit trees, chir pines, birds and monkeys, very few tourists, no ponies (so the main promenade is only littered with pine needles and not horse dung), and a relatively flat ridge, making it an ideal destination for elderly travellers who have difficulty negotiating steep slopes.

Nestling among thick, dense pine forests and separated from the towering mountains of the Nanda Devi range by low, medium mountains; at Kausani the grandeur of the Himalayan scenery comes alive. The view of the snow-covered Trishul and Nanda Devi is so clear that one gets a feeling of the snow being within touching distance. Located 53 kms north of Almora in Kumaon, the spectacular 300 km-wide panoramic view of the Himalayas is simply a must -see for any nature lover. Kausani is a part of the Lesser Himalayas, a region watered by rivers like Kosi, Gomti, Saryu, Ramganga E., Ramganaga W. and Gagas. Their banks, known as 'seras', are highly fertile. It is here that the major Lesser Himalayan settlements like Pithoragarh, Lohaghat, Champawat, Gangolihat, Berinag, Bageshwar, Kapkot, Ramgarh, Nainital, Almora, Ranikhet, Dwarahat, Chaukhutia, Someshwar and Kausani are situated.

The hills around Kausani are full of Chir and blue pine (Pinus roxburghii, P. wallichiana), Banj (Quercus leucotrichophora), Tilonj (Q.dilatata), Kharsu (Q. semecarpifolia), Utis (Alnus nepalensis ) and Deodar (Cedrus polycarpos) and at least a dozen varieties of the rhododendrons. Unfortunately, Chir Pines are slowly choking out all other trees in the area and are held responsible for the dropping levels of ground water. Since Chir Pine needles cover the ground, no other tree can take root. The dry pine needles are also a fire hazard, and in the hot summer months it is fairly common to see whisps of smoke rising from a section of the forest, where the pine needles have caught fire, which then spreads to the surrounding trees.

Except for the monkeys on every tree, visitors are unlikely to see wild animals in Kausani itself, but a trek to nearby areas can lead to sightings of Musk deer or Kastura (Moschus-moschiferus), Snow Leopard (Panthera unicia), Blue Sheep or Bharal (Pseudois nayaur), and Thar (Hemitagus jemlahicus), all of which are confined to high altitudes.

The skies resonate with bird calls in Kausani. Out of 287 species of birds of the Indian Hills described by Salim Ali about 230 are found in Kumaon. Many of these species have either become extinct or are on the verge of extinction. The important birds of Kumaon are the Peacock (Pavo cristatus), Great Indian Hornbill (Dichoceros bircornis), Grey Quail (Coturnix coturnix coturnix), Black Partridge or Kalatitar (Francolinus francolinus asiae), Grey Partridge or Safed Titar (Francolinus pondicerianus interpositus), Peora or Common Hill Partridge (Arborophila torgueola), Common Myna (Acridothres tristis), Grey Winged Blackbird (Turdus boulbou), Himalayan Whistling Thrush (Myiophonus caerulus), Red Billed Blue Magpie, Snow Pigeon or Malyo, Chakor (Alectoris graeca), Himalayan Golden Eagle (Aquila chrysaetos hodgsoni), Monal Pheasant (Lophophorus impejanus), White Crested Kaleej (Lophura leucomelana hamiltonii), Koklas Pheasant (Pucrasia macrlopha) and Cheer Pheasant (Catreus wallichii). In addition, the hills have their share of pythons, rats snakes, lizards, cobras and fish like Mahaseer and Rohu in the rivers. The Kumaon hills are said to have more than 400 varieties of butterflies.

Getting there

Kausani's charms have remained intact largely because it is not the most accessible of hill stations from big cities like Delhi. The drive is long, discouraging weekend visitors. Most buses connect to Delhi via other bus stands like Almora, Kathgodam and Bhimtal, which also discourages many tourists. The train is convenient, but the follow-on four hour road trip deters casual visitors. This basically means, that this quiet haven is just that whether you visit it in "peak season" May or "off season" March. While hill stations like Mussoorie, Nainital and Manali collapse under the seasonal tourist droves, Kausani remains relatively unspoilt.

By Train

Overnight train (Ranikhet Express, leaves Delhi at 11pm and arrives in Kathgodam at 6.10 am. Kausani is 142 kms away from Kathgodam) From Kathgodam you can catch a bus or take a tourist taxi to Kausani.

By Road: Kausani is 14 hours or 410 kms by road from Delhi on the Delhi-Moradabad-Rampur-Rudrapur-Kathgodam-Almora road.

By Air: The nearest airport is Pantnagar which is 180 kms away from Kausani. Pantnagar is served by Jagson Airlines which operates daily, morning flights from Delhi to Pantnagar, except on Sundays. The 1hr 15min flight leaves Delhi at 7.00 am and the return flight leaves Pantnagar at 8.30 am.

Getting around:

Kausani is small and perfect for walking. If you want to visit nearby attractions like Baijnath and Almora, your hotel will arrange for a private taxi.

See

In Kausani

The view: The most important thing to do in Kausani is to sit in your hotel balcony or garden and soak in the stunning view of the Trishul (7,120m), Nanda Devi (7,816m) and the Panchchuli (6,904m).

Anashakti Ashram: The best views are from this quiet corner of Kausani. In 1929, Mahatma Gandhi spent 12 days here. He was so enamoured that he called Kausani the Switzerland of India and brought his thoughts out in his book called Anasakti Yoga. The place where he stayed is called the Anasakti Ashram. Earlier the guest house of a tea estate, it is now an ashram and offers a good resting place for travellers and can accommodate 300 people. Every evening prayers are conducted in the main hall. It also has a library.

Pant Museum:

The famous poet of Hindi literature, Sumitranandan Pant was born in Kausani. His childhood home has been converted into a museum where his articles, drafts of his poems, letters, his awards etc. are displayed.

Lakshmi Ashram:

Around one km away from the Anasakti Ashram, Lakshmi Ashram is a centre run by women who do social service and run a school for girls according to Mahatma Gandhi's Nai Talim idea of education. Gandhiji's disciple, Sarala Behen spent her life here doing social service. This ashram is located in a solitary area in a dense jungle.

Around

Baijnath: Baijnath is the most important historical place in Uttarakhand and is situated on the banks of the Gomti river. A 14 km walk through the forest is a delightful experience, and more rewarding than the road, which is 6 km. If the weather is good and you are in fine fettle, try the jungle trek. A temple built in the 12th century with beautiful carvings and sculptures is the main attraction here.

Katarmal: 10 km from Kausani, the sun temple at Katarmal was originally built by a Katyuri Raja in the 9th century AD. The deity here is known as Burhadita or Vraddhaditya (the aged Sun God ).The temple is noted for its architecture, stone and metallic sculptures and carved pillars and doors.

Bageshwar: 40 kms from Kausani, Bageshwar lies on both banks of the river Saryu, near its confluence with the Gomti. It is said to derive its name from the local temple of Lord Shiva as "Bagheshwar", the tiger lord. A large fair, known as the Uttarayani fair is held here every year in the month of January.

Tea Estate: Visit a functioning tea estate on your way out to Baijnath, watch how tea leaves are picked, sorted, dried and packed. A tea shop just outside the tea factory serves an excellent variety of tea, and this is a good place to pick up some orthodox (long grain, Darjeeling-style) tea for friends and family back home.

Do

Sit back in an easy chair and soak in the views, the bird-song and clean, crisp air. Kausani is an ideal place to do nothing. If you are really desperate to exercise those muscles, stroll up to the Anashakti Ashram where the views are even more stupendous, or take a hike just beyond the army area to a temple tucked into the mountainside. Your hotel can arrange a car and guide to take you to the starting point of the hike, from where the guide will lead the way.

Buy

Not much to buy unfortunately. Kausani just has an odd cluster of shops where you can pick up locally made jams and pickles and tea from the shop near the tea estate and factory. For friends back home, make a pit stop at Almora and pick up some Bal Mithai.

Eat & Drink

Kausani isn't exactly gourmet paradise but all hotels have restaurants and the main market has a few small eateries. Suman Royal Resort has excellent food (the usual mix of Indian, Chinese and continental), Chevron's food is good and they serve it in the sprawling balcony facing your room. The market eateries are not very clean.

Sleep

For a quiet hill station, Kausani has an excellent array of hotels to cater to every budget. At the top end, are hotels like Krishna Mountview, Suman Royal Resorts and Chevron resorts (which has converted a heritage bungalow into a hotel). An excellent mid-range option is the Kumaon Mandal Vikas Nigam (KMVN) tourist guest house which has possibly the best views in Kausani. Budget hotels include staying at the Anashakti Ashram (but you have to take part in the Ashram activities and help out in chores), and some smaller guesthouses in the main market area.

Weather

Kausani experiences lovely weather throughout the year except for heavy showers from mid-July to September and two months of snowfall in December and January. April to June and October to November, when the skies are clear and the views spectacular, are the best months to visit.

Wear

Dress comfortably and wear good walking shoes or sandals. In summer, light cottons for the day and a light sweater or jacket for the night. In winter, take along heavy woollens since it snows.

Fairs and Festivals

Uttarayani Fair: Organised on the occasion of Makar Sankranti (Janurary 14th) every year, this fair in Bageshwar attracts huge crowds of devotees, as the place is held to be as pious as a holy dip in the Ganges at Varanasi. The confluence of rivers Saryu, Gomti and Bhagirathi have been regarded as a sacred place of pilgrimage for ages. On the occasion of Uttarayani festival approximately 35,000 devout bathe in this holy confluence.

Shivratri Fair: Held on the occasion of Shiva Chaturdashi, a huge throng of devotees gather at the ancient Shiva temple situated in the midst of the town.

Kartik Purnima: This festival is held on the full moon day of the Hindu month of Kartik.

Dushera Fair: A 10 day long fair is held during the festival of Dushera in October.
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