Where the web of stars sprinkles silver, the ripples of the lake beckon–it is the land where Bhima of Mahabharata worshipped Lord Shiva during the banishment of the Pandavas
Words: Ambica Gulati
A zillion stars above, speechless and awestruck we kept looking up, lost in the glory of the night. A night sky so clear that we did not need a telescope to find the shining stars and the road lit with their silver glitter. We were on the road going towards the village of Jungalia from Bhimtal in Uttarakhand. Only the hum of the car engine disturbed the silence of the hills and far away little lights shone spread across the hilly area, twinkling like the stars. We were speaking in hushed tones as our guide pointed out the Orion and the crystal rim of the moon. This spot, where nature remains pristine and untouchable, was about 8 km from Bhimtal. We stood silent, looking up and then around, hoping to see the odd leopard or fox taking a night walk. But that didn’t happen, though we were told villagers have sighted wild animals.
Legend of Bhimtal
On the way back, we came to know that Bhimtal was named after the famous Pandava Bhima, and tal means lake. The legend of the tal goes that Bhima was enamoured by the demoness Hidimbi who lived in that area. Angry about this, her brother fought with Bhima but lost the battle. Then the weary Bhima wanted to wash off the battle marks and a spring of water spouted out, making it the now known Bhimtal.
This is also where he performed his tapasya during the long banishment period of the Pandavas. We walked into his place of worship–Bhimeshwar Mahadev Temple which is now built along the 40 feet high dam. This is the spot where Bhima worshipped Lord Shiva. The present temple was built in the 17th century by Baz Bahadur (1638-78 AD), a king of the Chand dynasty, and the Raja of Kumaon. There is also a terrace-garden at the back.
The city is older than Nainital, the more famous hill station in Uttarakhand. Some say that was probably a part of the famous ancient Silk Route. The old pedestrian road is still in use but I guess I will have to go back to check that out. Bhimtal came under British rule after the Anglo-Nepalese War (1814-16).
Sitting at the edge of the lake, we watched the placid waters change colour with the sun’s rays. With every hour, the emerald changed tones. Sometimes it shone, at others it became blue, and then at times went into subdued hues. It’s actually quite therapeutic to see the water and feel the breeze and sit in silence, oblivious to the world around. Locals told me that some scenes of Hrithik Roshan starrer Koi… Mil Gaya were shot here. Well I didn’t see any Jadoo coming with his special powers for me, but the serenity works its jadoo for sure.
As we had lots of time on our hands, we thought a boat ride with some tea at the island restaurant in the lake would take us closer to jadoo. Out little boat glid softly over the quiet waters, ducks waddled by our side as our fingertips trailed the boat’s passage.
If you like fishing, then you could get permission for this, we were informed, albeit a little late. But the fish are smart and even though we didn’t have any fishing equipment, they evaded our route. It’s also a bird watcher’s paradise where you will see pretty little ones swinging on the low-lying branches of the trees around the lake shore.
How to reach
It is about 300km from Delhi and is accessible by road. The drive could take around 7 hours. Buses are easily available from ISBT, Anand Vihar in Delhi. The nearest airport is Pant Nagar Airport which is about 58km from Bhimtal. The nearest railway station is Kathgodam (around 30km from Bhimtal). One can hire taxis or take a bus from there.
At least four days to enjoy the scenic walks and even a day’s trip to Nainital.
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