Devbhumi - The abode of the Gods, is an epithet which is a recurring theme in the world of devotion and travel, when we talk about the state of Uttarakhand. Generally speaking, Uttarakhand is broadly divided into two regions - the Garhwal Himalayas and the Kumaon Himalayas. This entire region has a deep-rooted existence in the hearts of many Indians right from the time of the Mahabharata and the Puranas.
Legend has it that the Panch Kedar shrines here were originally established by the Pandavas, and that they made their final ascent to the afterlife right from the lap of these mountains. The Garhwalis are so good natured and full of life that to meet them in reality is an exercise in rejuvenation and a celebration of life. It is not without reason that the great Ruskin Bond has found refuge amidst these mountains. Here are five lesser known spots you should visit in Uttarkhand. Each has a distinct flavour with beautiful sights and sounds and can refresh your soul from the daily humdrums of a mundane life. A drive of 90 km from Dehradun lies the beautiful cantonment hill station of Chakrata, situated at an altitude of around 7000 ft above sea level. This town is a bit isolated and hence has retained its ethereal charm. The local people here are called the Jaunsaris and the Bawaris and they claim their respective lineages directly from the Pandavas and the Kauravas of the Mahabharata. There is a saying here that one tribe doesn't establish matrimonial relations with the other till date, thus continuing with the Kurukshetra legacy. Chakrata has many beautiful spots, one of which is the trek to the beautiful Tiger Falls. One has to trek around 5 km up and down the hill to reach its precinct. On the way the amiable villagers there always offer all kinds of refreshments to the travellers. Rudraprayag is a small hill town which witnesses the confluence of the Alakananda and Mandakini rivers. If you go there seeking the spot where Jim Corbett had killed the famous man-eating leopard, you have to ask the locals for the direction in this way "Angrej ne sher ko kaha mara tha?" (Where did the English gentleman kill that tiger/leopard?). The local people there still believe that the aforementioned leopard was actually a powerful monk who used to meditate by the day incognito and would hunt at night to punish those who have done something wrong. In any case, this place has a unique serenity which permeates your entire mind once you listen to the gushing sound of the two powerful yet beautiful rivers flowing nearby. A drive of roughly one hour from the popular hill station of Mussoorie is the tiny and less noisy hill station of Dhanaulti. Because of the rush to Mussoorie in the summers, a lot of people nowadays are preferring Dhanaulti over its more famous neighbour because of the laid back serene ambience that it exudes all-round the year. From Dhanaulti, one can also visit the sacred sites of Surkanda Devi Temple, Chandrabadni and Kunjapuri. This region also receives huge snowfall. Once I ended up getting stuck in a snow storm while coming here from Chamba. The other region of Uttarakhand is the Kumaon Himalayas. The origin of the name Kumaon has its roots in the legend of the Kurma Avatar of Lord Vishnu in Hinduism. One of the most beautiful spots in this region, which is not part of every tourist map is the tiny hamlet of Abbott Mount. The place is beautiful and serene with the mighty Himalayan peaks cowering all around. Travellers here claim that they have seen ghosts, who have believed to throng its old colonial houses ever since its early days, making the place eerie and mysterious. Another beautiful place in this region is the lake of nine corners - Naukuchiatal, which is easily accessible from Nainital. This place also hosts the unique Escape Festival of Art and Music every year. Uttarakhand is truly a place close to heaven.
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