The Berry lores of Kumaon

We came out of Patal Bhuvansehwar caves, tired and hungry. It was late afternoon. In street shops outside the cave complex, most of the food items were finished and we had to remain contented with whatever was left.


The sky was overcast. There was high probability of rains. Rains! Ah, I love rains and more than it, I love the deliciously refreshing breeze that announces its arrival, accompanies it and lingers long after the downpour. On that day also, the cool, moist wind drenched our exhausted, aching bodies with renewed enthusiasm.

The route we planned to take was following:
Patal Bhuvaneshwar->Raigar 27 Kms
Raigar ->Seraghat 27 Kms
Seragaht -> Dhaulchhina -> Palaeo Bend-> Barechhina 17 Kms
Barechhnina -> Artola 17 Kms
Artola ->Jageshwar 4 Kms

Soon after leaving Patal Bhuvaneshwar, we were on a scenic road lined up with shrubs laden with a rich harvest of juicy berries, the golden Hisalu (Rubus Ellipticus), the purple Kilmoda and the red Kafals (Myrica Esculenta). Even the desire to reach Jageshwar well in time could not stop us from taking a break here and there and accepting nature’s bounty of delicious offerings.

Kilmoda

I am sure that a Kumaoni settled outside Uttaranchal can only think about these berries with sweet nostalgia. Same is true for me. Even today, I cannot forget the taste of shahtoots, berrs and dancers that were available in abundance, in and around Khetri, the place in Jhunjhunu district of Rajsthan where I spent thirty formative years of my life. I consumed them in plenty. I have vivid images of my school days when group of school boys loomed over shrubs of Shahtoots to grab whatever they could lend their hands on. And even unripe, sour, and green shahtoots tasted special. A trip around bucolic surroundings of Khetri was rewarding, if we could spot a bush of berrs. And those occasional pricks of thorns were nature’s teasing to be more careful with it.

Every region has its favorite season; a season when nature is at its charming best, lifting the general mood with its magical wand, sprinkling happiness all around. In Rajasthan it is the season of saawan. Copious Rajsathani folk songs convey the dreams of young brides returning to their maika in saawan to enjoy swings with their childhood friends.

In mountains, same can be said about चैत्र, the season of ripening Kafals. In a famous Pahadi song, “बेड़ू पाको बारह मासा, ओ नरणी काफल पाको चैता मेरी छेळा”, a Kumaoni bride tries to convince her husband to allow her a visit to her maika in this season. She suggests that in comparison to Chaitra rest of the year is as unattractive and uneventful like the ripening of Bedu, about which nobody cares. She dreams of leisurely traversing the trail to her mother’s house, picking and enjoying delicious Kafals on the way.

Is it Bedu? The alert readers pointed out that its not, it is known as Goolar/Timla/Dumur. BTW can someone send me pix of Bedu or a link to it

In this season Magpies, the state bird of Uttaranchal, can often be spotted, chirping around and its song sounds like, “काफल पाको मेल नही चाखो|”

There is a heart wrenching story about Magpie’s chirping. It’s the story of a poor woman who collected a sack full of Kafals and then left it in the custody of her young daughter so that she can sell it next day in the local market. She warned her daughter not to eat any of them as it was the only source of their income. After the day’s hard work, when she returned and checked the sack, she found it light.

Furious and worried at her discovery, she cross questioned her daughter. The daughter denied any negligence and also that she herself has eaten any. The woman got the sack weighed and found it to be much lighter. Furious at her discovery and in the rush of insanity, she thrashed her daughter mercilessly. The girl kept on crying and denying.

To her mother’s surprise the sack got heavier the next day. Then she realized that in the day the sack felt lighter as Kafals lost some moisture, which they regained in the night. However, the worst happened. The merciless beating made the girl unwell and she died. It is believed that the innocent beautiful girl became magpie and could be seen among Kafals claiming her innocence.

Red-billed Blue Magpie

These berries have coarse texture and distinct sour-sweet taste. They help the digestive system and their shrubs also helps in fixing atmospheric nitrogen. I felt that probably a person new to these berries might take some time to develop taste for Kilmoda, but liking for Hisalu and Kafal would be instant. No wonder, Kumaoni life and folklore are ripe with these wild berries.

I would like to share two quatrains written by Gumaani Pant (1790-1846) on these berries. Before quoting him, I would like to write a few lines on the poet himself.

Gumaani Pant is considered the aadikavi (the first poet) of Kumaon. He wrote deftly in five languages: Sanskrit, Hindi, Garhwali, Kumaoni and Nepali. The most outstanding aspect of his poetry was that he composed several poems using different languages in different stanzas.

Some argue that he started composing in Hindi (खड़ी बोली) even before भारतेंदु हरीशचंद्र, so he must be considered Father of modern Hindi. In-fact भारतेंदु हरीशचंद्र was born four years after the death of this poet. However, in my opinion, these are trivial things; the real reward for a poet is that even after centuries, his poems are remembered, loved and sung. A similar opinion is well expressed in the following lines of Harivansh Rai Bachachan’s poem:

छप चुकी मेरी किताबें, पूरबी और पस्चिमि दोनो तरह के अक्षरों में,
और सुने भी जा चेके हैं भाव मेरे, देश और परदेश दोनो के स्वरों में,
पर खुशी से नाचने को, पाँव मेरे उस समय तक नही तैयार जब तक
गीत अपना में नही सुनता किसी गंगो-जमन के तीर फिरते बावरे से,
अंग से मेरे लगा तू अंग ऐसे, आज तू ही बोल मेरे भी गले से|

Coming back to Gumani Pant’s poem, in the following verse he narrated how Kafals got their distinctive red color with black tinge. Kafals were once the favourite fruit of Lord Indra in Heaven. One day they accidentally fell on earth. The gods considered it as an omen and decided to grow them on mountains. These days, when Kafals think about their glorious past and the sad turn of fate, they turn red with anger and those who are old among them turn black due to the hurt pride.

खाना लागा इंद्र का हम छिपा,
भूलोक आई पडा|
पृथ्वी में लग्यॉ पहाड़ हमारी थाती रचा देव ले,
योई चित्त विचारी काफल सबे राता भयाक्रोध ले,
कोई बुडा खूडा शरम ले काला-धूमेला भया|

Handful of Kafals

In another verse he is of full praise for Hisalu. He boasts that the mountainous region of Uttaranchal is blessed with many varieties of fruits. Among them special is the gift of Hisalu. He conveys that in late hot summer days, the taste of Hisalu makes him wonder, can nectar taste better than it!

“छनाइ छन मेवा रत्न सगला पर्वतन में
हिसालु का तोहफा छन बहुत तोहफा जनन में
पहर चौथा ठंडा बख़त जनरो स्वाद लीं में
अहो मैं समंजू अमृत लग वस्तु क्या हुनलो|”

Golden Hisalu

As if these juicy berries were not enough, we were also rewarded with the sighting of Oriental White Eye (Zosterops Palpebrosus) in the shrubs. I found this small bird, with distinctive white eye rings, mischievous and scary. The bird appeared as if it was born with spectacles. This bird is arboreal and it rarely descends on the ground. However, on that day we spotted it on the ground and it remained there for a long time, camouflaging itself in the green leaves around. This bird is mainly insectivorous, but it also eats nectar and fruits of various kinds. I guess, it explains, how we could spot it in those wild berries laden bushes.

The Oriental White-Eye

This bird is of restless nature and has strong legs that help it do all kinds of acrobatic maneuvers in trees, bushes and shrubs. It is sociable and is generally found in flocks. It separates from its group only in the approaching breeding season.

We might have spent some more time there but drizzling forced us inside the gypsy and we drove on. In almost no time, the rain drops were pestering and knocking at the glass of our vehicle. The initial gentle knock turned frenetic and finally it appeared as if rain drops were determined to enter inside, even if it meant breaking the glass. After the initial failed attempt, the rain disguised and morphed itself into hail storm and the hail size increased from the size of marbles to the size of my palm. Whew! We were really scared. Should we drive ahead facing the continuous canon fired at our vehicles or stop with the possibility of road blockages ahead?

Its drizzling

Luckily, we were passing through the climax of the dramatic weather, the hail storm reduced and finally stopped. It was our turn to come out of our vehicles to enjoy the sight of green grass turning white with the bumper hail-crop. On that day I realized the grim fate Hindi proverb hints at, when it says, “सिर मुंडाते ही ओले पड़े”, I never imagined it could be so bad :-)

Hails everywhere

A big hail

We played with and marveled at the size of the hails, and soon drove at high speed to stop at “Hill View Restaurant” in Dhaulchhina. It was around five in the evening. There were no lights in the restaurant. Strong winds were blowing. We decided to enjoy Pakodis at the third (the top) floor of the restaurant. The setting sun and the thunder storm created dramatic effect around.

Step Farms on the way

It was about to be dark when we left Dhaulchhina. Jaishree and I had earlier planned to get down at Artola and to walk from there to Jageshwar on a road, in the midst of Deodar trees. By the time we reached Artola, we felt like birds already late in returning to their nests and so abandoned the plan. We were extremely tired and the only thought we had, was to reach as soon as possible to our KMVN accommodation in Jageshwar.

As we reached and parked our vehicle in front of KMVN Jageshwar, Tanmay vomited. The exhaustive journey had taken a toll on him. Sometimes in ghumakkar enthusiasm, we forget that we are travelling with tender and fragile young ones. They have a limit for everything. Unfortunately, it was not the end of our difficult times and the drama in the KMVN Jageshwar was about to unfold.

51 Comments

  • Hi!
    Though I haven’t read your post yet, just saw the post and some of the pictures.
    ‘Wonderful’…look forward to read the post by end of the day.

    Regarding your query, ‘Is it Bedu?
    I think, this is ‘Fig’. In bengali we call it ‘Dumur’ and in Hindi it is ‘Goolar’.
    However, correct me, if I am wrong in identifying the same.

    Thank you for sharing your experience, in advance.

    from a Traveller by heart…

    Regards,
    Amitava

    • Manish Khamesra says:

      Hello Amitav

      In Naukuchiyatal, where I took this picture, people told us that this vegetable is Timla (thanks Harish for reminding me the name). I took a chance that probably Timla only is known as Bedu in Kumaon. This seems not to be the case.

      Thanks Amitava that realizing my mistake, you took an extra effort to correct me.

      Actually bedu also is a “wild fig”. I tried to search it through google images, but could not find any picture. So I thought that let me try through ghumakkar community.

      Can someone send me a link to a picture of bedu.

      Similarly, I am still looking for the name of the green spiky balloon flower that I posted in my post of Deenapani. Can someone help me to name it? As a clue I saw this flower being offered to Lord Shiva in Jageshwar.

      http://www.ghumakkar.com/2010/07/27/reposeful-deenapani/

      Thanks again Amitava.

      • Tx.
        I saw your message last night – however, we had guests at home, hence this delay.
        In Bengal, normally we offered ‘Dhutro’ and ‘Akanda’ phool (flowers) to Lord Shiva. It looks similar to ‘Akanda’. When I Googled ‘Akanda’ this morning, it lands me to various pages which looks similar to the ‘green spiky ballon flower’ as photographed by you, which is actually the fruit. This evergreen shrub has star-shaped white flowers that appear in summer and pale green narrow leaves.

        Scientic names: Gomphocarpus physocarpus – Balloon Cottonbush
        You may find more details by clicking the following link:
        http://www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected]/3527503700/ or just Google…’Balloon Cottonbush’ – and see whether this is what you actually photographed or not.

        The place, where I spent my entire childhood – a remote village in West Bengal, this shrub is available a plenty and you can find them everywhere…

        and yeah…I had read your series earlier as well and including “The Berry lores of Kumaon” – the entire series is superb.

        Note: It’s summer vacation for my kid…though they have a confirmed train ticket to go to Kolkata on the same day, on which the vacation starts i.e. 18th, I am thinking to drive to Kolkata through NH-2….though, it is still 40-60 in my favour…if everything goes according to my plan, next Saturday by this time I will be somewhere in Bihar….(plan to leave by 12 a.m. on 19th morning from Gurgaon)…can anyone suggest the road to take to Buddha Gaya/Nalanda – I believe it is after crossing Aurangabad, we will have to take a left turn…also, any suggestion for stoppages would be appreciated…I had covered this stretch non-stop alone 4 years back and this time, I plan my wife to accompany me…once I be back, hope to share my journey in this site…as we plan to cover sea-shore to mountains in Bengal, if situation is peaceful in Darjeeling

        • Dear Amitava

          Many thanks for not only answering my query but also for providing all the relevant information. I enjoyed reading about it (I also made changes in my Deenapani post). The collective knowledge we possess is wonderful.

          Thanks for going through the complete series, I wish to learn from such well-informed readers.

          I am late regarding any information regarding drive to Kolkata. I wish that you had a safe and pleasant journey and would soon be sharing your experiences of drive to Calcutta and vacations in W.Bengal.

          I don’t see many sub-tabs in West Bengal section of places (some may also be hidden as everything is clubbed with Kolkata), I hope things will change soon.

          • Good morning and Tx for your wishes.
            Yes, we (yes we – 40:60 became 100:0 in my favour) hit the road as planned on 19th morning. It was a fairly decent run on NH-2. Currently, I am at my village home in Hooghly, approx. 60 Kms from Kolkata. Once I will return to Gurgaon on 5th June….I would like to share my experience…however, since this may be my first post, I have to find out the process of submitting.

            Tx

          • Manish Khamesra says:

            Good to get the message of your Grand Successful journey so soon :-)

            Ghumakkar community would be waiting to read about the travel and the vacations. I am sure Nandan and editorial team would also make the whole process of writing and becoming an author not only smooth but an enjoyable one too.

            Please feel free to ping them for any information you need.

          • My first post in Ghumakkar is scheduled to publish tomorrow. Just thought to share this, since I shared this news first in your post only.

            Thank you all & Nandan and his team for this…

          • Manish khamesra says:

            Thanks Amitava for sharing the news about the publishing of your first post. I will be looking forward to it. I wish you a fullfilling experience at ghumakkar. Thanks for sharing.

  • Kavita Bhalse says:

    ???? ??,
    ?? ???? ????? ?? ???? ???? ?? ?? ???? ?? ??? ????. ???? ???? ??? ????? ?? ???? ?????? ?? ??? ?? ?????? ??? ??? ?????, ????? ?? ????? ??????? ?? ?? ????? ????? ?? ?? ???? ???? ?? ???? ??? ???? ?? ?? ???? ??.

    ??? ???? ?? ??? ?? ???? ???? ???, ????? ?? ?? ???? ???? ???. ???? ?? ?????, ???? ?????, ???? ?? ????? ?? ??? ???? ?? ?????????? ??. ???? ?? ????? ?? ???? ?????? ?? ?? ??? ????? ?? ?? ?? ???? ?? ??? ??.

    ?????? ???? ?? ?? ???? ??????? ????? ???? ????? ???. ??? ???? ?? ???? ??????? ??????? ????? ?? ?? ?? ??????? ?? ????.

    • Manish Khamesra says:

      ????? ??
      ???? ??????????? ?? ?? ??? ????| ??? ?????? ?? ??? ??? ??? ????, ???? ?????? ?? ?????? ??? ??? ?? ??| ???? ??? ?? ???? ?????? ??? ????| ??? ?? ?? ?? ?? ??? ???????? ?? ???? ??? ?? ??? ??? ???? ?? ????? ???? ???? ???? ??????????? ?? ???? ?? ??? ????? ??|

      ?????? ????????? ?? ???? ???? ??, ??? ?? ?? ?? ???? ??? ?? ??? ??, ?? ?????? ?? :-) ?? ?? ??? ?? ????? ????? ?? ???? ??????? ????|

  • SilentSoul says:

    Good post manish….

    so you also had a drama in Jageshwar ? hope you have read my drama at Jageshwer in my previous post

    • Manish Khamesra says:

      Dear Silent Soulji

      You really had a very bad time in Jageswar. It was not that bad for us, still it left a bad taste.

      Thanks for your comment.

  • ???????? ?? ???? ???? ?? ????? ?? ???? ??? ??? ?? ?? …….????? ???? ???? ????? ??? ???? ?? ?? ?? …..?? ???? ???? ????? ??? ?? ???? ??????? ?? ???? ?? ???? ??? ??? ???? ???? ?? ???? ?????? ???? ?? ???? ???????? ….

    • Manish Khamesra says:

      ??? ???? ???? ???| ???? ?????? ?? ???? ???? ?? ????| ???? ?? ???? ?? ??? ?????????? ?? ??? ????? ???? ???? ??, ?? ??? ?? ????? ??? :-(

      ??? ??? ?? ?? ?? ????????? ?? ???? ??? ????? ????? ??? ??, ?? ???? ???? ?? ?? ????????? ??????? ?? ????? ????? ?? ???? ??? ???? ??| ???? ????? ???? ?? ?? ?? ??? ??? ??? ??? ????, ?? ???? ?? ?? ?????? ???? ??? ?? ??? ??????? ??|

      Should I say thanks to Ghumakkar, it made us learn so many new things.

      ?? ???, ?? ???? ?? ???? ???? ?? ?? (????? ???? ???? ????)| ????????? ??? ???? ??? ????? ????? ??? ??| ?? ??? ?? ???? ???? ???? ?? ?? ???? ?? ?????? ??? ????? ?? ???? ?????|

  • Nandan Jha says:

    I need a course on Kumaon from you. When we meet, I would let you know the reason.

    Not much to say except that my daughter’s day care has a tree of Shahtoot. If you ever go to Bengali Market via Tansen Marg (a fork of Mandi House Gol Chakkar) then look for a Shahtoot tree, just shy of the market. More than once, me and Smita had brilliant ripe red and black (the angry old ones) there. Try it.

    Well done Professor.

    • Manish Khamesra says:

      To talk about Kumaon will be a pleasure Nandan.

      Speaking about shahtoots you made my mouth water. I would surely be looking forward to such an opportunity :-)

      Thanks Nandan.

  • ?????? ????, ??????? ???? ??? ?????????? ???? ?? ??????????? ?? ????? ???? ?? ??? ?? ???? ????? ???? ?? ?? ???????? ?? ??? ?? ?? ????? ????? ???? ?? ?? ????? ???? ????. ?? ???? ???? ?? ??? ??? ????? ?? ‘ ?????? ????, ???? ????, ??????? ???? ??./???????/?????????? ???????? ?? ???? ????? ????? ?? ???????

    Good post with very goods pics and outstanding description (next time keep lamon/ayurvadic chooran/enno with you LOL… but I do hope ?? ????? ???? ?? ???????? ???????? ?? ???? ????.

    Thanks Khamesra & thanks ghumakkar.com

    • Manish Khamesra says:

      Tridev ji

      It seems your list of adjectives are never ending. ?? ???? ?? ????? ?? ??? ?? ???? ????? ?? ?? ????|

      Generally we have things to avoid vomitting, but then young kids never tell in advance that they are not feeling well. Till the last trip to Odisha, Tanmay has not yet started showing his extreme in travelling. He is more happy at home. I wish that he will start enjoying the next trip to Kinnaur region of Himachal.

  • Professor jee ,

    It was once again a very good treat to read your post………………..pictures were wonderful…………..

    The kafals story was shocking ……………………….

    • Manish Khamesra says:

      The story is indeed very sad. I was in double mind, should i even share it?

      In-fact while writing about it, some of the disturbing scenes of Hindi movie Udaan came right in front of my eyes. I wish that letters does not have that much effect as the visuals do.

  • Harish Bhatt says:

    Manish Ji… I am out of words after reading your post. The pictures of the berries just took my breath away…It brought my school time memories back when we used to go to Garhwal in summer vacations… I have also had all of these berries in abundance and i can still recall the taste… The picture of the berries with caption “Is it Bedu? Any suggestion/correction?” is not Bedu… It is called Timla in Garhwal (not sure what in Kumaoni) It is fruit from the fig species also know known as gullar in parts of Rajasthan and Gujarat.. Your narration about the girl and her mother is very emotive. I heard that story from my grandmother more than 30 years agoI sincerely thank you for sharing your story and the pictures

    • Manish Khamesra says:

      Harish ji

      I am happy to get a comment from someone from Uttaranchal itself. I know, no one from there can ever forget the taste of these berries.

      You are right in Uttaranchal, we were told that this is Timla. BTW do you know how bedu looks like, from the folk song, I felt that seeing bedu must be common, but till now I am not able to associate an image with this name.

      Your and Inam’s account of Ranthambore isforcing us to plan a trip to Ranthambore soon.

  • Pushpa says:

    manish ji kya kahu apne jo photo dekhai hai bahut hi khubsurat hai bachapan ki yaade taja ho gai hum bhi bachpan main kumaon jate the to bahut kilmoda,hisalu aur kafal khate tha aaj vo din bahut yaad aate hai metro cities mai to mano zindgi bus bhagne mai kat rahi hai res lagi hai aur sab ko frist aana hai.
    thankyou for this beautiful memories.

    • Manish Khamesra says:

      ???? ?? ???? ??? ???? ?? ???? ????? ?? ???? ?? ??????? ?? ???? ?? ???? ????? ?? ?? ?? ?? ???? ??? ?????? ???? ?? ?? ???? ?????????,????? ?? ???? ???? ?? ?? ?? ??? ???? ??? ??? ?? ?????? ????? ??? ?? ???? ??????? ?? ????? ??? ?? ?? ??? ?? ??? ??? ?? ?? ?? ?? ?????? ??? ??.

      ———————————————
      I translated your comment in Hindi, sometimes, reading a hindi comment in English becomes difficult for readers and as this comment was coming directly from the heart, I wanted people to read it and to understand the sweet nostalgia about the beautiful mountain life. Though I do understand the hardships of that life. Life is not always the bed of roses.

      Escaping from this race appears difficult. Even though we know its futility.

  • Jatinder Sethi says:

    I read this post three times and enjoyed the travel all the three times.Pictures tell their own story. I was trying to see the luck-line below the “handful of kafal”but could only see the gold ring.
    Can you tell me how to write Hindi ,as I am ignorant. Incidentally, Shatoots are back in the market,along with FALSAS. We used to eat direct from trees, now you pay.Regards

    • Manish Khamesra says:

      Sethi ji

      Its always a pleasure to get a comment from you. And this time its dipped in sweet kindness.

      In-fact in office, just a few minutes before your comment, I too looked at the lines on my hands and in the picture to make out whose hand it was. It is mine :-)

      Regarding luck line, I can tell you for sure that I never got anything when I did not deserve it and when I was ready for something God has given more than I could have asked.

      BTW, do have an interest in astrology. Before replying, please be ready that if you would say yes, the next day you will find picture of my hand in your account and then I would be eagerly waiting for your comments.

      Aur haan be ready for this long pending ghumakkar meet, you will be the star attraction.

      Writing in hindi is not difficult, you can type in English phonetics and get it it in hindi at http://www.quillpad.in/editor.html though sometimes, there are spelling mistakes. I am sure many of our ghumakkar authors are using better tool, but I am sure that quillpad will not disappoint you.

      ??? ????? ????? ?? ??? ?????, ??? ?? ??????? ?? ???? ?? ?? ???? ?? ?? ?? ????|
      ??? !

  • SS says:

    Very well written & informative travelogue.Please suggest an iternary for a visit to kumaon for 7-8 days.I like religious & off beat places.Preferably at banks of rivers,less crowded & green.What are the hiring charges for Indica & Innova in these regions?Are KMVNL hotels good and what are the charges?
    I did Kedarnath & Badrinath trip with my wife ,mother & 01 year old son last year.It was fantabulous.We stayed in GMVNL hotels all the time.

    • Is it new SSji ? …. or went to Kedarnath & Badrinath with his grand son last year.

      • SS says:

        I am new in the forum.Joined 15 days back.I have 02 year old son.Getting a grandson in near future looks really difficult considering the circumstances.

        • :-)

          Actually Tridevji got confused as SS is also used my our much acclaimed and senior writer Silent Soulji. I enjoyed the reply, sometimes in these manners only we come to know more about our readers as well.

    • Manish Khamesra says:

      Hello SS

      I think for a visit to Kumaon the itinerary we followed would be best for you as well.

      http://www.ghumakkar.com/2010/07/27/reposeful-deenapani/

      Please find above the link of my post where I wrote about the itinerary.
      Good thing about this itinerary is that we ensured that we would not travel more than 4-5 hours in a day. Sometimes after 4-5 hour the journey loses its charm and one only has destination in his mind.

      We had mixed experiences with KMVN, we liked its property in Deenapaani, Birthi falls, I am sure even Munsiyari is good, Saattal & Jageshwar is average. And Chaukori definitely have better options.

      We hired Gypsy from Mr Jaggu, his contact number was 09412963532 ( I hope it still works) and I have no doubt in saying that he provided us good vehicles and good drivers and at reasonable cost. I hope this number works.

      Please feel free to ask any doubt you have regarding the itinerary.

  • Pat Jones says:

    the ever-widening horizon of Manish & Co. is amazing. After the recent foray into the world of winged creatures (I can see a gentle prodding by Jaishree here but should’ve been the otherway around – usually men take more interest in ‘birds’) its now the turn of colourful berries to bring out the poet.

    Well, the 3-decade formation at a rather rocky terrain can’t go waste, can it?

    • Manish Khamesra says:

      Patrick

      Thanks for giving a comment after such a long time. You were definitely missed. Getting a comment from you on any story is like getting an excellent rating from boss.

      BTW I am sorry but this time I could not get the last line of your comment. I have started to transfer blame for such failures to the approaching old age :-)

      • Pat Jones says:

        I’m twisting and turning in my grave – oh, no! – squirming in my seat with the first part of your reply. ‘Onshoring’ has kept me away these days but would like to catch up. I too miss the great pieces of work (has become a rarity these days) by the masters.

        And yes, it was about your formative years with exaggerated terrain added for dramatic effect! Look, how miserably I won!

        • Dear Patrick

          The comment is clear now. The writer’s liberty :-) really dramatized it.

          I am sure not only me, but the whole ghumakkar community would be enjoying your comeback. We have many new, energetic and enthusiastic travellers, readers and writers now and they will love and appreciate the “STAR COMMENTER”

  • Manish Kumar says:

    Wonderful info with nice presentation. Its really tiring in those curvy terrain of Uttranchanl. After last visit to Kumaon my son has categorically told me that hills should not be my next holiday destination.

    • Manish Khamesra says:

      Dear Manish

      Thanks for reading the story and leaving the comment. In our trip of Kumaon, I think we were not so off-mark. Most of the time it was a drive of 4 to 5 hours. So it was not that bad. Except for two places journey was smooth for all of us.

      Kids know very well what they enjoy and what they do not. I am sorry you have to wait for some time before planning any other trip to mountains. Or, may be plan a short trip to nearby place and if he would enjoy that vacation, you can have solace that for long trips as well he might be open.

  • RAKESH GOEL says:

    Thanks for giving such an exhaustive information of flora of PAHAD. One thing in particular ,drew my attention ,Bedu Pakho——. My colleague Bhawan Singh, from Pithoragarh, used to murmur this song in 1975 , in Bulandshahr (U.P). Presently we reside in Rohini , Delhi. 15 days back , I and my wife went to Didihat to attend a marriage of my neighbour”s daughter. On our request , mother of our host ,gladly recited this folk song. They were only too happy to offer lot of Kaafals, to us, taste being somewhat like that of Phaalsa.Excellent post.

    • Dear Rakeshji

      Sorry for delay in reply as I was travelling to Kinnaur region of Himachal and returned this Tuesday only.

      Thanks for sharing the interesting anecdotes. A few things reminds us of inseparable memories of our friends/colleagues and your comment shows how much you love and value those memories.

      Thanks again for sharing.

  • Jim Corbett in his story, “The Chowgarh Tigers” described how while looking for a man eater he spent a night on an oak tree (which was not unusual for him). He felt that he made a wrong choice as he had been asleep only for a some hours when his sleep was disturbed by the rustling of several animals under the tree. The sound moved on and then he heard the scraping of claws on the bark and realized that the family of bears were climbing some Kaphal trees, that he then noticed growing up little down the hillside. He noted down that the bears are very quarrelsome when feeding, and sleep was impossible until they had eaten their fill and moved on.

    [Kaphal berries they are greatly fancied by both human beings and bears]

  • Col NN Bhatia says:

    I am a die hard KUMAONI-an officer of the KUMAON Regiment.My book KUMAONI Nostalgia is under print & I send you my very first article of the book,’ Bedu Pako..’
    ‘Beru Pakyo Barah MassaKUMAON Paltan Teri Topi and The Baal Mithai’
    By
    Col N N Bhatia (Retd)

    The panormic view from Ranikhet

    The Russells Lion forms part of the Kumaon Regiments Crest

    My first exposure with the KUMAON Region was over half a century back in 1955 as a young student in the A N Jha Govt High School in Rudrapur then an obscure small Tarai farmers’ town where they came regularly to sell their crops and purchase their daily needs. But it was in 1957 that I was first mesmerised with the KUMAON Hills when I went to Nainital as part of our school’s sports team to participate in Nainital District Schools’ Athletics Meet. Having traveled in the lower class seat on the rear wheel of the over crowded rickety UP Roadways bus, I landed in Nainital with a spinning head and awful nausea that put an end to my yet to start athletics career. But the love blooming for the KUMAON Hills had been by then kindled with in me. It was Major Prem Bhatia – my elder brother who was commissioned in 6 KUMAON on 4 Dec 1954 and was then serving in The KUMAON Regimental Centre, Ranikhet who had ignited The KUMAON passion with in me. Our great Regiment has produced many brave soldiers and generals but it’s my late brother Major Prem Bhatia, Vir Chakra, Hero of the Battle of Walong who has ever remained my sole role model for me. He was severely wounded in the Battle of Walong and survived but the tragic scooter accident on the last day of his staff College Course in Wellington on 28 Feb 1965 cut short his promising career putting our family in the shocking gloom for ever. I was shattered, devastated and cannot not believe the tragic truth even now. Yes, I always miss him and salute him for ever… Its a matter of pride that his son Brig Arvind Bhatia after successfully commanding 6 KUMAON, Higher Defence Management Course and tenures as Col Q in Headquarters Delhi and Rajasthan Area and in the UN Peace keeping Operations in Congo commanded a brigade near Pathankot and is now attending prestigious National Defence College Course in Delhi.

    Som Nath Ground on the left and Officers Mess on the right

    The ‘KUMAON Dev Bhoomi’ or ‘The Abode of Gods’ is the land of the Mahakali and its major right bank tributaries, the Gori Ganga, the Dhauli Ganga and the Ram Ganga. Like the other major source rivers of the Ganga, the Mahakali too, originates North of the Great Himalayan crest zone and forces a passage through the main range, to merge with the Ganga in the distant plains. Thus, KUMAON is one of the five geographical zones of the Himalayas – Nepal, Kurmanchal, Kedarkhand, Jalandharkhand and Kashmir as mentioned in our ancient textbooks.

    The word ‘KUMAON’ means different things for different people in our nucleus family. For my late brother and me perhaps it always meant our great Regiment the KUMAON Paltan and teri topi, the bulas singing “Beru Pakyo Barah Massa” and other haunting KUMAONI folk songs, community dancing in rhythmic but vigorous steps, fascinating snow capped Nanda Devi and Trishul peaks, the Jim Corbett Park, the Swiss Hotel and Naini Lake in Nanital, The Jhula Devi and Kalika Mandir, The West View Hotel, ever blooming blood red rhododendrons whose syrupy juice rejuvenates tired mind, body and soul, the pine & oak trees touching the sky, The KUMAON Regimental Centre and Col Ram Singh, affectionately called ‘Datta’ by my age group, Major and Mrs BC Sarma, my most loveable uncle and aunty who gave me self less love and had two beautiful daughters Rita and Gita studying in Saint Marys Convent Nainital whom I as a young teenager secretly adored, some of the amazing fauna and flora and animals in Dikhala, Jhrina and Bijrani ranges made immortal by ‘Bull’ nick name for Col Narinder Kumar, a great KUMAONI pioneer in the mountaineering . Then the Officer’s Mess waiter late Sarju who had joined as a small orphan boy when the Regimental Centre was in Agra, was a store house of the Regimental information and anecdotes about the crockery, cutlery, drinks, cocktails and both British and Indian Sahibs. According to him, Srinagesh, Timmy, Bahadur, Bhagwati (IC-1) and NK Sinha (IC-420) were always professionally better than the British Sahibs. He would get his daily quota of a large peg of rum courtesy the young dinning members of the Officers’ Mess and if he ever got two large ones, he would demonstrate how to pot all the three billiards balls in one shot! He served, retired and died only for ‘The KUMAON Regimental Centre Officers’ Mess! ‘The Bravest of the Brave 13 KUMAON in which I was commissioned in 1963 is the only unit decorated with Param Vir Chakra and The Ashok Chakra (highest gallantry awards in war & peace times respectively), 2 KUMAON (Berar), the oldest Paltan of the Regiment that I had privilege to command and late Majs Som Nath Sharma and Shaitan Singh both decorated with posthumous Param Vir Chakras. The list can perhaps carry on and on endlessly!!For my late old parents, it was taking a stroll on the Mall at Ranikhet and hear with pride deeds of their late son Major Prem Bhatia, Vir Chakra with moist eyes with chance acquaintances of their brave son. For my wife, it is the fascination of Jhula Devi Temple, Kainchi Mandir or idyllic surroundings of the Kausani rightly called as the ‘Switzerland of the East’. For my daughter and son, it is synonymous with their alma maters in St Mary’s School Nainital, Conossa Convent Ranikhet or the town’s Baal Mithai that has blend of roasted khoya, jaggery and childhood memories. Though I retired from the Army in 1995, our daughter Neerja as Head of the Confederation Of Indian Industry in Singapore and son Gaurav as skipper of The Japanese ‘K’ Line Merchant Navy Ship, ever since I can recall, look for the Baal Mithai from any one coming from the KUMAON Hills. Nothing thrills them more than a big bite of ubiquitous Baal Mithai. It is indeed a major logistic nightmare for me now to keep regular supply of the Baal Mithai to both of them especially when professionally they are on globe trotting spree and I no more reside in The KUMAON Hills..!!

    Incidentally, for many known and unknown reasons the Joga Shah in Almora was the only one who made the best Baal Mithai with the famous creamy milk brought from the village Phalsima near Almora. He was a genius who invented sausage shaped dark brown mithai wrapped in sugar dipped khas khas seeds. Later, commercialasation and competition led to cutting the cost and sweet shops started covering it with sugary homeopathic pills. After Joga, Routela brothers – khem Singh and Mohan Singh made fortune selling Baal Mithai. The story goes that Joga Shah was actually a Christian called Joga Isai who became Hindu after invention and popularity of the Baal Mithai.

    Incidentally, though we all know that our great Regiment is successor to the erstwhile The Hyderabad Regiment, mostly very little is known about the origin and mythological significance of the word KUMAON. The word KUMAON is derived from the word “Kurmanchal” meaning Land of the “Kurm” avatar (the tortoise incarnation of Lord Vishnu, preserver of the Hindu Trinity). According to the Hindu mythology, Adi Kailash (also known as Chotta Kailash) in the KUMAON Region is one of the three residences of Lord Kailash (Shiva) and Goddess Parvati, Lord Ganesh and Lord Kartikey.

    The original inhabitants of the KUMAON Region are said to have been the Kols related to the Mund, ethnic group. One of their groups migrated to The KUMAON Region after the Dravidians defeated them. The Shilpkars of the KUMAON area are said to be the descendants of the Kols. The Kirats are believed to have been the ancestors of the tribes, which are today known as Shaukas, Banrajis, Tharus and Boksas. While the Shaukas were active from the Tarai to Tibet region, the Tharus and Boksas confined themselves to the Tarai while the Banrajis always lived in splendid isolation.
    ‘Historically, evidence of Mesolithic period (middle Stone Age) settlements has been found in the KUMAON Region, as indicated by the paintings at rock shelter at Lake Udyar. The first known ruling dynasty of the KUMAON Region was The Kunindas who reigned from 500 B.C. to 600 A.D followed by The Katyuri kings who ruled the region from 7th to the 11th century with their capital at Baijnath near Kausani. The 900-year-old sun temple of Katarmal was built by the Katyuri dynasty on a hilltop-facing East opposite Almora. It is said that in the 16th century, Chatrapati Shivaji had acquired smiles from the sacred river of Kali Gandki for making idol of Bhavani Devi in Pratapgad. But the creation of the modern KUMAON Region in the 17th century AD is credited to the Chand Dynasty of Pithoragarh, with their centrally located Capital at Almora while Binsar was the summer capital. The Chand rulers over a period of two centuries built magnificent Jageshwar Temple dedicated to Lord Shiva. After formation of Uttranchal and now Uttrakhand, all credit goes to Sh ND Tiwari for bringing The KUMAON Region to world tourism map along with its all round development.

    The region of Nainital was once called the ‘City of Lakes’ or ‘Chakta’ as there were 60 lakes in the area. Beside the Naini Lake, which is the major attraction of the region, the other lakes are at Bhimtal, Naukhuchiatal, Khurpatal, Sattal and Shymaltal. Incidentally, the British discovered the lake paradise of Nainital in 1841 that was subsequently used as the summer capital of the United Provinces. As a matter of historical fact, it was also considered to shift India’s capital to Nainital but geophysical survey ruled out construction of railway line due to fragile nature of the hills and thus finally Shimla got that honour. Beside the scenic beauty, Nainital is famous for its lake, excellent schools, space observatory and hotels that can suit from a pauper to a prince. Legend has it that three ancient sages reached here on a pilgrimage, and, finding no water to drink, dug a hole here rerouting the waters of the Mansarovar Lake in Tibet. Yet another story has deeper routes in Hinduism. It says that when Lord Shiva carried the charred body of his wife Sati (after she jumped into the sacrificial fire on being insulted by her father), one of her eyes fell in Nainital giving rise to the eye-shaped Naini Lake.

    Though KUMAONIS are worshippers of Ma Kalika or Shakti and Lord Shiva, they have rich traditions of folk deity worship. The heroes of some long – forgotten age have later on become folk gods and they give expression to the popular beliefs of the people in the large number of the temples that abound the region.

    Atop a small ridge, known as Devisthan, in the village of Umagarh at Ramgarh, the famous Hindi poetess Mahadevi Verma had bought some land in 1937 and constructed a small bungalow. Every year during summer months she would visit this place along with her family of numerous birds and animals and immerse her self in the twin tasks of literary creation and social work. While visiting Almora in 1899, Swami Vivekananda referred to the KUMAON Himalayas as the land of their forefather’s dreamHe said, I have attempted again and again to live here forever, and although the time was not ripe, and I had work to do and was whirled away outside of this holy place yet I sincerely pray and hope, and almost believe, my last days will be here of all places on earth…. these mountains are associated with the best memories of our race.’ The great sage meditated at kakrighat on the Kosi River and found the oneness between the macrocosm and microcosm; the spot where he fainted and was revived by a local Muslim gentleman in the house of Sri Badri Sah, where he first lived, the Thompson House from where he preached his disciples and the cave at Kasar Devi where he experienced ‘The Divine’ have all become attractive tourist spots. In 1903 Gurudev Rabindra Nath Tagore had visited Ramgarh in order to give his ailing daughter a chance to recuperate. He walked on foot from Kathgodam to Bhimtal where his Swiss admirer Mr. Daniel who took Gurudev to Ramgarh received him. For a while Gurudev stayed at Ramgarh as Mr. Daniel’s guest. However, soon Mr. Daniel had a house constructed for Gurudev on a high ridge, now renamed as ‘Tagore Top’, situated at a height of 8500 feet above sea level. Gurudev had christened the house “Gitanjali” and it was here that he had started writing his immortal masterpiece ‘Gitanjali’. No wonder, while Mahatma Gandhi called Kausani in its natural beauty and tranquility as the Switzerland of the East, Nobel laureate Rabindra Nath Tagore was inspired to compose his Gitanjali in Ramgarh.

    Mukteshwar, Ranikhet, Kausani, Bageshwar, Baijnath, Jogeshwar, Binsar, Almora, Ramgarh, Bhimtal and Jim Corbett Park attract any one for their scenic beauty. KUMAON is, or rather was, classic tiger country. Now-a-days most of region’s remaining tigers are rehabilitated in the Jim Corbett National Park- India’s first National Park situated in the lower KUMAON Hills near Ramnagar. Due to excessive tourism, lack of job opportunities and commercialisation has led to vendalisation of these sacred places by the Forest and the Bureaucratic Mafias that sinks hearts of all those who love these majestic hills.
    Pant Nagar, Rudrapur, Haldwani and Kathgodam, the railhead in foothills are the other upcoming commercial centers. This region is a paradise for adventure sports of sheer variety ranging from mountaineering, trekking, skiing, skating, biking, rafting, angling, yachting, canoeing, kayaking, ballooning, and wild life safaris while golf has become another big attraction.
    So this is how the story of the ‘Beru Pakyo Barah MassaKUMAON Paltan Teri Topi and the Baal Mithai’ as a part of our lives so dear to all of us unfolds

    • Manish says:

      Dear Col NN Bhatiaji

      I am late in reading and replying to this comment. However, Getting a comment from the family of a great Martyr and a proud soldier of Kumaoni regiment is like a blessing to this attempt. And as Nandan commented, that we would be keenly looking forward to hear more from you about your book. It seems to be a perfect mix of personal experience and the history and mythological facts of Kumaon.

      My head bow in reverence to the sacrifice of the proud, gutsy Kumaon regiment and also to your family. The nation feels proud and indebted to the soldier who fought and even sacrificed their lives so that we as Nation can stay confident, upright posture of citizens of a free nation.

      Thanks again.
      Manish.

  • Nandan Jha says:

    Dear Col Bhatia Sir – Many thanks for stopping by and sharing the first chapter of your book. I am a frequenter of Naukuchiatal and I would want to read the book, when it is available.

    Thanks again and please keep visiting Ghumakkar.

  • Col NN Bhatia says:

    My book KUMAONI Nostalgia was printed last month both in Hindi & English. English book is priced Rs 495 & Hindi version Rs 525 but to all Kumaonis /Garhwalis / troops it is available @Rs 400 each. Books can be had from my publisher Col Mahip Chadha, CMD Creative Crows, D-328, Defence Colony, New Delhi -24, Mob 09810539784, Email [email protected]
    Please pass to Pahari diaspora & all those interested in KUMAON Hills & Kumaon Regiment.
    Regards & Happy reading,
    Col NN Bhatia

  • Nini Bhatia says:

    My book KUMAONI Nostalgia was printed last month both in Hindi & English. English book is priced Rs 495 & Hindi version Rs 525 but to all Kumaonis /Garhwalis / troops it is available @Rs 400 each. Books can be had from my publisher Col Mahip Chadha, CMD Creative Crows, D-328, Defence Colony, New Delhi -24, Mob 09810539784, Email [email protected]
    Please pass to Pahari diaspora & all those interested in KUMAON Hills & Kumaon Regiment.
    Regards & Happy reading,
    Col NN Bhatia

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