Located on the foothills of the Himalayas and on the banks of the Sharda River and surrounded by dense forests is the charming town of Tanakpur in Uttarakhand. Rugged and raw with pristine views, Tanakpur is often referred to as the ” Gateway to the Kumaon Himalayas. ” The town is also adjacent to the Nepal border as a bridge across the Sharda River separates India from Nepal. However, Tanakpur is also a destination for pilgrims and devotees as the Devi Purnagiri Temple is located 20 kms from the town and you have to do a short trek of 3 km uphill to reach the temple which is one of the 108 Shakti Peethas. There are several tourist places near Tanakpur from lakes, forests, and temples, and here are some of the places to see in Tanakpur.
Maa Purnagiri Temple
The divine mythological legend of Mahadev Shiva and Ma Parvati as the deities Shiva and Sati is retold here. It was believed that Lord Shiva as a Yogi had married Sati against the wishes of her father and king, Dakha Prajapati and he performed a Vrihaspati Yagna without inviting them. When Sati went there alone, she was humiliated as her father insulted Lord Shiva and she immolated herself in the sacrificial fire. An angry Lord Shiva in grief carried Sati’s body in his arms and performed the dance of destruction. It is believed that parts of her body fell at different regions and they became known as Shakti Peethams. At Purnagiri it is believed that her navel or “naabi” had fallen and the temple was later built here. One of the oldest temples, it is always thronged by devotees, especially around spring in March- April, during Chaitra Navaratri.
Tanakpur is also known for the Panchmukhi Shiva Temple which also has a very simple and humble Dharamshala attached to it.
Another popular temple, located on the banks of the Sharda River is the Boom Temple, also called Adhya Shakti Peeth. It is believed to be under the auspices of the spiritual and mystical Guru Maa and the shrines here are dedicated to the Hindu pantheon of Goddesses who are forms of Shakti or Ma Parvati.
One of the most pristine ghats, the Sharda Ghat is also called Ma Purnagiri Ghat. The turquoise waters of the river Sharda surrounded by the mountains look straight out of a picture postcard. But this is also one of the holiest of all ghats as most pilgrims and devotees have their ablutions here before visiting the temple.
However the river flows into Nepal as well and as you drive along small villages on the river banks, you end up at the Nepal border. A bridge connects the two countries at the border and there are protocols and rules if you wish to visit the other side for a day. A medieval market set up by the Katyuri Kings used to stand on the other side of the bridge in Nepal but was eventually destroyed due to the landslide. It was believed to have been an important trade route during the colonial era.
Shyamlatal and Vivekananda Ashram
Located about 30 kms from Tanakpur is a serene natural lake that stands en route to the hill station of Champawat. The lake exudes a dark bluish-black colour because of the hills and rocks surrounding it. Locals have named it Shyaam with a reference to the hues of Lord Krishna. However it is so quiet in this remote lost village that you literally feel like you are in an idyllic world.
The Vivekananda Ashram is further uphill and is a little haven in this world of loveliness. It was started over a century ago by Swami Virajanandaji Maharaj, one of the disciples of Swami Vivekananda. You can also stay here in the Ashram and devote yourself to meditation and spiritual growth. There is a temple here inside the Ashram. The Ashram also helps in training, education, and other welfare activities for children besides also providing medical support. If you want a few moments to silence your mind, then this is one of the best places to see in Tanakpur. The Ashram is however not open for guests in the winter.
Nandhaur Wildlife Sanctuary
Located in Uttarakhand, this recently anointed wildlife sanctuary is between the Rivers Sharda and Gola and is predominantly filled with sal trees, It stretches over an area of 270sq km, and is located between Haldwani and Champavat forest divisions in Uttarakhand. There are three gates here to this sanctuary and while Chorgalia Gate is in Haldwani and Kilpura Gate is in Chakarpur, the Kakrali Gate is in Tanakpur.
The wildlife sanctuary is also a part of the Shivalik Elephant Reserve and is one of the places to see in Tanakpur. In fact, we did spot a herd of wild elephants with calves as well on our wildlife safari, enjoying a mud bath. The forest is also home to tigers and leopards and other mammals. It’s a bird watcher’s paradise with over 200 species of birds. The sanctuary links Nepal’s Shuklaphanta National Park and the dense forests of Ramnagar in Uttarakhand. In some stretches, the landscape is very similar to that of Corbett National Park. The safaris are not yet run in an organised manner in this part of the national park. although you can do a bit of offroading here. However, there are efforts to start wildlife and adventure tourism and rafting along the river here which are some of the proposed things to do in Tanakpur for the adventurous at heart.
Although Tanakpur is pristine and has so many unexplored destinations, it is still raw and rustic and needs more infrastructure for tourists. There are many tourist places near Tanakpur as well but they still need to be developed. Currently, it is still a pilgrim destination and not yet primed for tourism. The tourism department is keen on developing rural tourism and adventure tourism here. There are a few rustic homestays and a few two-star hotels in the town. While there is a potential to develop wildlife and water sports and other adventure activities, safety and other precautions are yet to be focussed upon. There is a dearth of naturalists, forest guards, and guides as well. However, there is a certain charm in visiting offbeat, virgin destinations. Plan a trip to Tanakpur if you are on a pilgrimage or the idea of going to a rugged destination fascinates you. You can either drive from Delhi which takes about seven to eight hours by road and its at a distance of 355 kms. You can also fly to Bareilly from Mumbai and then drive to Tanakpur. It is at a distance of 115 km and takes a little more than two hours by road.
Have you been to Tanakpur ? Are there any places to see in Tanakpur that you would like to recommend? I was invited to Tanakpur and the neighbouring Champavat by Uttarakhand Tourism.