Saturday, April 27, 2013

Tanakpur (Unknown Kumoun: 2)

Unknown Kumon

Nanakmatta Sahib (Unknown Kumoun: 1)
Tanakpur (Unknown Kumoun: 2)
Chalthi and Champawat (Unknown Kumoun 3)
Lohaghat and Advaita Ashram (Unknown Kumoun 4)
Pithoragarh (Unknown Kumoun 5)
Jhulaghat on the India-Nepal border (Unknown Kumoun 6)
Baitadi Nepal (Unknown Kumoun 7)
Dharchula (Unknown Kumoun 8)
Ritha Sahib Gurudwara (Unknown Kumoun 9)
Basantpur village (Unknown Kumoun 10)
Last village on the mountains (Unknown Kumoun 11)
Most dangerous Nandour valley (Unknown Kumoun 12)
End of trail at Chorgalia (Unknown Kumoun 13)
I leave Nanakmatta Sahib Gurudwara in the morning and take a bus to Khatima because there all routes to Tanakpur converge. Nanakmatta to Tanakpur is just 45 kilometers so I arrive in Tanakpur at 10 in the morning. Whole route is so beautiful that it is a feast to all senses.
Tanakpur is a green, small and planned town and unlike all towns in India, it stayed a small town since I am visiting here for the last fifteen years. Meter Gauge train comes here from Braeilly and Pilibhit. Hopefully soon gauge will be converted into Broad Gauge. Many basic hotels and restaurants are here. Nothing classy although.

India and Nepal views from Purnagiri Temple

People arrive here to take their long and tiring journey to mountains in India as well in Nepal and all these journeys begin very early in the morning. So it is a frontier town mostly used for transit purpose.
The only famous place to visit here is Maa Purnagiri temple.
One of the 108 Siddha Peeths, this Devi Temple is 21 kms from Tanakpur, Tunyas is 17 kms and from there 3 km trek leads to the Temple.
According to an ancient legend, Daksha Prajapati organised a sacrificial ceremony, for which he invited everybody except Lord Shiva. Parvati on discovering that it was her father’s trick to humiliate her husband immolated herself in the sacrificial fire. While her husband carried her body, the places where the parts of her body fell were recognized as Shakti Peeth.

Sharda River India/Nepal
The Shakti Peeth holds the prime position among Malikagiri, Kalikagiri, and Himlagiri Peeths.
During Navratras, in the Chaitra month of the Indian calendar, devotees in large number come here. After worshipping Mata Purnagiri, people also pay their tributes to her loyal devotee Bada Sidth Nath at Brahmadev and Mahendra Nagar in Nepal.
I always spend a couple of days in Tanakpur, one day is always for visiting Purnagiri because I love that forested area and visita from the temple is superb. One can see far away the landscape and mountains of India and Nepal.
So am in Tanakpur and first I walk to my fixed hotel where I always stay. I unload my backpack there and now is the time to talk a 3 kilometer walk to Nepal side and see if there is anything good that I can buy but I doubt.

Road by the river going to Nepal
I take this walk each day because of its scenic beauty. Walk behind the town towards Sharda River levy and walk on the retaining walls of the barrage. It is exceptionally scenic here and you may find local folks walking or just relaxing in the evening. It is one kilometer walk by the river. This area is yet pollution free because of the absence of any large city in India and Nepal. We arrive at the barrage where all the water is taken off from Sharda River and diverted to the powerhouse and then at another barrage that also serves as the International bridge to Nepal (Mahendranagar is the nearest town), two canals are extracted at the both sides, one for each, India and Nepal.
I walk on the road build on the retaining wall and then walk over the barrage and make a large 3 kilometer U in the scenic area and arrive in Nepal.

View from the barrage
This bridge is manned by Industrial security force. Minimum identification is required upon returning to prove that you are India or Nepal national. As no major road leads to Bhramdev bazaar from Nepal and every body has to return back to India. One can even get away from Identification requirements by informing the police that you are simply going to bazaar so they’d let you back in India. They maintain a register where we sign when we make this border crossing so returning within the same day is not a problem at all. There are no border guards in Nepal at this crossing.
This used to be a thriving bazaar, full with the goods from China. People from India used to flock here to buy China made goods, but after economic reforms in India, these things are now cheaper in India so trading pattern has changed now.

Sharda River from the Purnagiri temple. River makes the border between India and Nepal.
Several years ago I used to visit this bazaar and always bought a small ten band Kachibo radio but that radio is sold at half the price in India than Nepal. Small restaurants in Bhramdev offer Nepal cuisine and they will also cook packaged soups and noodles from China.
Well, I am in Bharamdev and order a tomato soup from a packet from china followed by Nepali style noodles and my lunch is done. I walk further on the barrage in Nepal side. As I am now 2 kilometers away from the barrage, river is shallow and crossable and I restrain my temptation to cross the river because one can cross the border only at supervised and designated border crossing. I used to cross India – Nepal border in the wilderness before but not any more.
At 3 PM I return from the valley and make a large round and cross the border.

Sharda River in Tanakpur before the barage
Since guards remembered me so they only wave me to go on the bridge, and I enter in India again and then walk on the road by the river. Till 6PM I hang in this area for its sheer unspoiled beauty and hear the bird songs and watch the migrant birds swimming in the blue water. At this time I meet several local people taking their daily stroll or doing Yoga in this utterly pretty area.
Near sunset I return to the market to have a cup of tea. It is not completely dark yet so I again return to the river but in the north side of the town where it is flowing freely before it is contained in the barrage. I spend some time here playing in the water and return back to Tanakpur in the dark.
Hotel owner Mr. Virender Kumar, who is my friend is waiting for me with a bottle. Over the drinks he begins crying. He lost a big fortune in khair-wood business. Khair (Acacia catechu) is a moderate size deciduous tree with rough dark gray brown bark. It belongs to family Leguminoseae-mimoseae. It is said that the name ‘catechu’ was given to it because its bristles resemble the claws of animals of the cat family or maybe because its heart wood contains cutch. It is also called katha, khoira, koir, kheriya baval, kher babul, kagli, cachu, kugli, kaderi and sandra in local Indian languages.

Khair Tree (Acacia catechu)
Virender Kumar had an illegal khair wood factory in Nepal with a Nepali partner. he khair tree is very useful in a number of ways. A pale yellow mucilaginous gum exudes from the tree, yielding one of the best substitutes for true gum arabic. Its wood contains catechin, catechutanic acid and tannin. The wood extracts are used for tanning and dyeing khaki.
The bark and roots of khair are used in treating sore mouth, body pains, gravel, bronchial asthma and indigestion. The bark is especially useful as astringent, and a cure in cough, diarrhea and indigestion, cancer, piles, sore throat, ulceration, eczema and certain forms of leprosy.
Katha is a pink substance found in Khair wood. It is obtained by boiling small chips of the heart wood in specially designed earthen pitchers and allowing the concentrate to cool and crystallize. Katha is not only used as a remedy for body pain but also in medicines for other human ailments. Katha is also used extensively in ‘pan’. It forms an important ingredient of adhesives for plywood and is also extensively used in drying canvas and sizing of fishing nets and ropes.
Because of their various uses, Khair tree wood, bark and roots are in great demand. While the going price of a standing khair tree of approximately one-foot diameter is about Rs 6000, the Katha sells at nearly Rs 1600 per kg. The bark fetches nearly Rs 80 per kg. The tree has always been subjected to extensive exploitation — both legal as well as illegal.
Katha is not available anymore because most of the khair trees are gone now. Katha that is used in the paans nowadays is bogus. Varinder Kumar was a partner in Khair wood illegal operation with a native of Nepal at the other side of the river. Factory was operating with the convenience of local police there but somehow relations soured. Police raided the factory hidden in a village and seized it. Varinder Kumar invested all the money and partner was responsible for poaching the remaining khair trees.
To be continued ….

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