On the day of leaving Kausani, Puran did not report in time in the morning. The previous evening, he went to his native home which was nearby. We finished our breakfast, packed our bags and were walking up and down restlessly in front of the reception area of the hotel as it was getting late. There was an accident in an adjacent eatery where a gas cylinder caught fire and people were moving away in fear that it would burst anytime. We spent some time watching the incident from the hotel backyard and then again returned back to the hotel lobby and started looking at the pictures of Uttarakhand Tourism put up in the lobby. But still there was no sign of Puran. In the mean time the receptionist asked us about our next destination. When we told him that we were headed for Binsar, he suggested us to stop by Baijnath. There were some fascinating pictures of the Baijnath Temples that were hanging in the hotel lobby. We checked the map also and Baijnath was only 18 kilometres from Kausani and on the route to Binsar. But Puran did not mention anything about visiting Baijnath. When he finally turned up, we inquired about Baijnath and he said that we would not travel via Bageshwar (Baijnath is in on that route) and would take a different route. But we had already decided to visit Baijnath and also Bageshwar. We did not know till then what was in store for us. After some initial hanky-panky Puran finally revealed that Bageshwar was not in his itinerary. Now that was a rude shock for us. We had booked a car for the entire journey via KMVN and since the accommodations were also in the KMVN rest houses, the personnel at the KMVN Kolkata office had drawn up a ballpark itinerary. But that doesn’t mean that we may not deviate from that itinerary. Then what’s the use of booking a private car. My brother in law gave a good verbal spanking to both Puran and his travel agent boss at Nainital and then we started for Baijnath. I was thinking whether we had missed many more places earlier by relying on Puran. From this experience, I would suggest others not to book cars via KMVN. They charge more, have some weird conditions and you may end up traveling in an itinerary set by others.
On our way to Baijnath (18 kilometres away from Kausani and 1126 metres above sea level), sensing our displeasure, Puran tried to woo us back by suggesting that the travel agent was the one to blame for the confusion and he was but only a poor driver following the word of his superior. We did not pay much heed to his monologue and rather waited in anticipation for the Baijnath Temples.
On the banks of the Gomti river in the Garur valley, stands the temple complex of Baijnath. The temples are constructed in stone and though they do not display any great craftsmanship in terms of sculptures, their architecture is glorious and with so many of them lying side by side, the attraction of the complex magnifies manifold. The temples looked quite old and later on we found out that they date back to 12th century or even earlier. It might be the case that the carvings and figurines on the outer walls of the temples had eroded with the passage of time.
There were idols of Shiva, Ganesha, Parvati, Chandika, Kuber, Surya and Brahma in the various temples. Some of the temples seemed to be non-operational. But the main temple still houses a gorgeous idol of Parvati chiseled in black stone. The place is of immense mythological importance since it is believed that Lord Shiva and Parvati were married here at the confluence of Gomti and Garur Ganga. From the historical point of view, the temples were constructed by the Katyuri rules of ancient Kartikeyapura.
It took us more than an hour more to reach Bageshwar which is located at 25 metres away from Baijnath. The name of the place is probably derived from the famous Bagnath Temple dedicated to Lord Shiva and located at the confluence of Gomti and Saryu rivers. The legend is that Lord Shiva roamed around the place in the form of tiger and hence the people worshipped Lord Shiva as tiger in the ancient times. Now, however, there is no such idol. The temple in its current state was built by the Chand rulers more than 400 years back. In fact the interiors of the temple were so dim lit that we could hardly see the idol behind the garlands of flowers.
The town of Bageshwar is a popular pilgrimage but then the temple was almost deserted and there was only another family who visited when we were present there and they engaged themselves in performing some rituals.
At the rear of the temple there was a nice place where one could sit idly and look upon the confluence of the Gomti and Saryu rivers. We relaxed for a bit there but could not afford to spend much longer as it was well past noon and Binsar was still far away and also we did not have anything for lunch.
We bought some fruits and gorged on some sweets from a nearby shop. The unique sweet that we came across is called “bal-mithai” with a chocolate base and we came to know that this sweet is a specialty of Kumaon. Since we were running really late, we dropped the idea of a full course lunch and sped off towards Binsar.