Dharchula : The Stove Peak
A major trading centre since medieval times, Dharchula is a beautiful town located on the Indo-Nepal border in the Pithoragarh district of Uttarakhand. The snow clad Panchchuli peaks located on the west of Dharchula separate it from the Johar Valley.
Situated at an elevation of 915 m above sea level, Dharchula is surrounded by hills and offers breathtaking views of the grand Himalayan peaks. The hill station gets its name from ‘Dhar’ and ‘Chula’; Dhar means peak and chula means stove in Hindi. The name was given to Dharchula as it resembles a stove.
Dharchula was an ancient trading town on the Trans-Himalayan trade routes. Trade was based on barter system and was the only source of income for the inhabitants of Dharchula. Local handicrafts like carpets which are known here as ‘dan’, were exchanged with the Tibetans for food and clothing.
After the Indo-China War in 1962, all trading ties with the Tibetans came to a stop which caused innumerable hardships to the people of Dharchula. The difficulty forced people to look for alternate means of earnings. Soon the locals engaged themselves in farming, small businesses and cattle farming. With government intervention, good tourism facilities have developed in the town.
Dharchula is considered strategically sensitive as it is situated on the Indo-Nepal border and separated from its Nepalese twin by the River Kali. Dharchula shares its borders with both Nepal and China. Visiting the Nepali town of Dharchula makes for one of the best excursions.
The people of both towns have common traditions, culture, and lifestyle and are allowed to move across the border without any strict checking of the passport or visa, but there is a customs checkpoint for large goods. Kumaoni and Dotiyali languages are spoken in the town.
Dharchula is inhabited by the people of Rung tribe famous for their dynamism, culture attachment and resilience. The hill station is an important camp on the Kailash-Mansarovar, Chotta Kailash and Narayan Ashram route. The town after Dharchula, Tawaghat, is where the trek to most of the yatras begin.
Culturally, Dharchula has huge significance as it is the meeting ground of the Shauka, Nepalese and Kumaoni during the Jauljibi International Mela. The fair is held every year in November at the confluence of the Kali and Gori rivers near Dharchula.
The best time to visit Dharchula is between the months of March and June and again between September and December. Summers are pleasant, whereas the winters are cold and blessed with snowfall.
The climatic conditions have allowed the vegetation of the region to thrive. Trees of oak, pine, apple and deodar are common. Wild animals like leopards, bears, foxes, monkeys and deer make up the animal kingdom of the region.
PLACES TO VISIT IN DHARCHULA
An erstwhile princely state, the Himalayan town of Askot is located in Pithoragarh district of the state of Uttarakhand. The town is popular for the Askot Musk Deer Sanctuary, an important site for the conservation of the musk deer.
At an elevation of 3,629 ft, Panchuli and Chiplakot peaks form the backdrop for Askot. The town has Nepal to the east, Almora to the west, Pithoragarh to the south and Tibet to the north.
Askot lies on a ridge on the route between Dharchula and Pithoragarh. The town lies on the popular Kailash-Mansarovar Pilgrimage route.
The name of the town, Askot, originates from ‘Assi Kot’ which means eighty forts that once stood in the region. Most of the forts are now in Dharchula district of Nepal.
There are many excursion opportunities near the town like Pithoragarh, Munsiyari and Mount Abbott. Askot also boasts of some of the best skiing ranges in the country. Famous skiing ranges include Panchuli and Chiplakot.
The region of Askot has been ruled by several rulers in the past including Doti Kings of Nepal, Rajbars, Chands, Gorkhas, Katyuris and the British. The Pal rulers migrated from Ayodhya and neighboring regions to the Kumaon.
The region was administered as two regions – Talla Askot and Malla Askot. In 1742, the land was under the rule of the Gorkhas and later the British defeated the Gorkhas to rule Askot and the surrounding regions. The official title of Askot was Rajbar given by Zamindars (feudal kings).
Askot Musk Deer Sanctuary
Askot Musk Deer Sanctuary is located 54 km from Pithoragarh near the town of Askot in Uttarakhand. As the name suggests, the sanctuary has been set up primarily for the conservation of musk deer and its natural habitat. Spread across an area of 600 sq km, it is located in the Pithoragarh district near the Indo-Nepal border formed by the Kali River.
Established in 1987 in the Kumaon region, the terrain in the sanctuary is varied with peaks ranging from 2,000 ft to 22,654 ft. The River Kali forms the international boundary and divides it from Nepal to the east. Almora is to the west, Pithoragarh to the south and Tibet to the north of the sanctuary.
The sanctuary is home to a wide variety of flora and fauna along with a great number of shrubs, trees and herbs. The most commonly found trees in the sanctuary are teak and eucalyptus.
The sanctuary attracts many nature lovers and wild life photographers who are attracted by its resident population of monkeys, spectacled cobras, turtles, antlers, darters, bison, vipers and many others. The Askot Musk Deer Sanctuary is also home to leopards, jungle cats, brown bears, barking dears and serows along with many species of birds that are found at high altitudes.
Peaks like Najrikot, Panchuli, Chiplakot and Naukana are located within the park. The Lipu Lekh Pass, Lumpiya Lekh Pass and theMankshang Lekh Pass are also located in the sanctuary.
The sanctuary marks the origin points of two rivers – Dhauli River and Ilki River. The Gori Ganga River passes through the Askot Musk Deer Sanctuary. The weather in the sanctuary is classified as sub-arctic with severe winter, heavy rainfall and a maximum temperature of 30 degree Celsius.
The Askot Musk Deer Sanctuary can be visited from 6 am to 5 pm every day.
Adi Kailash and Om Parvat
Dharchula is en route to the sacred mountains of Adi Kailash and Om Parvat. The mountains are considered sacred by Hindus and are revered pilgrimages. Many people visit to witness the snow deposition pattern which resembles the sacred symbol of ‘Om’. The Parwati Lake and Jonglingkong Lake are famous attractions around.
Around 101 km from Dharchula via the Delhi-Dharchula highway, Chaukori is a hill station situated at western Himalayan range. Elevated at a height of 2010 m, it offers spectacular views of the snowy peaks of Nanda Devi and Nanda Kot. The Mahakali River flows along Chaukori’s eastern boundary and forms the Indo–Nepal international border.
Narayan Ashram is situated at an elevation of 2734 m. above sea level. It can be reached from Pithoragarh via Ogla(44 km from Pithoragarh), Jauljibi(77 km), Dharchula(94 km), Tawaghat (108 km). Jauljibi is the place where Dhauliganga and Kaliganga meet.
The ashram was established by Sri Narayan Swami in 1936. It can accommodate maximum 40 persons at a time. During winter season the ashram remains closed due to heavy snowfall. And rainy season may cause damage to the road. Ashram keeps on conducting various social – spiritual activities for the members so the visitors are strictly advised to convey about their plan to the ashram well in advance.
Manasarovar Lake lies at 4,590 m above mean sea level. The lake freezes in winter and melts only in the spring. The Sutlej River, the (Brahmaputra River), the Indus River, and the Karnali River all trace their sources to its close vicinity.
Like Mount Kailash, Lake Mansarovar is a place of pilgrimage, attracting religious people from India, Tibet and the neighboring countries. Bathing in the Manasa Sarovar and drinking its water is believed to cleanse all sins. Pilgrimage tours are organized regularly, especially from India, the most famous of which is the Kailash Mansarovar Yatra which takes place every year. Pilgrims come to take ceremonial bathes in the cleansing waters of the lake.
The Kali River originates from the Greater Himalayas at Kalapaani at an altitude of 3,600 m, in the Pithoragarh District of Uttarakhand, India. The river is named after the Goddess Kali whose temple is situated in Kalapaani near the Lipu-Lekh pass at the border between India and Tibet. On its upper course, this river forms India’s continuous eastern boundary with Nepal.
Uttarakhand is a land of rivers and mountains and thus holds a lot of potential for hydro electric power generation. A similar such initiative has resulted in the creation of the Chirkila dam on river Kali at Chirkila, a place 20 km ahead of Dharchula. The dam has a capacity of producing 1500 kW of energy. The dam is adjoined by a beautiful lake stretching up to 1 km in length. If news are to be believed, water sports may soon be started in the area by the Uttrakhand Government.
BEST PLACES TO STAY IN DHARCHULA
There are many accommodation options including rest-houses and budget hotels in Dharchula. The Kumaon Mandal Vikas Nigam (KMVN) rest house offers good facilities.
BEST PLACES TO EAT IN DHARCHULA
Eating options are limited in Dharchula. The only options are available at the in-house restaurants of the hotels and a few dhabas.
BEST TIME TO VISIT DHARCHULA
The average minimum and maximum temperature of Dharchula is as given below.
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