Pithoragarh, May 15
Bageshwar is the oldest cultural district of the Kumaon region and the state as well. The district carved out of Almora in 1997 is a storehouse of ancient culture of Katyuri kings of Uttarakhand. Katyuri kings ruled the unified region of Uttarakhand before it was divided into Kumaon and Garhwal divisions. The Chand kings ruled Kumaon while the Panwar kings ruled Garhwal in the early seventh century.
The Bageshwar district headquarters is situated on the banks of the confluence of the Saryu and Gomati rivers. It is well known for the traditional temple of Bagnath, which is venerated by entire Kumaon society. It is a big pilgrimage and cultural centre of the region. Bageshwar has a population of over three lakh at present. ET Atkinson, Gazetteer of Himalayan district, had in 1881 mentioned the district had a total population of 10,097. The district today consists of over 75 per cent forest area, glaciers in the north and some parts under the Nanda Devi biosphere region in the northwest. “The district has two main revenue and cultural regions of Danpur and Kapkot. The Saryu, Pinder and eastern Ramganga rivers originate from the base of the Nanda Devi peak in the Danpur region. The world famous Pindari glacier and the Nandakot mountain peak are in Kapkot,” says Ghanshyam Joshi, a journalist based in Bageshwar
“The ancient temple of Bageshwar was renovated by Chand king of Almora Laxmi Chand in 1602, but the construction period of the original temple seems between the seventh and 11th centuries as the idols kept in the Bagnath temple indicate different eras of religious beliefs,” says Joshi.
According to historians, Nepalese invader Kranchaldev won the Bageshwar region by defeating Katyuri kings in 1191. He later weakened the Katyuris and kept his local governors to rule the region. These governors later became independent before Chand king Balo Kalyan Chand of Almora won the region from local Khas rulers in 1565. “The Danpur region of Bageshwar, which was a Naga kingdom in the pre-historic Puranik era, is also known after ‘danavas’ who ruled the region before Naga kings of the Puranik era,” says Dr MC Bhatt, a historian.
Joshi adds Bageshwar has a rich Katyuri heritage and ancient culture still evident in the Katyur valley. Kumaunis revered the Bagnath temple since ancient times. The temple became famous politically due to the 1921 movement against ‘Kuli begar’. “The traditional Uttarayani festival organised since centuries on the banks of the Saryu and Gomati rivers was the main place where woollen outfits made by Saukas of Munsiyari were brought form higher valleys for ages, thus strengthening trade links between the two communities,” says Keshav Bhatt, another journalist based in Bageshwar.
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