nainital: the lake district

We came up here yesterday, fourteen miles, by one of those strange, winding, precipitous roads, common to all mountainous countries. The air is keen and penetrating. The spot is one of those beautiful scenes with which the Himalayas abound. Its peculiarity is an enclosure of rocks, two thousand feet above the spot itself, and covered with hanging woods, protecting, as it were, with their giant forms the peaceful lake, or tal, below..

oil painting on paper of bhim tal by marianne north (1878) from the india office collection, british library

The above is how Josiah Bateman describes Nainital, one of the finest hill resorts of India world-renowned for their lakes, schools and colleges and the breathtaking beauty in general.

naini tal

Though the area came under British rule after the Gurkhas lost the Anglo-Nepali War (1814-1816) the hill town was found by a sugar trader P Barron from Shahjahanpur in 1841. Nainital developed rapidly as a town but has been ravaged by quite a many landslides the most glaring of which was on 18th September, 1880 which claimed some 150 lives.

naina peak (in the background) at 2615 m

Owing to its suitable climate the town saw an increase in population but was mostly inhabited by white people until the 1880s and Indians usually were confined to behind-the-scene labor. But, by the dawn of the 20th century the town saw an upsurge of Indian migration since the state government of United Provinces shifted to Nainital every summer and the final blow was in 1925 when the Raj started subsidizing British civil servants to holidays in England. Henceforth, the population of the whites declined substantially which continued till India got independence.  The population of the town has increased from greater of 7000 in 1901 to almost 40,000 a century later.

naina devi temple, a shakti peetha

Nainital of today is reeling hard under the ecological disturbances caused by deforestation and the ever-increasing flock of tourists who come to see the peaks, the lakes, the flora and fauna and for relaxing. India’s first national park which opened in 1936, the Jim Corbett National Park is nearby.

raj bhawan, nainital

The pear shaped Naini Tal is perhaps the most famous landmark of the town and is believed to be mentioned in the Skand Purana as Tri Rishi Sarovar. The story goes that the sages Atri, Pulastya and Pulaha had dug a hole large enough to allow the waters of the nearby Manasarovar lake (in modern China) to flow in it. Thus, a dip in the lake is not any less equal in merit to a dip in the more famed Tibetan lake. The lake is also believed to be a shakti peetha where the eyes (naina) of Devi Shakti had fallen and the form of which is worshiped at the nearby Naina Devi Temple.

st joseph's college, nainital

The lake is surrounded by some magnificent peaks including Naina (2615 m), Deopatta (2438 m) and Ayarpatta (2278 m)

St John in the Wilderness is a church established in 1844. The church was so named by the then Bishop of Kolkata, Daniel Wilson because he had to spent his nights in an unfinished house at the forest edge and had fallen sick. A brass plate at the church altar has the name of all those who had died in the great landslide of 1880.

church of st john in the wilderness, mallital

The Governor’s House, now called the Raj Bhawan was built in 1899 in Victorian Gothic architecture by architect F W Stevens. Presently, it is the official guest house of the governor of Uttarakhand.

a view from tiffin top

Snow View (2270 m) and Tiffin Top (2292 m) are two of the most famous view points from where, on clear days, the mighty peaks of Nanda Devi, Nanda Kot and Trisul can be seen. Dorothy’s Seat is a stonework picnic perch on Tiffin Top built as a memorial to an English artist, Dorothy Kellet, by her husband and admirers after her death in a plane crash.

sat tal

Sat Tal (1370 m) is a cluster of seven lakes including Panna or Garud, Nal-Damyanti, Purna, Sita, Ram, Lakshman and Sukha or Khurdariya.

autumn in nainital

Bhim Tal (1370 m) is the largest lake in the area and has an island and a 17th century temple, Bhimeshwar Temple on its shore.

Khurpa Tal (1635 m) is one of the most attractive and is a hit with anglers and surrounded by terraced farms.

naukuchia tal

Naukuchia Tal (1220 m) is the deepest lake in the area and legends say that if one sees the nine corners of the lake in one glimpse they will disappear in a cloud of smoke.

khurpa tal

There have been many literary references on Nainital the most famous of which have been by Jim Corbett, Rudyard Kipling and Munshi Premchand.

The beautiful and life supporting lakes of Nainital are dying out due to immense strain by the pollution caused by increased tourism. The lake district is a source of pride for India and it’s our responsibility to keep it clean and well nourished. The many Himalayan lakes are like shining gems nestled amidst the loft peaks and it would be a mundane world without them.


3 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Vivek Shrivastav on 30/01/2011 at 12:58 am

    good one vivek.. waiting for march to come…


  2. Posted by anumita on 20/02/2011 at 10:08 pm

    Nainital zoo is also one of the attractive places including the above all.
    super-duper fantastic post and awesome pics 🙂


  3. Posted by Gautamyadav on 17/01/2013 at 4:02 pm

    Very nice


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