A district in the Kumaon part of Uttarakhand, Champawat, is in the southernmost region of the state and shares a border with Pithoragarh and Nainital. It also shares a border with Nepal, with the River Kali dividing them. There is an everyday movement of people between both sides for work and business.
Almost seventy-five percent of the district is in the mountain ranges, making it a little inaccessible for tourists. But, it is also one of the less explored places, the raw pahadi culture can be observed in its villages. From the district, the Panchachuli ranges of the Himalayas are visible, they form a protective wall for the hilly terrain.
History of Champawat
The Champawat district was constituted in the late 1990s, but it was one of the major centers in the medieval times. Ruled by the Chand dynasty, the district was a major commercial center and a connection between India and Nepal. When the British invaded India, the Chands were defeated by the Nepal rulers, who had taken over a large portion of Kumaon.
The Chand rulers took help from the British to push away the Gorkhas, it was difficult for them to win a war against the furious Nepali rulers. Since then, British influence has been observed in the hills. Champawat also has a hill station that was mainly inhabited by the British.
Champawat is a part of Kumaon, hence it follows the culture of the pahadis. Apart from the district center where all the administrative heads have their workplace, Lohaghat is another major center. Though none of the towns are very developed, they are undergoing urbanization.
Due to its proximity to Nepal, the Kumaoni dialect and culture is similar to that of the Nepalese. Farming and dairy are the primary sources of income, and people still follow the old practices of organic farming. One can often find women working in the fields, collecting fuelwood and fodder from forests. The men are either drivers or laborers.
The Culture of Champawat
Hinduism is the most followed religion here. Hence, the Hindu festivals are celebrated with grandeur in these regions. Champawat is famous for the number of temples, especially the Lord Shiva temples situated deep inside the forests. Purnagiri, Baleshwar temple, and Gwal Devta are the major temples in the district.
Holi, Navratri, and Diwali are the major festivals, the celebration of which takes place for weeks together. Villagers gather in their respective temples, sing songs, offer prayers and perform rituals to please the deities.
They believe that anything which displeases the Gods could harm them and the future generations to come. Often, animal sacrifices, mainly goats, are done to get work done.
A Tourist Destination
Champawat is known for two reasons – temples and tigers. The very first tiger that Jim Corbett killed was in the district of Champawat. Maneaters were a regular feature in the area until the forests started to reduce, and illegal poaching decreased the population of these tigers.
Though Champawat is known for its temples, it also has a few offbeat places that one can visit. As there is not very heavy snowfall and summers are also relatively pleasant, the district can be visited any time of the year. It is still not developed as a tourist destination; hence, it is bliss for travelers who do not like crowded places.
However, it is tough to find a decent hotel or a resort, but one can always get a village homestay, which is a better experience in a lot of ways.
During our visits to the district, we made a list of a few offbeat places where one can live with nature, in pollution-free and non-commercial surroundings.
These places are quiet and calm, everything that one needs if one wants a break from the chaos of city life.
Things to do in and around Champawat :
The Reetha Sahib.
Ek Hathiya Ka Naula.
The Banasura Killa.