It was in 1890 that Swami Vivekananda and Swami Akhandananda, a fellow disciple of guru Sri Ramakrishna, set out on their historic journey across the region of Uttarakhand in search of enlightenment. Today, the state is imprinted with his influence and teachings. Devotees from all over the world come in search of his wisdom and take on the trail that inspired the Swami so much. The best place to start the journey along the almost 500-km long circuit is Kathgodam, which is the nearest railhead. The first stopover is Kakrighat, about 60 km away.
Kanchi Temple, Kakrighat
In the Kumaon region, Kakrighat was the first place where Swami Vivekananda arrived about 100 years ago. Many say that it was here that he first realised the eternal truth. The river Kosi cuts through the landscape here and there is a small temple dedicated to Lord Shiva, called the Karkateshwar Mahadev Temple. Close to Kakrighat lies Thompson House (about 20 km away), where Swamiji is recorded to have stayed in 1898.
Mayawati Ashram or Advaita Ashram is the next stop in the Vivekananda circuit. You can reach the ashram via a tree-lined road. As soon as you enter the ashram, an old printing press draws your attention. This is the same press that was used to print the first two volumes of “The Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda”. The ashram is bordered by beautifully landscaped gardens, which are scenic and serene spaces. The ashram was founded in 1899 by Vivekananda. It is said that after seeing the beauty of the Alps in Switzerland, he wanted to establish a monastery in the Himalayas, where visitors could meditate in peace. Today, the ashram has a library in the room where Swami Vivekananda once stayed.
Legend has it that Vivekananda and his fellow disciple Akhandananda travelled the expanse of Uttarakhand with just their clothes and begging bowls. They started their journey from Nainital on foot, and walked all the way to Almora, passing through Kakrighat. Almora is speckled with places that are associated with Swami Vivekananda. Sri Ramakrishna Kutir in Almora was established in 1916, about 14 years after the death of Swami Vivekananda. It is the realisation of the dream of Vivekananda. Today, the ashram is a serene space to practice meditation in a spiritual environment.
Situated at the height of 1,940 m above sea level, the Mayawati Ashram (Advaita Ashrama Mayawati) is located in an old tea estate surrounded by a beautiful flower garden. It is one of the pivotal stops in Swami Vivekananda’s spiritual tour as he is said to have stopped here in 1898. The ashram has a museum that showcases some personal possessions of the monk and a charming library.
Sri Raghunath Temple, Almora
The second visit of Swami Vivekananda to Almora was in 1897. He arrived in a nearby village called Lodea. Many say that people welcomed him in front of Sri Raghunath Temple.
Sri Lala Badri Shah’s House
When he was travelling through Kumaon, Swami Vivekananda, along with Akhandananda rested in Sri Lala Badri Shah’s house in 1890. He stayed here once again when he came back to Almora in 1897. The house lies around 2 km from Sri Ramakrishna kutir. The house can be explored on request after 3 pm.
Vivekananda Rest House
While travelling extensively across Uttarakhand, Swami Vivekananda and Swami Akhandananda braved illness, hunger and dangerous weather on their journey. It is said that Swami Vivekananda was so overcome with hunger and exhaustion that he fainted on a rock. A Muslim man, Zulfikar Ali, passing by, offered him a cucumber and revived him. A small rest house has been built at this place to honour the memory of this incident. It was built by Boshi Sen, the founder of the Swami Vivekananda Institute of Hill Agriculture.
Sri Kasar Devi Temple
When Swami Vivekananda arrived in Almora in 1890, he visited a quaint village called Kasar Devi. The village had an eponymous temple that was built in the 2nd century. The pristine natural beauty of the village, its landscape dotted with pines and deodar impressed him such that he thought it was the ideal place to meditate. Vivekananda spent some time in meditation in a small cave near the Kasar Devi Temple.
Sri Syahi Devi Temple
Sri Syahi Devi Temple can be reached via a trek through serene pine and deodar forests in Sitalkhet. On the way, you can get stunning views of Nanda Devi, Trishul, Panchachuli and Chaukhamba. This is the same route that was taken by Swami Vivekananda in 1897. He meditated in a cave around 2 km from the temple.
Located around 70 km from Almora, in Bageshwar district, Dewaldhar House is the place where Swami Vivekananda rested on his visit to the Dewaldhar village. He meditated here for around 47 days.
Sri Patal Devi Temple
Located about 7 km from Almora, Sri Patal Devi Temple is one of the nine shrines dedicated to Goddess Durga. Many believe that Swami Vivekananda stayed in one of the rooms near the temple.
Government Inter College, Almora
This college was the venue of Swami Vivekananda’s lecture on the subject “Vedic Teachings in Theory and Practice”. It was in 1897 that he delivered the lecture in Hindi and impressed everyone with his oratorial skill.
Thomson House or the Industrial Training Institute lies near Sri Ramakrishna Kutir. It is said that Swami Vivekananda, Swami Swarupananda and other disciples stayed here at one time. The press here printed the magazine Prabuddha Bharata before it was shifted to Advaita Ashram in Mayawati.
Swami Vivekananda spent some time in Lohaghat, a pristine and beautiful locality in the Champawat district. A stone inscription has been put up near the Dak Bungalow where Vivekananda stayed for some time.
From Nainital, Swami Vivekananda started his journey of self-discovery. Along with Akhandananda, he started his historic walk to Almora in 1890.
Bhimtal is peppered with stunning lakes. Swami Vivekananda is said to have passed through here on his way to Mayawati from Kathgodam.
Although there is no evidence that Swami Vivekananda ever visited Shyamlatal, a popular Vivekananda ashram lies here near a lake. That is why this is a prominent stopover in the Vivekananda trail. This ashram was set up in 1915 and is a rest house for monks and devotees. It also has a medical centre that provides care to over 50 villages nearby.