Pithoragarh is the easternmost Himalayan district in Uttarakhand. It is celebrated for its naturally abundant high Himalayan mountains, snow-bound peaks, mystical valleys and passes. This tantalizing district of Kumaon region is blessed with velvety alpine meadows that are known to offer adrenaline pumping trekking expeditions. Many globetrotters visit here to savour the beauty of the thick woodlands, colossal rivers, high altitude skiing ranges, bubbling springs and the majestic glaciers.
Topography of Pithoragarh district:
The district lies between 29.4° to 30.3° North latitude and 80° to 81° East longitude along the eastern and southern part of the central Himalayas. The district is divided into six tehsils namely- Munsiyari, Dharchula Didihat, Berinag, Gangolihat and Pithoragarh. The Tibetan plateau is situated to the north and the neighbouring country Nepal is to the east. The district is surrounded by the national boundaries of Almora, Champawat, Bageshwar and Chamoli districts and extends over an area of 7,217.7 sq. km.
Flora and Fauna:
Varied flora and fauna having rich ecological diversity can be found in Pithoragarh district of Uttarakhand. Since the district possesses a great range of elevation, a variety of flora and fauna thrive in this region. The climatic variations, particularly in temperature and precipitation is associated with the alignment and altitudes of ranges. While the nature of valleys determines the altitudinal growth and variety of vegetation. The flora of this district can be classified as tropical, Himalayan sub-tropical, sub-alpine and alpine vegetation. The northern hilly zone consists of dense forests particularly on northern slopes with myriad flora up to an elevation of 14,000 feet.
The alpine and sub-alpine zones which include Milam, Ralam, Garbyang, Martoli etc. are rich in medicinal herbs and are considered as the most natural abode for the largest number of medicinal plants. The sub-alpine zones are known for being a natural sanctuary for Leopard, Chital, Monkeys, Langoor, Bear, Kakar or barking deer, Ghoral etc. Whereas, the high-altitude zones are a natural habitat for Musk deer commonly known as Kasturi Mriga, Snow Leopard, Blue Sheep, Thar etc. The region is also rich in avifauna like Peacock, Grey Quail, Kala Titar, Whistling Thrush, Chakor, Monal Pheasant, Cheer Pheasant, Koklas Pheasant etc.
Pithoragarh District Stats:
District Headquarters: Pithoragarh
Altitude: 1,514 meters
Language: Hindi, Kumaoni/Soaryali
Best Season: March-June and September-December
The Geographical area: 7,110 km2 (2,750 sq mi)
Total Population in 2011: 4,85,993
Literacy rate: 82.93%
The district has had a glorious past, some believe that the name Pithoragarh was named after King Pithora Chand from the Chand Dynasty. One can see several old temples and forts here that were once the pride of Chand Kingdom. While, others believe that it was Prithviraj Chauhan of the Chauhan Rajputs, who built a mammoth fort named Pithora Garh in the Saur Valley.
The district was ruled by Pals (Katyuri Kings) and Chand Dynasty. The Chand’s ruled the region for a longer period of time which is considered as the most prominent empires in Kumaon. Their rule in Kumaon brought a revival of culture and art forms. Many archaeologists point towards the evolution of culture and art forms during this period. In British India, Pithoragarh remained a tehsil under Almora district until 1960, after which it became an autonomous district. However, in 1997 part of this district was separated to form the new Champawat district.
Kumaoni with its numerous variations is the most widely spoken language. The language is written in Devanagari script. The Shauka (Rung) tribe of tehsil Dharchula speak 3 dialects of Runglo (Rung language) called Byansi spoken in Byans Valley, Bangbani spoken in (Bangba) Chaudas Valley and Darmia in Darma Valley. While the Van Rawat tribe have their own distinctive Kumaoni variant. There are several Sino-Tibetan languages of the West Himalayan branch that are spoken in Pithoragarh district. These include the unique Rawat language which was widely used in this district but has become extinct now. However, these spoken languages have no scripts.
Places To Visit:
Pithoragarh district is bestowed with the utmost natural grandeur which lures many tourists to knit beautiful memories in the lap of nature. It is also a hotspot for mountaineers and trekkers as the Hindu pilgrimage route for Mount Kailash-Lake Mansarovar passes through this district via Lipulek Pass in the greater Himalayas. While the cascading waterfalls and rivers originating from the dusty mountains are perfect for water sports activities.
The northern parts are bejewelled with towering peaks like Nanda Devi (east), Nanda Devi (west), Trishul, Nandakot, Rajrambha and Panchachuli group of peaks which attracts many adventure lovers. Some of the tourist attractions in the district are Pithoragarh Fort, Askot Musk Deer Sanctuary, Dhwaj, Chandak, Thal Kedar, Gangolihat famous for its Kali temple, Patal Bhuvaneshwar cave temple, Berinag Tea Garden of Chaukori, Didihat, Munsiyari, Dharchula and Jauljibi.
Tribes found in Pithoragarh district:
Several Himalayan tribes can be found in Pithoragarh district. The native tribes include- Van Rawats and Shaukas. The Van Rawats were hunter-gatherers and Shaukas were traders. In Pithoragarh, Shaukas are divided into two main tribes namely Johari Shaukas and Rung Shaukas. The Johari Shauka community inhabits the areas of Munsiyari while, Rung Shaukas tribe are spread among three valleys of Darma, Chaundas and Byans.
Festivals celebrated in Pithoragarh district:
Aanthu, Harela and Ghughuti are some of the regional festivals of Pithoragarh district. Kangdali Festival also spelt Kandali is a unique festival which arrives once every 12 years. It is celebrated with great fervour by the inhabitants of Chaundas Valley and is one of the major festivals in the area.
How to Reach Pithoragarh:
Pithoragarh is well connected by swift roads with major destinations of Uttarakhand. Buses from ISBT Anand Vihar, New Delhi, Haldwani and ISBT Dehradun are available to Pithoragarh, Champawat, Almora, Tanakpur and other nearby cities. Pithoragarh is well connected with NH-125 and taxis to Pithoragarh are available from major destinations of Uttarakhand.
Tanakpur railway station at 148 km away is the nearest railhead to Pithoragarh. Taxis and buses run from Tanakpur to Pithoragarh. Tanakpur is well connected by railway networks with major destinations of India. Trains to Tanakpur are frequent with major destinations of India.