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Myths And Legends Of Nainital

By Expert Author: Noshir Lavangia

When the hill-station of Nainital was discovered by G.W.Traill all he found there was untouched natural beauty and friendly local mountain people. He developed a great fondness for the land, but decided it was in the indigenous people’s best interest to keep this natural treasure a secret. So he kept his discovery to himself! The hill-station of Nainital as we know it today, was developed because it later caught the fancy of a certain British sugar merchant by the name of P. Barron. An avid hunter and explorer, Barron chanced upon Nainital on one his excursions and decided it needed to be shared with the world. Enchanted by the beautiful lakes, lush greenery and pleasant weather he built a magnificent home for himself in Nainital and settled down. His home, the Pilgrim’s cottage still exists and has become somewhat of a local attraction.

It wasn’t long before Nainital holidays became popular among the British lords and ladies. Till today locals and foreigners visiting India travel to Nainital, captivated by its charm. But what most of us don’t know is that Nainital is shrouded in legend and folk-lore, and had mythological significance way before the British colonized it. Nainital features in many two ancient Indian myths!

The Nainital Lake first finds mention in the Skanda Purana, an ancient Indian text. Here the lake is referred to as the Tri Rishi Samovar, meaning ‘the lake of three sages’. As the story goes, three of the Saptarishis; Atri, Pulastya and Pulaha were on a pilgrimage when they reached Nainital. They were extremely thirsty and after finding no obvious source of water began digging. On still finding no water they began to pray for water, and their prayers bore fruit. Water from the Mansarovar Lake in Tibet found its way to the Nainital to become the lake which stands there today.

The second mythological story explains the name ‘Nainital’ which is combines the words naina, which means ‘eye’ and tal which means ‘lake’. As this legend goes, Shiva, the lord of destruction was grief stricken when his first wife Dākshāyani died. Unable to part with her, he carried her body all over the world. It is said her left eye fell in the area we now call Nainital. This emerald shape late even to this day has a Naina Devi temple at its north end.

On Nainital Holidays we get so captivated by the large colonial homes and natural beauty of the area that we never delve deep into its history. Though these are just myths and legends associated with Nainital, they add to the charm and appeal of this gorgeous hill station. It goes to show that when in India, travel is always a spiritual experience!


Ninad Chaudhari works as a Web UI Designer / Developer with Cox & Kings. Ninad is an ardent photographer and a travel buff who loves to travel in and around India. His albums are replete with beautiful pictures of his recent holiday in Nainital.

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