In the last December, we were on a road trip in Kumaon, Uttarakhand. After spending 2 days in the regions around Saat taal, Mukteshwar etc., we decided to move further up towards Champawat region and go to a less-known hill station called Abbot Mount, near Lohaghat.
This ancient region has historical and mythological importance. Champawat, once the capital of the rulers of the Chand dynasty, is famous for its natural beauty and well known temples. It is also believed that it was in Champawat that Lord Vishnu appeared as 'Kurma avtar', His incarnation as a tortoise. The River Lohawati originates near this place. Lohagarh and the nearby Tanakpur are huge marketplaces, especially of woolen clothes today.
While we were traveling from Bhowali, having crossed many mountain trails and having seen the Himalayan mountain ranges filled to our heart's desire, we came to a place called Karnakarayat, about 6km before Lohaghat, and saw a few boards for Banasur-ka-Kila (2km climb by foot). The ruins can be spotted from the moutainous road itself.
Situated along the Bhowali Road, it is 7 km from Lohaghat and 20 km from Champawat. One has to walk 2 km to reach the fort. The place has immense beauty and romantic old-world charm.
Legand has it that these are the remains of the fort of Banasur (Vanasur), who was the eldest son of Bali, the king of Daityas. During the mythical times, this place was called Shonitpur. Banasur had a son by the name of Skanda and a daughter called Usha, whose beauty knew no bounds.
As the story in Puranas goes, Banasur is a powerful king and a great devotee of Shiva, and pleased with his devotion and singing and playing of drums (!), Lord Shiva grants him immense power and also bestows him with a thousand arms --- like the Sahasrarjun that was killed by the famous Parashu rama.
Once Banasur is granted the boon of invincibility, he starts using his unlimited power on all and sundry. As usual, all men and devas are beaten by him, and are worried. Even inanimate objects like trees and moutains are not spared, which he uproots and crushes with his thousand arms in spare time.
Soon he gets bored of this constant winning of battles and goes back to Shiva to ask him if there is anyone left worthy enough to fight with him - even hinting that maybe Lord Shiva (!) himself wants to fight. But Shiva gives him a flag (no, literally!), and asks him to hoist it near his fort. He tells Banasur that when this flagpost is broken on its own accord, Banasur will find his match.
Time passes by. Banasur awaits the fall of the flagpost, and keeps his urge to fight under check. Of course, he continues to be the Asura he is, and this causes a lot of grief to his people. Enter his beautiful, beautiful daughter Usha in the story. Now the lady has grown to a marriagable age and dreams of a handsome young man as husband.
One day, she dreams of a handsome young man and wakes up with a burning desire to be with this handsome young man. She confesses her heart's desire to Chitralekha, her friend and also the daughter of minister of Banasura. Chitralekha is a talented lady and recognizes this handsome young man from Usha's dream to be Aniruddha, prince of Dwarka, son of
When Aniruddha comes to his senses, he sees Usha, and both fall in love with each other instantly. They spend the next 4 months with each other, in great bliss, in Usha's palace - all the while trying to hide their secret from the other people. Their love story is given in great detail in the puranas, but of course that is meant for a different audience.
After a while, when Banasur is taking his rounds around the city, he sees the flagpost given by Shiva to be broken. He immediately summons the people around him to find if any new unknown person has recently come to town. This is when a couple of sentries tell him about hearing a man's laughter from Usha's palace.
Banasur immediately gathers his army and storms Usha's palace. Aniruddha rushes outside with a stone pillar in hand, and fights bravely with the entire army. However, his might is no match to Banasur, who finally overpowers him, ties him with a noose and throws him in a prison.
There in Dwaraka, everyone including Krishna, Balarama and other Yadavas are going in a tizzy searching for their boy, when Narada muni comes to them during his trips around the world and tells Lord Krishna about Aniruddha being made captive of Banasur.
The Yadavas gather an army under Balarama and march to Shonitpur, with Lord Krishna heading the column on his Garuda. In the battle that follows at the fort of Shonitpur (most likely in the plains surrounding the fort - and around the village of Karnakarayat of today), Banasur is finally overpowered by Krishna and attains nirvana. And that is where the matter lies.
Of course, the fort seems to be a construction belonging to the middle ages, but the story of Vanasur was probably associated with the spot even before the construction of the fort.
Legand or no legand, the fort and its surrounding give a great setting and provide some astonishing views.
07 Febraury 2009