One of the prettiest cities I’ve visited in Uttarakhand is Nainital, in the Kumaoni region, famous for its beautiful lakes and picturesque surroundings. Blessed by the presence of nine lakes that make for a truly breathtaking natural landscape, Nainital is one of the most touristy places in this Indian Himalayan region.
As I was traveling throughout the region and since I love taking photos wherever there is water, I decided to devote one day to Nainital and enjoy the natural scenery of at least one of its many lakes.
Now, being India, could it be just a normal lake? Let’s get on.
In order to fully enjoy the large expanse of open water on Naini Lake, I went on a boat trip, and this is when the captain of the most colorful and shakiest boat I’ve ever taken started telling me the story of the city.
Like the rest of the country, also Nainital was occupied by the British during their colonization that lasted for almost 200 years, until 1947, when Hindustan was divided in two countries, India and Pakistan, division that provoked endless massacres and an ongoing deterioration of Hindu-Muslim relations, and India declared its independence.
According to the boat captain (and my friend too, actually, who is a tour guide), when the British settlements were dismantled and rulers were leaving Nainital, all their possessions were dropped in the lake, and now, apparently, everything lies on the bottom, making for an invaluable historic and cultural heritage. Although I’m a good swimmer, I decided to avoid confirming this by plunging into the water, and not just by its unusual very green color, but also because it did seem considerably deep.
This was the “real-life” story, but, again, being India, I expected more. And I wasn’t disappointed.
The word Nainital can be divided in two words, naini, that in Hindi means “eyes”, and tal, that means “lake”, and it comes from a legend that sees as main characters the Hindu god Shiva, Destroyer of the Universe, and his wife, Parvati. As the story goes, Parwati, daughter of King Daksha, held a “Yajna”, that in Hinduism should be a ritual for sacrifice, without inviting Parvati (or Sati) and Lord Shiva. Parvati could not bear the insult and furious she crashed into the “Yajna” ground, leaping into the flames and burning to death.
While Lord Shiva was carrying his wife’s dead body to Kailesh Parvat, Parvati’s eyes fell in the lake, and this is why the city was then called Nainital.
Apart from being beautiful, Nainital is also very touristy, and as such not really the best place for shopping, not just for the prices that somehow reach unreasonable levels, but for the actual quality of the products. I’m particularly referring to the pashminas I saw just on the main road facing the river that were certainly not as good as in other less touristy places. Besides, since I wanted to buy only one, they wouldn’t even let me go inside to choose the color I liked, but I had to pick among those they had put on display, only a couple and the worst ones.
Although I tend to avoid very touristy places and indulge in some lesser known spots, I did like the vibe I sensed in Nainital. I wanted to stay there at least one night to enjoy the view of the lake during and after the sunset but it was not possible. This inevitably made me leave with the promise that I will have to go back.