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St. John's Wilderness Church, Nainital - Time travel to the British Raj era


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Not on the regular tourist hot spot list.

This church is one of the earliest buildings constructed in Nainital. The church was built in 1852. Located around a kilometre from the Naina Devi Temple, close to the High Court, this Anglican Church stands as an evidence of Nainital's history and culture and a reminder of era gone by.

The foundation of the church was laid by Rev. Daniel Wilson, the fifth Bishop of Calcutta (now Kolkata) and the first Metropolitan of India and Ceylon (now Sri Lanka), who visited Nainital in 1844. During his visit he was forced to stay in an unfinished house situated on the edge of the forest due to his illness. Rev. Wilson had been an assistant curator at St. John's Chapel, Bedford Row, Bloomsbury. From his memories of Bedford and his stay in wilderness came the name St. John's Wilderness Church.

The church is often confused with another church (more popular) of the same name located in the forests of Forsyth Ganj below Mcleodganj, Himachal Pradesh. Lord Elgin, the British Viceroy of India (1862-63) who died in 1863 lays buried in the Church Cemetery, after all this was his favourite location. His wife Lady Elgin had donated Belgian Glass windows to the church. The church survived Kangra earthquake of 1880 with some damages.

Coming back to the Nainital church, the church is enclosed among Pine/Deodar trees (this entire area was Pine Forest area) and one can still see huge pine trees all around. St. John's parsonage has a Church, Cemetery (one of the oldest in Nainital) and a school which has grown from being a small kindergarten school (in 1970's).

The church is made in Gothic style, one can still see water spouting Gargoyles (rain water drains) on the roof. The artistic windows have most of the glasses broken, the ancient wooden pews, all these still carry the old world charm. Services are held in the church on Sundays and other Christian event days. The church earlier had a very unusual feature that of a gun rack close by the door-members of the congregation encountered wild life on their way to the service and thus required something for their protection, sometimes used for hunting occasional deer etc. too. This rack is no longer there.

For pictures of this beautiful location click here

Nainital saw a major landslide in the year 1880 (the same which led to the formation of the Nainital Flat). The church contains a brass memorial dedicated to the victims of the landslide. Bodies of few of the Christian victims are buried in the cemetery.

The church is a peaceful haven, it is not much visited by the tourists. In fact most of the local taxi operators would show their ignorance about this church, they would try and push you towards more popular destinations, some of them would tell you about the St. Francis Church (on the Mall road). Inform them about the church near High Court and they would bring you here, but would still show ignorance about the name.

Must visit destination for all those who want experience an era gone by, all those who still want to experience the feel of wilderness.

St. John's Church Picture Gallery.

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