Story Of A British Heritage Village Of Uttarakhand and Its Guardian Ghost

Tripoto

If you look up on the internet about things to do in Jeolikote, a list of dreamy hobbies like butterfly catching and floriculture would come up on several listicles and leave you wondering what this little village is all about.

At the altitude of 1219 metres, I see Jeolikote as an all seasons q destination. Unlike the neighbouring lake towns where the winters are relatively colder, in Jeolikote you can enjoy the warm sun even during severe winter months. For as long as the locals remember, Jeolikote has been a holiday town for, first, the British who came here ditching the colder nearby hill towns, and later, hoteliers who renovated these old British bungalows and made the charm of the bygone era available to the travellers who arrive here.

Renivated heritage home at HOTS Hostel, Jeolikote

Photo of Jeolikote, Uttarakhand, India by Disha Kapkoti

The Legacy of the Raj and The Present

Jelikote has a brief mention in the 1906 book, A Guide to Naini Tal and Kumaun by CW Murphy. In this handbook for travellers arriving here in the early 20th century, you find detailed information on the coolie and dandy service from the Kathgodam Railway station along with a meticulous price list. You can download the PDF here.

The book mostly talks about the two famous estates of Jeolikote, The Vergomount estate and Douglas Dale estates where the owners hosted travellers on the way to the Lake town of Nainital. Here's an excerpt,

"During the Victorian times, The Vergomont estate was purchased by the late Captain Mansfield, about ten years ago (from 1906). He started fruit culture and a dairy and opened a hotel. Since his death his widow, Mrs. Mansfield, has continued the business.Rooms are available for visitors, and it is a favourite picnic resort.

The hotel provides refreshments and the tonga may be stopped at the gate on the cart road, while those travelling by dandy or pony may enter by the gate which is on the bridle road; the road at this point is very narrow and more of a lane running between Vergomont and the Douglas Dale estates. The latter is now the property of a Nepalese lady, and is not open to the public as it was in former days, when owned by the popular Mr. Martin who called it 'Rest by the Way '. This venerable genial gentleman, in company with his wife, was ever happy to receive visitors and to see to their creature comforts. The worthy old couple died a few years ago and the property passed into the hands of the present owners."

The Cottage at Vergomount Estate was renovated in 1994 by Bhuvan Kumari who had fallen in love with this places as a child where 'her school bus stopped for a routine strawberries and mulberries break'. The Cottage is now one of the few heritage hotels in this village where many British Era mansions stand in a dilapidated condition with bygone British owners.

Two interesting houses of the neighbours of the Vergomount Estate are, firstly, the Warwick Mansion which was one of the first British heritage houses built here. Second is the house that once belonged to a lady who was the direct descendent of Nepoleon, who fell in love with a local boy and decided to stay in India.

Warwick Mansion in Jeolikote

Photo of The Cottage Jeolikot, Nainital, Uttarakhand, India by Disha Kapkoti

Screenshot of the price list of coolie and pony hire from 1906 book by CW Murphy

Photo of The Cottage Jeolikot, Nainital, Uttarakhand, India by Disha Kapkoti
Photo of The Cottage Jeolikot, Nainital, Uttarakhand, India by Disha Kapkoti

Story Of The Guardian Ghost of Jeolikote

The following story is a oral account by the villagers and lack of written history makes this tale questionable. However, read on.

It was sometime in the late 19th century when a certain Lt Col Warwick arrived in the village of Jeolikote near Nainital. Jeolikote was a designated station where the British men and horses rested before they proceeded to Nainital, a popular hill-town among the British who seeked the pleasure of European summers in India.

Warwick fell in love with a local girl and decided to construct a mansion here and live with the girl who he eventually married. This village, until then a camping site for the British, became home to many other officers after Warwick's house came to existence.

After a few years into the marriage, his wife passed away. Alone, Warwick lived in this massive house with 20 rooms all by himself. The servents weren't allowed inside and trespassers were often chased away. He had a personal church and a hospital within the property and the dilapidated structures still stand there.

After Warwick's wife's death, villagers noticed something strange. Every night they saw a woman riding a horse around the village and they could hear it galloping. Some curious villagers found out that it was in fact their Warwick Sahab who dressed up as his wife and rode his horse around the village every night.

Some say it was the despair of the young lover who missed his wife, others called it a sexual awakening of Warwick but the village accepted their Sahab's behaviour. People started believing that Warwick dressed up as a woman on a horse was their protector at night from not just dacoits but also wild animals.

Years later the believers still hear the horse galloping at night and Warwick dressed up as his wife on a horse is the Guardian Ghost Of The Village.

Gate to the store room of Warwick Mansion

Photo of Story Of A British Heritage Village Of Uttarakhand and Its Guardian Ghost by Disha Kapkoti

The guard dog at the lawn at Warwick house

Photo of Story Of A British Heritage Village Of Uttarakhand and Its Guardian Ghost by Disha Kapkoti

Front gate f Warwick house

Photo of Story Of A British Heritage Village Of Uttarakhand and Its Guardian Ghost by Disha Kapkoti

Stay At A Travel Hostel

Jeolikote recently became home to India's first hiking hostel, HOTS; built on a 150 year old heritage building from the British Era. For the ones who love to travel offbeat, I suggest skip the touristy lake towns of Kumaon for once and visit this hostel in the heart of the wilderness in Gajari near Jeolikote. The hostel is an excellent centre point that allows you to explore the village and it's local secrets. Warwick's house, sunset point, and the Devi temple are just a short hike away. The hostel has an in-house cafe, and breakfast is complimentary for all visitors.

Tarriff

King Suite with Balcony: Rs 999/-

Bed in 4-Bed Mixed/Male/Female Dormitory Room: Rs 399/-

Dormitory at HOTS hostel Jeolikote

Photo of Hots Hostels, Smanora Range, Uttarakhand, India by Disha Kapkoti

Private room at the hostel

Photo of Hots Hostels, Smanora Range, Uttarakhand, India by Disha Kapkoti

Painting depicting Choliya Dance of Kumaon

Photo of Hots Hostels, Smanora Range, Uttarakhand, India by Disha Kapkoti

Inside the cafe at Hots Hostel

Photo of Hots Hostels, Smanora Range, Uttarakhand, India by Disha Kapkoti

Books found and preserved at hostel's 150 year old building

Photo of Hots Hostels, Smanora Range, Uttarakhand, India by Disha Kapkoti

Living room at one of the private rooms at the hostel

Photo of Hots Hostels, Smanora Range, Uttarakhand, India by Disha Kapkoti

What not to miss while you're here

While in Jeolikote, you're close to the multiple lake and hill towns which are famous for the abundance of biodiversity and the charming views of the mountains. There is no dearth of things to do and day trips to take from Jeolikote. Here are a few options:

1. Go bird watching and wildlife spotting at Pangot.

2. Go on a lake tour to Nainital, Bhimtal, Sattal and Naukuchiatal.

3. Go paragliding in Naukuchiatal or Ghorakhal.

4. Visit India'a oldest 18 hole golf course in Nainital.

5. Visit the butterfly Museum in Jones Estate Bhimtal.

6. Take a day trip to Hairakhan, a riverside temple.

By the Sattal Lakeside

Photo of Story Of A British Heritage Village Of Uttarakhand and Its Guardian Ghost by Disha Kapkoti

View of the Bhimtal Lake

Photo of Story Of A British Heritage Village Of Uttarakhand and Its Guardian Ghost by Disha Kapkoti

View of the Bhimtal Lake

Photo of Story Of A British Heritage Village Of Uttarakhand and Its Guardian Ghost by Disha Kapkoti

View of the Nainital Lake

Photo of Story Of A British Heritage Village Of Uttarakhand and Its Guardian Ghost by Disha Kapkoti

Do not forget to buy locally grown kiwis and strawberries and also, honey from the local market.

How to Reach

Air: Pantnagar Airport at a distance of 55 km is the closest airport. Flights from Delhi to Pantnagar are available on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Taxi from Pantnagar to Jeolikote costs Rs 600 to Rs 1000.

Rail: The last railhead to Jeolikote is Kathgodam which is almost 20km away. Taxis are available from outside the railway station.

Road: Buses are available everyday from ISBT Anand Vihar to Haldwani or Nainital. You can take either of the two buses and get off at Kathgodam. Jeolikote is 20 km from Kathgodam on NH 87, and taxis are available all the time to reach Jeolikote.

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