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History of Nainital

Legend says that Sati, the consort of Shiva consigned herself to the sacrificial fire when her father Daksha slighted her lord. In grief, Shiva danced the tandava with the lifeless body of Sati, until Vishnu cut it into bits scattering it all over the land. The spots where her body parts landed became shaktipeethas, revered by pilgrims even today. It is believed that Sati’s eyes, or naina landed at Nainital thus giving the place its name. In ancient times the lake was also know as the Tri-rishi Sarovar or the lake of the three saints, namely Atri, Pulastya and Pulaha.

According to historical records, Nainital was discovered by a British sugar merchant named P. Barron. The merchant was so deeply enthralled by the lake settlement and its forested surrounding that he came back with a sailing boat and built a house named Pilgrim’s Cottage. Thus started the process of settling this once secluded mountain resort, with colonial villas and promenades coming up very rapidly. Soon, it became an important administrative town as well, with the summer capital of the United Provinces being set up here. In 1880, torrential rains resulted in a devastating landslide that destroyed several buildings including the Victoria Hotel at the north end of the lake near Mallital. 150 people were trapped under the debris and died. The area was later levelled out and became a popular meeting ground and sports arena. Known as The Flats it is now also used for parking vehicles in the peak tourist season.

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