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Katesar Temple and Castle

Perched on the Katesar castle hill top in Happy Valley the Katesar temple is the first temple in Mussoorie dedicated to lord Krishna and his consort Radha. Although the temple is a private one, it is open for public also on the eve of Janamashtami (Lord Krishna’s birth celebration). The temple is situated in a very scenic location with an excellent view of the mighty Himalayas, hamlets of Jaunpur tribal belt and the Mussoorie township. During the British era, the castle complex was just a couple of buildings which included the priory, the monastery and the cloister (the Chapel) that belonged to ‘7th Day Adventist’, an American mission. In the year 1941, Pratap Bhan Prakash Singh, the Talukdar of Katesar in the Sitapur District of Uttar Pradesh, bought the priory for Rs. 26 thousand.

According to Raj Mata Savita Devi, who was Yuvraj Kumari of Kasmanda before marriage, “My mother and I chose this property for my uncle Raja Ajit Singh of Pratapgarh who rejected it as it was away from the town. My husband bought the property, luckily for me, as I fell in love with the very sight of the tall Deodar trees that covered the entire building. He got it a castle look done in 1942 engaging Afghan laborers while the Second World War was on”. The temple, a wish of Raj Mata’s mother, was finished in June 1948 and the idols of Lord Krishna and Radha were sculpted by Guru Mahapatra of the Lucknow Art College. The idols were formally placed on the auspicious day of Ganga Dussehra, the day on which holy Ganga descended from heaven to Earth. Contractor Ugarsen of Landour really made a masterpiece of the temple which looks like a white lotus from the Camel’s Back road. For the Katesar family, the temple is a personal place of worship just a walk away from the castle.

In the words of Neelambari Kumari, Raj Mata’s grand daughter-in-law who administers a primary school in one section of the castle “It is a really wonderful fact that Dada (as she fondly calls Raj Mata) used to worship in the morning in traditional attire and then used to go horse riding in breeches and would again do the evening pooja. She was even remarked as ‘Meera’, the passionate devotee of Lord Krishna, in a well-known book”. The pine scented air around the castle is highly spiritual. In the year 1958, His Holiness the Dalai Lama was invited by Raj Mata over tea with a quote from the Ramcharitmanas written on the welcome gate which read “Thank you Guru for visiting your disciple”. Dalai Lama’s sister stayed in the monastery which was later gifted as a hostel to the Tibetan Homes Foundation School. The chapel is now Hooper Memorial Church and the castle housing a primary school stands impressively behind the tall Deodars with bliss of the temple beside, posing as a perfect location for a suspense thriller.