Roughly between 7 and 10 every morning, the trinity of holy Shivalik peaks shakes off its mist blanket and shows itself in ice-capped glory. From right to left, Nanda Devi, Nanda Kot and Trishul glint golden in the morning sun, looming over Kumaon as if to remind its residents that they are under the mountains’ watchful gaze. In Mukteshwar, the mountains are covered in forests of oak, the ground beneath the trees littered with perfectly formed acorns.
The pines rise like spindly towers, their bright green needles glistening against an impossibly blue sky. And between all the green are splotches of deep blood red. The rhododendron is in full bloom. The flowering trees appear in the higher reaches on the drive up from Kathgodam, as if welcoming visitors to springtime in Kumaon.
The buransh, as it is locally known, is the state tree of Uttarakhand, and the flower is prized. It blooms from February to April, and its petals are dried, crushed, bottled and brewed. Supermarket shelves are full of rhododendron squash and juice vendors dispense beverages freshly made from flowers.
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