Saturday, June 24, 2017

Panarasa to Tunga Mata - Single Day Trekking


Here I come after a gap of almost eight months to write another short trek story. In september of 2016, I told you about our four day trip to Manimahesh Kailash in Chamba district of Himachal Pradesh. The story of Manimahesh Yatra was told in four parts, you can visit all parts by going through the part 1 link given here

Recently, I visited few new places in Kullu and Mandi district, and in this post I will tell you about a single day trekking from near Panarasa to Tunga temple in Mandi district. Last time I had heard about Tunga mata temple was from my friend and avid traveller Mr. Tarun Goel, who had written about his trekking from Parashar to Tunga

Reaching Panarasa. 

Parashar to Tunga trek looks like a gentle walk to me, but the one that I and my friend Mr.Vinod Sharma took was a very steep one. Reaching Panarsa is very much easy. I reached there on my motorcycle via the national highway, which connects it with Manali and Chandigarh at its two far ends. 

One can also opt for the airways as its distance from Bhunter, the place with one of the only three airports that Himachal has, is less than ten kilometers. After reaching Panarsa, take a road that diverges upwards to reach a village named Sharan. 

Please ask the locals, they will guide you very well along this single lane 8-10 kilometers road.
This is the last village that road can reach. From here starts the trek. 

Trekking up to Tunga Mata temple.

As we reached Sharan, we parked the motorcycle under the shed of an apple tree at the edge of the apple orchard which lie at the bottom of the village. There are plenty of orchards to see if one wants to see along the road.

Apple Orchard at Sharan village, Himachal Pradesh.


Perhaps the most famous in the area is that of Sukh Ram- the former union communication minister of India.
Sukh Ram's farm house surrounded by his apple orchards in Panarsa

The apple orchard and the farmhouse of Sukh Ram has a very good road connectivity. Recently Salman Khan is said to have visited this farmhouse. After coming back from Tunga we would  also reach the farmhouse to overlook the house and apple trees which were guarded by a 5 feet fence. 

Trek from Sharan village starts in a steep manner. After crossing the houses, apple orchard and lastly a govt. primary school building, one would embark on a wild trek. There is this oak trees' jungle between Sharan and other village at higher altitude along the trek. 

Children of Khalwash village have to walk down along this jungle to reach the primary school at Sharan. I shooted a small video at Khalwash to show you the whole scenery around the village. Please have a look.

The serpentine beas river and the white Pir Panjal peaks, both are visible in this video. After witnessing a very fine craftsmanship of two craftsmen, who were carving out the images of Hindu Gods on the wooden doors and pillars that were to be erected in the nearby under-construction-temple, we climbed on to the remaining trek, more steep 6-8 kilometers of Deodar surrounded dangerous trek. 

Sitting on the Roots
Reason I call it dangerous is that the path is not much defined at places and can be slippery if it rains. The last one kilometers through this jungle is very much steep and the dense jungle makes it a bit scary if you are alone. One has to be careful of the snakes, we spotted two snakes along the trek.

Jwalapur - view from Tunga Mata Temple trek.

We had started our trek from Sharan at 10:30 AM, and at 2:00 PM our trek merged with the trek that comes from the Jwalapur. After the merge, only one more kilometer was left, and we were welcomed by a herd of goats and three dogs. They were harmless, and walking by them, we sat under the tree shadow to eat the paranthas that we carried in our bag, since the morning. 

At Tunga Mata temple.

Now that we had regained some energy, after short climb we reached the top of the mountain where resides the abode of the goddess Tunga. 
The gate was made of woods. Watch the video for complete view: 

Toilets are next to gate. At top four stone-wood-slate huts with no man were standing. We visited them after visiting the main temple. Two of them are shelters for night stay. One at the centre was locked and the next to it was empty except it contained the musical instruments called Karnal and Dhantura. Also hanging on the wall was the hairy outer goat skin. 

Tunga Mata temple. 

The main temple is very small, large enough only to let two people sit in a lotus posture. Black colored(painted perhaps) stone idols(statues) stood supported by the wall. Take a look in the video itself. 

One can look over ridge like trek that goes to Parashar lake. The Parashar lake ridge which carries green grass with no trees is very well visible from the temple. Apart from this, one can have a good look at the Pir Panjal peaks. 

Buy some trekking Gears:

From here one can opt for another trek up to Parashar, which will be a gentle walk of about 8-10 kilometers. Or can walk down along half an hour trek to a road that extends itself from Jwalapur to the village nearest to the temple. 

When Vinod tried to converse with the temple priest, I tried to make another video of them.  

Soon after, clouds started pouring, and we took our bodies into the shelter inside the hut. It stopped after about half an hour and it was already 4:15 PM. We started back, but stopped at the tent made by the Gaddi(Shepherd), one who owned the goats and dogs. 

Sahil, his name, made the tea for us. He used the goat milk, which was available to him in abundance, as the number of the goats was near to 50. He was from the Jwalapur region, but he would stay with the goats in this jungle.  

He talked very high about the goddess Tunga, claimed that his goats are safe when the goddess is happy with him.  We thanked him for the tea and took the leave, walked the same way back to Khalwash and Sharan. 

This was a wonderful one day trek, easy for people with good fitness, but can be tough for people with bellies. 

Have a look at some inspiring travel books:

Thanks for kind visit!

Sunday, September 11, 2016

(Manimahesh Yatra 2016) part-4. Camping at Manimahesh Lake -Bham Bham Bhole!!


How you doing? Well, Part 3 covered the story of our trekking up to Dunali, where we took our night stay. Earlier in part 1 and part 2,  night stay and Chamba Jot, and holy bath at the Bharmani Devi temple were narrated respectively. So, we slept as if we had sold all our horses. 

Morning at Dunali

At night the only sound that one could hear was the roaring rivulet 'Dhancho khad,' which runs downwards, parallel and very steeply along the trek.  When we woke up at around 7:30 AM, the air was vibrating with the chants for Shiva. Pilgrims had crowded the path, some of them  climbing up to the Manimahesh lake while others descending down to Hadsar. 

Dhancho water is ice cold and clean, but dangerous in case you slip into the powerful stream. I picked up my toothbrush with paste, and went near the spring water next to the shop, channelized with a pipe but untapped as there was no need to do so. The water was clean like distilled water, or perhaps purer. Toilet facility was not available at Dunali, and that is why that I spotted stools in the open in surrounding bushes. 

At Dhancho

We decided to climb up to Dhancho and use the toilet facilities there. After climbing amidst the dense Deodar jungle that on a ninety degrees sloped face, Dhancho was not far than one kilometer from last shop at Dunali. Gopal and I were ahead of Ashu bhai and Shankar, and as were hungry, we stepped into one of the many Langars and ate some poori-channa. 

Soon we entered the second Langar and then we ate something else. Eating too much is not advised so we took small meals only and tea. Dhancho had a temporary settlement of the Langar Bhavans and other shops, but had the permanent toilets. Perhaps we spotted more than fifteen langar bhavans at Dhancho itself.

A talk with supervisor of Sulabh International 

While we rested and refreshed Ashu bhai and Shankar started some discussion about the cleanliness of the place with a supervisor of the Sulabh International. The same NGO that maintains the toilets and bathing facilities at various bus and railway stations throughout the India. Supervisor told that they maintain the cleanliness everyday till the end of official yatra dates i.e. 9th Sep 2016 for this year. 

Dhancho - a temporary market. Clicked from the steep mountain trek of Manimahesh lake, 2016

After that the shopkeeper who leave the place later, do not carry the plastics and garbage with them, and that creates the problem. Soon the snow fall occurs and all the debris remain here itself. 

It was a problem for real and government should keep the eye on this. From Dhancho one can take the usual trek or a steeper one along the Bander-ghati. These two meet again after about two kilometers of climbing, near the Shiv-Gharats. 

From Dhancho to Sunderasi and Gauri Kund 

Dhancho Khad (stream) has to be crossed few times after variable stretches along the trek. Crossing are mostly the small temporary bridges, and police helps in crossing them if its susceptible to danger. 

The pilgrims trying to the find the footsteps along the Manimahesh trek, 2016.

Langars would were also available at Sunderasi and Gauri Kund, and would be available at lake itself. Drizzling had started when we reached the Gauri-kund, and there we waited for Ashu Bhai and Shankar who had taken another steep path along the Bhairo-ghati. 

At Gauri-Kund

Path for the Bhairo-ghati diverges from the main path after Sunderasi, and two meets again at Gauri Kund. It looks like a shortcut but it can be very tiresome due to the steepness and less width. Gauri-Kund is the place where ladies take the holy bath. Kailash peak becomes visible from Gauri Kund. 

The Dhancho Khad looks in its infancy here. Another narrow diversion takes to the Kamal Kund, which lies at the base of the Kailash mountain. And another one kilometer hike along the main trek takes us to the holy lake of Manimahesh.   

A miracle?? -Camping at Manimahesh Lake 

After climbing the last stretch of the trek, we were welcomed by a gate on the northern side of the lake. Lake was surrounded by the temporary shops and pilgrims. On the opposite side of the lake were erected the number of tents of different colors. 

Tents at the Manimahesh lake, 2016
It was a dream to sleep around the lake in one of those tents. Therefore the first thing we did was to book a tent. After we inquired, the shopkeeper lurked out his head and pointed his finger towards three blue tents. He asked to chose any of them. The price was about 500 rupees per tent, in which we all four would accommodate comfortably.

Below the tents were the shops which completed the circle of the shops around the lake. In between of the shops and lakes, was the two to three meters wide stone paved path, along which pilgrims were circling the lake. It was raining, yet few people were inside the lake, pouring the buckets of the holy water on their body.

We walked a half circle and then we reached for the tent, and threw our bags inside it. In front of us was a cloudy sky, with nothing much visible other than the lake itself. Soon Ashu bhai and Shankar joined us. Shankar had dared to take the bath in the lake, as he was hungry and wouldn't eat anything until he would take the holy bath. 

Evening at Manimahesh lake, August 2016 - clicked by me. 

It is a pilgrimage of difficult kind, as walking up along this steep trek without anything in stomach is not the job of the weak. Soon they went to eat something at the Langar while we stayed in the tents. Now and then we would hear the chants  of"Bham Bham Bhole" or "Har Har Har Mahadev," which did materialize the epic drama scenes from many TV serials. 

In those scenes, generally the Shiva-gan or the Indra-gan are shown coming to Kailash Parvat, where Shiva would be sitting in the meditation pose. These ganas would be either in pain or need of protection from some kind of demon. 

Today it was the time to see this scene in reality. Manimahesh Kailash parvat was in front and ganas were standing near the lake some praying for blessings, some chanting while walking, and some while bathing. 

The difference between the reel and the real scene is that Shiva is shown in the human flesh in the TV serials, while not here. Yet it seemed as if he was there, everywhere, in every soil, cloud or in the water particle. We could feel the aura. Later while we all were seated with a guest who called himself a Gaddi basically from the Bharmour region, the air was still heavy, and those clouds had not left the peaks of the Kailash Parvat.

Our ears got punched by louder chants of 'Har Har Har Mahadev' or 'Bham Bham Bhole.' Without the delay of single second, we stretched our heads out of the tent, and saw that, miraculously, a beam of sunlight had touched the feet of the Kailash parvat. It was exactly 6:42 PM, and soon the rays would disappear. 

Miraculous beam of Sunlight on the feet of Manimahesh, Chamba 2016.
I have seen the sun-rays falling on the Dhauladhar range after a cloudy or rainy day,visible from my home, but it looked different and divine. Sun-rays can not look more beautiful and divine at any other place than at the feet of the Kailash mountain. 

Sun-Rays midway to the heart of the Manimahesh Kailash, Chamba 2016

Slowly rays ascended up the mount, and touched the "Aum" symbol formed at the heart of the mount and then disappeared. Thankfully I was able to get a selfie with this divine scene at the Manimahesh Kailash. 

That night we talked about Shiva, shouted Shiva, chanted Shiva and sang Shiva. There were other small gatherings who sang the devotional songs at night of the Chambyali, Kangri and Mandyali regions. We slept inside the camp  at midnight with five blankets and two sleeping bags. It might have rained at night, but we were safe and sound asleep.

Holy bath in the morning at Manimahesh Lake:

Morning was cloudy, but energetic with the shiv bhagts' chanting and roaring around the lake. Manimahesh kailash was hidden behind the clouds. I couldn't dare to take the bath without sun-rays, moreover it was drizzling.

We waited, and finally at around 11:00 AM, sun showed its shine. till now it was hidden behind the clouds along its path from the Manimahesh peak to the zenith. After packing the blankets and packing our bags we rushed towards the lake. One by one we took the bath. It was cold, and after taking two complete dips inside the lake, I was off the lake. Shankar took a dip and Ashu bhai managed with the bucket. I didn't notice Govinda, but might be he did the same. 

Holy bath at Manimahesh lake, August 2016

Anyway, I felt a rush of heat after coming out of the lake water. It happens that we don't feel cold after dipping in the colder than the surrounding air water. Soon we were packed inside the clothes again. It was time to say goodbye to Kailasha parvat. 

Way back down the Manimahesh Trek

I left with my heart contented to its depths and filled with new energy. 

Roaring water of Dhancho Khad, Manimahesh trek 2016.

We covered the fifteen kilometers descent in less than four hours, including few minutes rests and lunch at one of the langars.

from left - Ashu bhai, Shankar, me, shopkeeper and Govida - Inside a shop on Manimahesh trek, 2016


Friday, September 9, 2016

(Manimahesh Yatra 2016) part -3. Bharmour to Hadsar and Dhancho

Hii there!

In this three parts personal story of the Manimahesh yatra 2016, the last two parts covered our story of our night halt at Chamba Jot and then the holy bath at the Bharmani Devi temple of Bharmour. Being young and full of energy, four of us decided to climb at-least half of the Manimahesh trek on the same day. Bharmani Devi temple trek couldn't make us tired.

Back Bharmani Devi temple to Bharmour

The last statement was testified when I saw Shankar walking down the Bharmani trek like a tyre of a bicycle. This path was paved and different from the one that we took while climbing. It was the common path, and therefore we could see more people climbing and descending in a number which we can see on a noon in the market street of Hamirpur town on monday or Tuesday.

 Along the trek to Bharmour from Bharmani Devi, Chamba, Manimahesh yatra 2016.

Soon we crossed two villages, and frequently saw small children with baskets of apples on either side of the path. Some offered "Dus ke teen"(three apples for INR 10)  and some "Dus ke chaar"(four apples for INR 10). Though apples were not ripened, still it was a big bargain for people who come from plains, because they will get four apples for about INR 100 at plains.

When we crossed these wooden, stone and concrete houses, our path ended near to the helipad, from where the helicopters take off to the helipad at the Parvati Kund, which is about 1 kilometer down from Manimahesh lake. This year price of the flight was near to INR 2000/- while last year in 2015 it was higher than INR 2500/-.

Chaurasi Temple of Bharmour

Just few meters below the helipad is the complex of the Chaurasi temples of Bharmour. We entered through a concrete gate and witnessed a huge gathering. It looked like small fair, and soon we would read a banner with "Jatar Mela 2016."  Someone was selling the ornaments while other offered the tattoo service. Some people were lined up behind the gate of the main temple at the center while others were seated at its back, watching a traditional dance of Chamba.

Jatar Mela 2016, Chaurasi Temple, Bharmour, Chamba

Behind the dancers were the musicians playing their traditional instruments so rhythmically and smoothly such that no Hard Rock Cafe or a MTV musician could match the calmness and purity of the aura that was created there. Though the dancers were not dressed in the traditional dresses, which indicated that they were not the professionals, but still their steps matched with each other.

Instead of lining up behind that big line in front of the main temple, we sat at the back of the temple, and watched this live dancing and music show. Sun was about to hide behind the mountain ridge, and we could have sit there, and watched the dance for whole of the evening, but then we could get another day behind from reaching the Manimahesh lake.

Chaurasi Temple, Jatar Mela 2016, Chamba, Manimahesh yatra 2016.

 We walked one kilometer back to the car, and then ran towards Hadsar. Hadsar is at a distance of 12 kilometers from Bharmour and along this lengthy stretch we could see the vehicles parked on the available corners along both sides of the road. Ravi flows parallely only few hundred meters down the road.

Some advised us not to go to Hadsar, else we would not find the parking space, but they didn't know our plan to climb the half trek on the same night.

Hadsar to Dhancho - Night stay.

We reached Hadsar when it got completely dark. Parking space was available only after we went about one kilometer further from the main gate of the trek, for which we crossed two steel bridges, one on a rivulet called 'Dhancho Khad' whose origin is the Manimahesh lake itself, and the last one on the river Ravi itself. We took our bags, filled with nothing but few warm clothes, and with the torch in the hand, we walked back towards the main gate.

We ate the food at the langar service near to the main gate, and then walked towards the gate. We already had seen a number of young and beautiful lady police that day, and yet another one asked us to drop our bags for checking at the main gate. It was the drugs and alcohol that they were checking for. On the wall of the gate was pasted a notice with picture of a person from Bihar who had got lost somewhere along the Kugti pass four days earlier.

Crossing the Kugti pass is work of at least four to five days, and should not be risked alone by newbies. It connects Chamba with the Lahaul Spiti region of the Himachal Pradesh which is on the other side of the Pir Panjal range. It can be foolishness to go on this trek without experience. Four of us were enough experienced to tackle the steepness of the Manimahesh trek.

When we reached Dunali at three to four kilometers along the Manimahesh trek, we started asking for the sleeping facility. It already was midnight, but we were not afraid as we were sure to find the space for the night stay at Dhancho. Thankfully just at the end of the Dunali, while other shops had closed, we found a shop open which offered the space for INR 100. We were tired and as per the watch time, another date had started. We slept there with no conscience at all.

Note: No photos could be clicked, because it was already dark when we reached Hadsar and Dunali. But few were clicked while coming back, which I shall share in the part 4 of this Manimahesh Yatra 2016.


Wednesday, September 7, 2016

(Manimahesh Yatra 2016) part-2. Chamba Jot to Bharmani Devi temple

Hii again!

In the part 1 of the story of our Manimahesh Yatra 2016, we had reached at the Jot, where we slept at night. In the morning we clicked some photographs of the ridge, and the surrounding peaks at Chamba Jot. Sky was still dark with the clouds. At 8:00 AM, the tea shop was open, and even a green vegetable shop was open too. But, as we had not even brushed our teeth, so decided to first reach for a spot where we could refresh ourselves. 

Jot to Bharmour

Ashu bhai sat on the driver's seat and soon the car started running down the Jot towards Chamba. I picked up my Guitar and together we sang few of the Ashok Kumar's songs, such as 'O Mere Dil Ke Chain, chain aaye mere dil ko dua kijiye.' 

Road from Jot to Chamba mostly has a descending gradient, and steep curves. Still we enjoyed the road because of the beautiful mountains and the terraced green fields, on which corn plants were still standing. Deodar trees could easily be spotted on the slopes, though they were not clustered together to make the dense forests like those along Rajgundha to Bir-Biling trek or along the trek to Shringa Rishi temple and Chehni Kothi in Banjar

There was a rivulet that followed us tediously and finally would merge with Ravi in Chamba. We crossed the Ravi at Chamba at around 9:45 AM, and then the road ran parallel with Ravi up till Bharmour. 

The reservoirs' water of the Chamera stage I and Chamera stage II almost touched the road. I couldn't understand why these river projects were named in reverse order. The project at the downstream is given stage I, while at the higher stages its III and II. 

Generally stage projects with the same name are numbered as stage I, II and III, starting from the upstream. Such as the river projects Uhl stage I, II and III on river Uhl are numbered with stage I at the higher elevation of the river. The river water was silty, and roaring.  

Bharmour to Bharmani Devi temple

After reaching Bharmour, first task was to find the parking for the car, as the road up to the Bharmani Devi temple was slippery and police on duty suggested not to take car up there.
It is said that without taking the bath in the cold water at the Bharmari Devi temple the Manimahesh yatra remains incomplete. Due to the surge of the pilgrims in a large number, we couldn't find the place to park the car in one kilometer of the stretch along the road earlier to the Bharmour market. Then we first reached the market along the road, and then we started ascending uphill towards Bharmani Devi temple. 

Instead of taking the motor-able road which would be more than 5 kilometers of length, we took a left diversion along a steep path. We witnessed the apple trees loaded with the green and reddish apple fruits, though not completely ripe. They followed us along half of the trek.  When the apple orchards line finished, we spotted the motorable road on the upper reaches of the mountain face. We climbed the terraced uncultivated fields and spotted a woman near to a fresh water pipe. 

First obvious question we asked her was about the remaining distance up to Bharmani devi, which she told to be only about 1.5 kilometers. I and Ashu started to talk in Mandyali(local language of district Mandi), because its not much different from the Chambyali (local language of Chamba district). Along with her a very old woman and two others of mid fourtees joined us in the chit chat.

With Bharmani Devis of Bharmour, Manimahesh Yatra 2016

We sat on one of those grassy fields and within half an hour we were comfortable enough to sing the "Kunju and Chanchlo" - a very famous Chambyali song. We wanted to listen it from them, because lyrically we were weak, but they only helped us with the lyrics. 
It was a wonderful experience to have introduction with them, and being elders they advised us to remain away from drugs and alcohol. It is very common to spot the people coming from outside with smoke and drugs. They knew it very well. They offered one apple for each four of us, and if help was necessary invited us to their home. We felt as if we met the real Bharmani Devi. We touched their feet and started along the remaining trek. 

Last part of the trek is very steep, but we reached Bharmani Devi temple at around 3:00 PM. It was a small place with a large gathering of the pilgrims. Located on the grassy meadow at the base of the mountain peaks covered with the Deodar trees, it carried a spiritual aura. The other mountain peaks on that side of the river Ravi looked of higher elevations. 

Pilgrims ready to take the dip into the bath at Bharmani Devi Temple, Bharmour, Chamba, Manimahesh Yatra 2016

Though with limited space but separate bathing facilities were provided to the ladies. A pond of about 4 m * 2m* 1.5 m size looked small for the number of the gents crowded there. One by one we took dips into that ice cold water and then we tailed along a long line to take the blessings of the Bharmani Devi. 

It was a stone carved sculpture of Bharmani Devi put under the open sky, that people were lined up to touch. It took about half an hour for our turn. As nothing had entered our stomachs except the small apple that the women had offered us in the afternoon, we went to the Langar. It was organised by the Devbhumi Langar committee Samela, Hamirpur. Ashu's father was with this committee and soon we met him. 
Ashu with his Father and Govida, Bharmani Devi, Bharmour, Chamba, Manimahesh Yatra 2016

The meal was the average chawal, dal and curry, but we knew that  the efforts to organise such free food service for the pilgrims at such heights would be extra-ordinary. Along with his father, there were about five other persons who were involved in this Langar. There were 4-5 other Langars from different places with different dishes. At around 4:15 PM, we left Bharmani Devi and descended back to Bharmour. Plan was to reach Hadsar in car and then reach Dhancho on our feet.

to be contd in part 3...