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... 

Monday, September 5, 2016

(Manimahesh Yatra 2016) part-1. Reaching Chamba Jot


It seems like a long time since I took a hike along the hills and told you its yummy experience. In the last post, I introduced you with the trek from Maigal to Murah Mata temple, located on one of the peaks of the Janitri Dhar in Mandi district of Himachal Pradesh. 

The tough trek went through the dense oak trees jungle, and moreover it is explored by very few people. Almost after five months, I finally went on to another but very important trek of my life till now. 

Quick info about Manimahesh 

Kailash yatras to the five Kailash of lord Shiva are among the most famous pilgrimages which are taken by the most daring and faithful people, mostly Hindus. Manimahesh lake located at the base of the Manimahesh Kailash peak, is at an elevation of about 4115 m from mean sea level while the peak itself is at 5775 m.

As per the locals and my overall knowledge, nobody has reached this peak due to the difficulty involved in climbing. It is said that this Kailash was discovered by the Gaddis, the shepherd tribe that is found mostly in the Chamba and Kangra region. The Peak remains covered with white ice for whole of the year, and therefore the yatra  up to the lake is feasible  in the month of the July and August each year. 

Though the trek gets open earlier for trekking, but the official yatra dates are chosen on the religious as well as weather basis. This year it started on Janmashtmi(25 Aug) and yet to end on the Radha Ashtmi(9th September). The advantages of following these dates- first is linked with the religious beliefs of maximum blessings from lord, and second is the free food and accommodation facilities.

With the help of Khachar(mule), various rich people and committees, mostly from Himachal and Punjab take all the necessary items for cooking and night stay to the different locations of this 15 kilometers long trek. 

This facility is called 'Langar.'  Therefore Langars are available at almost every 2 kilometers of a stretch along the trek. Others who don't get the spot at these heights, set up their Langars along the road up to Hadsar. This way, Langars starts a long way back, from Nurpur or Chamba. 

Blessed with such facilities, a person doesn't need to spend a single penny to take the blessings from lord Shiva, all you need is, to reach Chamba and Hadsar and then the determination and strength to reach the Manimahesh lake. 

I even saw few physically handicapped people, with crippled legs or arms, but their hearts are stronger than gold. That is all you need. Few people ride on the mule's back, and few take the helicopter services, but that doesn't seem like a proper yatra to me. 

I think if you really want to  have the blessings and joy of the trek then you should reach the lake on your own feet. I assure you that it will benefit you. 

Personal Story - Chamba Manimahesh Yatra 2016

It was twenty days earlier that I had left for my village. It rained days and nights, and therefore plan got postponed. It was the trip to Manimahesh that Ghosh(Shankar Ghosh) and I were planning since past few weeks. Second obstacle was the final viva for the degree, that I would take at NIT Hamirpur on 26th of August. 

On the evening of 26th a plan was made and Ashu Bhai(as Shankar calls him ) might join us the next day. Ashu bhai would tell us that he already have the three times  experience of trekking up to the Manimahesh lake. Second most important thing that he had was his Alto car, which would prove to be very comforting and necessary in the rainy season. 

Ashu Bhai, Shankar and I are friends, met due to our jobs at different times and locations. With few intermediate communication gaps in last two three years, this trip would be my only one trip of its kind with all three of us. 

It was a pleasure to go together on such a blessed journey. Next day Govinda, a carpenter who worked at Ashu bhai's home, was seated in Ashu's car that approached the dedh gate(three gates of NIT Hamirpur are name as 1st gate(main gate), 1.5(dedh) gate and 2nd Gate)  in front of the Himgiri hostel at NIT Hamirpur. It was about fifteen minutes since we stood there waiting for them. Guitar and sleeping bag were other things that I carried on this trip, though they were not the absolute necessities.

Road Journey from Hamirpur to Jot at Chamba

Ashu bhai drove while Ghosh sat on the adjacent seat. Guitar was kept in the lap, while all other things were in the luggage box. Hamirpur to Jwala Mukhi temple, was a quick ride, and was full of discussions about each other and the place we were going to visit. 
It was the first time for Govinda, so we showed him the gate to the Jwala Ji temple, and told him the story of Akbar's gold umbrella. 

Mostly, stories are told to refresh our memories, and learn some more, so bigger the number of the persons in a car, better it is. Govinda shared his experience about Bol Bam Yatra(Kanvar yatra) that he had completed with a bare feet walk of 100 kilometers from Sultanganj in Bihar to Baidyanath temple at Deoghar in Jharkhand. 

The aim of this yatra is to fetch some holy Ganga water from Sultanganj and take it to the lord Shiva temple Baidyanath at Deogarh in Jharkhand. This was his main source of confidence which showed itself while tirelessly he would climb the fifteen kilometers Manimahesh trek. Shankar also had few trekking experiences such as the Kheerganga , Kamrunaag, Bijli Mahadev, Sarahan(Bhima Kali), Sareolsar lake and Murari Devi treketc. so he was confident too. 

By the time we crossed Kangra and reached Shahpur, sky got overcasted with darkness, and it was the time to eat the dinner meal in the dhaba. Shankar had switched to the driver's seat, and our next stop would be over the mountain ridge at Jot. It was already around midnight, so we thought to take few hours sleep in the car itself. 

Night at Chamba Jot

Road crosses the mountain ridge at Jot, leaving the Kangra's plains and entering into the more zig zag and steepy roads towards Chamba. At jot, it could be cold in nights even in the months of July and August. Our jackets and caps were of very much help. On the right of the road there was  a two storey concrete building that looked like a home, but lights were already off. 

Another one was just  few meters down the ridge, but its lights were off too. Ground floors were shuttered, so not even a tea shop was open.While making the arrangements and turning the car to the right stable spot, we chatted loudly. Lights got on for a while, but again everything went silent. 

Ashu bhai took the sleeping bags and spotted an empty carriage van, with open roof, but under the rain shelter. He is the one with the longest legs and height among us and it was not comfortable for him to sleep in the car in a single seat. Remaining three of us managed to close our eyes and get subconscious till the morning. 

Clouded morning at Chamba Jot, Manimahesh Yatra August 2016

Green Roof at Chamba Jot, Manimahesh Yatra August 2016

From right - Ashu Bhai, Govinda, Shankar and I.

A view of Kangra valley from Chamba Jot, Manimahesh Yatra August 2016

to be contd in part 2......

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Trek from Maigal(Thona) to Murah Mata Temple(Janitri Dhar), Mandi H.P.


Visiting this temple was just an excuse for getting the adventurous experiences of hiking up into the wild mountain slopes and reaching the peaks, where this Murah mata temple is built.

 In last four posts the story of trekking from Joginder Nagar to Bir-Biling via Winch Camp and Rajgundha was covered. Few weeks later I would trek up to Murah-Dhar temple that is located on the peak of the Murah dhar (part of the Janitri Forest Dhar). Plan was also to eat the Kaafal(Bayberries) while coming back from the peak in the evening.

The temple has a beautiful location, which gives an amazing view of the nearby areas of Sarkaghat and Dharampur on west, and Mandi and Kotli to the east. On the north side, the Janitri ridge leads our eyesight towards the ice capped peaks of Dhauladhar and on the south we get a very beautiful view of the Naina Mata Temple located on the mountain peak of Sar Ki Dhar. But the Rewalsar lake hides itself on the other side of the mountain containing the Naina Mata temple.

Location of Murah Mata Temple(31.730188, 76.829173) w.r.t. Naina Mata Temple of Riwalsar, in Sarkaghat, Mandi, H.P.courtesy: google Maps 
To the north west, you can get a clear view of the lower Shivalik peaks and ridges, one of them holds the famous Kamlah fort at a very steep but lower height. There is no road or even a well defined path to reach the temple, so don't try to go there on your own. The nearest village to this peak can not be located easily. It could be Thona or any of the nearby village, or one from the east from the Kotli or Tungal areas of Mandi Tehsils. As per my rough estimates, all of them are more than three hours(nine to ten kilometres steep wild non defined paths) away from the temple. of Janitri Dhar. The path that we followed from Chori(Maigal) was known to Shashi -my relative younger brother. Naresh and his friend from Una would make four of us. 

I had instructed them to start at 8:00 AM, because that was the earliest time possible due to the other works constraints. We were gathered at a function at Parasla at Shashi's home, and there were other things to do. However the Sun rises from behind the same mountain and takes time to reach the slope that we hiked, but still in the month of May, one should start at 5:00 AM or 6:00 AM, otherwise chances are that you can get a sunburn. 

Water is a must to carry, at least one-two litres for every person for a single day, because there is no good facility of any kind of water at the top or in-between the trek. There is not even a single home, and therefore also take the food, don't take any chances, no chances at all. One good thing was that, due to the lower elevation, cell phone networks were available. 

Reaching the Kafal(Bayberry) and Baan(Oak) tree line:

We started late at around 9:00 AM, and Sun had reached enough heights to sweat us. One third of the hiking was along a tree less, but the grass lands, which were useful for the local shepherds or cow owners. Two animal shelters were met in this part of about ten kilometres of total hiking. 

Tree line still not met, On trek from Maigal(Thona) to Murah Mata temple, Janitri Dhar, Mandi (May 2016)

The deciduous pine trees were met when we reached at the ridge line of the mountain, that we would follow to reach to peak. After hiking another kilometer we met a lady on the Kaafal tree. Trees were loaded with the green and pink yummy bayberries. We greeted the lady, and ate the berries from the branches reachable from ground. 

That is our beloved Kaafal tree with green and pink Kaafals(bayberries) on it, Murah Dhar(Janitri Dhar), Mandi   May 2016

Reaching the Murah Temple of Janitri Dhar

We met many such trees through the rest of the hike. Though oak trees dominated the jungle, few rhododendron trees could also be spotted.  It is a dense jungle and we spotted few junglee birds, no doubt there would be another animals such as rabbits, junglee bears, pigs and leopards etc. Path is spotless at places, and one should not go alone, as the temple is also not visible from most of the journey. We met two teenage boys who had halted for a while below a big stone boulder. This boulder could easily shelter ten to fifteen persons in case of rainfall. 

They gave us a bad news that there would be no water for drinking at the temple. Even Shashi was unaware of this, and we carried on two litres of water which was already finished. He had told us that we can fill up the bottle at the temple. This was a misinformation, but now we had to deal with it. As the boys were descending, we got a small amount of water from them, and in return we offered them few remaining sips of coca-cola (soft drink).

First glimpse of temple, Murah Mata temple, Janitri Dhar, Mandi  May 2016

At Murah Mata Temple of Janitri Dhar

We reached the temple while Sun was at the zenith, thankfully the cold air breeze soothed the flesh. Sarayas were constructed at the base floor, while the first floor was still under construction, but slab was constructed above it with columns. On the top of the slab was this small temple, which was dedicated to Hindu goddess Murah Mata. 

Murah Mata temple, Janitri Dhar, Sarkaghat, Mandi H.P.    May 2016

An empty clay pot was kept at the base floor, and also few blankets both needed for a night stay. As of the day of the visit, no water pipe had reached this place, so one has to bring his own water. 

In the vicinity of the whole temple, there were animal shelters, and few metres away was a small Shiva temple. The ridge line of Janitri Dhar divides the Sarkaghat and Kotlu tehsils, one to the west while latter to east. Whole of the ridge line is visible, and also that of the adjoining Baglu forest. All the four of my partners chanted the holy Sanskrit Mantras to praise the Goddess, while I filmed that with my cell phone camera.

Animal shelters and Shiva temple in back, Murah Mata temple, Janitri Dhar, Sarkaghat, Mandi    May 2016

We spent about one hour, at the place, took pictures, ate the rotis(chapatis) that I had brought from my aunt's home and then started our journey back down. 

Baglu Forest, view from Murah Temple, Sarkaghat,    clicked on May2016

A view of Kotli area from Murah temple, Janitri Dhar, Sarkaghat, Mandi     - May 2016

A view of Thona and nearby areas, from Murah temple, Sarkaghat     May 2016

A view of Naina Mata temple, Sar Ki Dhar, Rewalsar from Murah Mata Temple, Janitri Dhar, Sarkaghat,   May 2016

We collected the Kaafal in the bags or bottles whatever we carried, and reached the village at around 5:00 PM. I drank about one litre of water when we reached the first home near to the road at Chori(Maigal). 

thanks for visit!

Friday, May 13, 2016

Trekking from Raj-Gundha to Biling - A World Paragliding Site (Part 4)


This was day four of this long trekking cum camping trip. For previous days' story, please read the last three posts on this blog. Till day three we had covered the trek from Joginer Nagar to Winch Camp and to Barot, with one night’s camping halt.

 From Barot we walked along the road to Nalhota, in Chota Bhangal, where we stayed in a rented room for the second night. Story of the third day trek from Nalhota to Rajgundha, crossing the Uhl River and exploring Rajgundha was covered in the last post. Morning was biting-cold, and after coming back from the brook, I had to slip back into my sleeping bag.

Morning Sun-rays at peaks visible from Rajgundha, Chota Bhangal, Kangra - (April 2016). Pic courtesy: Deepak

Morning at Rajgundha Camping Site
Sun would appear after 7:00 AM, and without a jacket it was unbearable. No one was on the fields, but within one or two hours, people would start working. At 6:45 AM, sun rays appeared at the ice capped peaks around the Thamsar pass. Deepak clicked these moments, and these photographs are the source from where I am writing the exact timings.

Sun-Rise at RajGundha, Chota Bhangal, Kangra (Pic courtesy: Deepak)

Light descended slowly down from the peaks and reached at our camping site at around 7:15 AM, and that is when Sun with its round shape started to emerge from behind the mountain. An old couple came to the nearby fields with a pair of oxen, a plough and yoke. We acquainted with Sh. Ashok Kumar who wore a Himachali cap, and asked whatever we could ask about his farms. 

Potatoes and vegetables are the two things that mostly are grown. To sell they have to carry them manually to Badagram on the other side of the Uhl. He also told about his son who had been pursuing a degree in Engineering at some private engineering college at Kangra.

Sh. Ashok Kumar with the yoked oxen at Rajgundha, Chota Bhangal, Kangra April 2016 (Pic courtesy: Deepak)

Soon it was about 8:15AM, and we had to pack our tents and get our break-fast meal. At 9:00 AM we were back to the Nepali Brothers’ kitchen to have another meal of Chapati with Potato Sabzi. Also my Cell phone and camera batteries got charged, that I had plugged into the current slots at their house. We paid them about nine hundred rupees for the dinner, break-fast meal and around ten cups of tea. We said good-bye, picked our backpacks, walked just steps up from this house and we already were on the trail that leads to Biling.

Trail towards Biling from Rajgundha, at Rajgundha, Chota Bhangal, Kangra (April 2016)

On the 12 km long Trail to Biling-Bir from RajGundha
It was a long gentle walk along this two to three metres wide tack, that was traced back in 1970s or 80s. It was damaged at some places and therefore not even small vehicles run on it. Sometimes mountain biking events are organised, in which bikers from all over the world participate. Some videos are available on the Youtube where they ride along this wild mountain track from Biling to Rajgundha or further below to Barot and lower areas.  Deodar trees shadowed the track, therefore it could be very cold to walk in the mornings.

Origin of Uhl, Rajgundha, Chota Bhangal, Kangra -  April 2016 (Pic courtesy: Deepak Singh)

Sun was now higher up from the horizon, and beautified our experience. The ice capped mountain peaks were clearer, and so was the view of the Uhl valley that extended down from these peaks towards Barot. We got a bird’s eye view of Bada-gram and Nalhota and they looked silent but beautiful. Deodar trees were later joined by the Rhododendron trees when we reached the ridge crossing. 

A click down to the Uhl valley, Chota Bhangal, Kangra, -April 2016

We could call this a mountain pass, because on one side of it we could see the Uhl valley, while world paragliding site Biling was visible on the other. We could see the para-gliders flying above the jungle at different heights. We put our backpacks down to take a small rest. A one room hut stood on the left of the track.

Clicked just at the crossing from ridge on trail Rajgundha to Biling, Kangra, April 2016.

Someone from Gaddi tribe might be using this as a halt, while carrying their goats and sheep from one side to the other. The place was surrounded by the dense jungle on a very steep mountain terrain. On the very top of this mountain ridge a red flag had caught our attention. It could be the Hanuman Garh of which Parshuram had mentioned about. This would be another one day trek experience to reach the Hanuman Garh peak from either side of the mountain. 

Recharging ourselves with view of beautiful paragliders' Biling valley at Ridge crossing on trail from Rajgundha to Biling, April 2016

Our plan was to reach Biling and while Anand would take a flight with the paraglider, rest three of us would reach Bir in a cab. Another half of the track followed a descending slope because Biling is at lower elevation. Rhododendrons beautify this part of the track in these spring and autumn months of the year with their colourful flowers, which one can eat.
Local use these flowers to make the juices and preserve that for use in summer to make sharbat. It is beneficial for digestion and relieves from heat, and also good for digestion. This second half of the track was easy to walk, but if it was a motor-able road, could be dangerous for the vehicles because the mountain face is very steep. If accidents happen, they would be fatal.

Biling just few meters down, Kangra, April 2016

Biling –A World Paragliding Site
This was the second time for me to visit this site, but earlier I was alone and came via road, that ascends from Bir. Anand was eager to take the flight, though it was his first time. Whole site is established on a mountain which stretches out from the main Dhauladhar range, like a branch at 90 degrees. 

April 2016

At mid heights of this ridge line is located this paragliding site. It provides sufficient heights for the gliders to take a flight into air. Given to the steep descent and elevation difference between the Bir and Biling, a sufficient air pressure difference gets developed and provides the required wind flow.

In 2010 the road from Bir to Biling was in very bad conditions, only light vehicles could reach the site, thanks to the recent world paragliding event of October 2015. The same single lane road now shined like a wet black serpent in sun shine.  It was the peak season for paragliding, around about fifty people could be seen at the site at the moment we reached there. Other than the Indian tourists we saw a group of about ten from other countries, ladies and gents both. The guides who are the professional gliders were taking off into the air with their clients.

We could see more than ten to fifteen gliders in the air. We asked a man who looked as the guide, and he offered a 20-30 minutes flight for INR 2000. Later we would know that a para-glider takes about INR 500 from this 2000 and other goes to the owner of the equipments and glider. Anand was very soon in the air, and we got down to Bir in a cab. 

Anand getting ready for paragliding, at Biling-Bir, Kangra, April 2016  (Courtery: Deepak)

And in air, paragliding at Biling -  April 2016 (Pic courtesy: Deepak)

Anand had a great experience and we caught him at the landing site at Bir. Together we started our back journey to Hamirpur via Palampur and Sujanpur. Later in the evening, we would have a Chicken meal at Flavors(restaurant) as a treat by Deepak Singh for his birthday. I sincerely want to wish him all the very best for his upcoming birthdays.