Monday, June 29, 2015

Visiting Shringa Rishi, Chehni Kothi, Jalori Pass and Sareolsar Lake in One Day - part I


It was only a day before yesterday when I had trekked to Triund, and the very next day, I got a phone call from my friend Vinod reminding me of our plan to visit the Banjar and Parbati valley. This post is the first part of our story of the execution of our plan.
If I write minute details from my journey, then this post can become a very long one, so I shall try to be concise. My day begin at 7:00 AM at my friend Vinod's home at Nagwain, Kullu. We prepared our bag pack, had our meal and started our motor-cycle journey.

One has to be careful to take the left diversion at the end(your 'start,' if travelling to Manali) of Larji tunnel. The road further diverges into two at Larji, one run towards Sainj valley and other into the Banjar valley.
We headed along the Banjar road, which had numerous steeply graded curves. I think more than the two treks that we covered in one day, that deteriorated road made us more worn out. We visited the following:
  1. Shringa Rishi temple and Chehni Kothi
  2. Jalori pass and Sareolsar Lake.
 Before I write about the lake, we must talk about the road to reach to this lake. We started on motor cycle from NH-21 at Larji. Via Banjar, visiting the Shri Shringa Rishi temple and the Chehni Kothi on the way side roads, we reached the Jalori pass with quite paining asses.

Shringa Rishi Temple:

The road till now was far better than what would follow to reach the Jalori pass. To reach Shringa Rishi temple, we took a left diversion at 4-5 km past Banjar, a further ride of  8-10 km along a single lane road and we were at temple gate.

The gate was just the start of the steps, it took another one kilometre steep ascent through a Deodar forest to reach that beautiful temple.
Google map image of Shringa Rishi temple and Chehni Kothi

We were accompanied by two or three primary school children groups, who hailed from the Kullu valley. It was a holiday season, so a perfect time for their school picnic.

The teachers who were also to act their guides, looked a little tired, but the children were enjoying the trek. They sang songs, clicked pictures with their cell phones, and some of them even went off the trek to reach the flowery and perfect spots to have a better click.
They were far more enthusiastic than any of us.

When they reached the temple, they were welcomed by the temple authorities. A huge grassy ground in front of the temple was occupied with the lines of local pilgrims enjoying a weekly free day meal.

After taking off the shoes and putting the leather articles safe in our bags, we entered empty handed to the temple.

This was a three storied colourful wooden temple, located at the entrance of the village. It had a cantilevered terrace, which provided with a enthralling view of the Banjar Valley running almost till its end at Aut.
At the 2nd floor was the shrine of the Shringa Rishi, at the moment, puja was going on. The room was full with almost 30 people, while the garbhagriha(sanctum) was occupied by the four to five people, including the priest.

Photography was denied, so I could not take the photo of the inside. After pooja we were invited for the lunch meal, so Vinod suggested to take the meal after coming back from the Chehni Kothi. The trek to the Chehni Kothi was much steeper and another one and half kilometre long.

Chehni Kothi:

For a normal healthy person like me, it would take twenty minutes to reach the Chehni Kothi from the Shringa rishi temple. Chehni is a small beautiful mountain village, situated at such an elevation that you can see the mountain ridges descending towards the Dhauladhar along the descent of the Banjar valley. Top edge of the village is bounded by the Deodar forests, while the bottom has the fields and apple orchards.  

Houses were built with the stone and the wood, most probably with the Deodar wood. Chehni Kothi could easily be spotted among the surrounding structures. If one carries a telescope this eight-nine(not easy to make out) storey stone and wood structure would be easily visible from the surrounding mountains and valley.

We were not allowed to ascend that wooden stairs, which was carved out of a single tree trunk. It contained no guard rails on either sides, and was not more than one and half feet wide. It would be dangerous if one looses the balance at the fourth or fifth storey, where it ends. The cracks in the stone wall facing south-east looked horrifying, and we were forced to discuss its safety.

Having no one of great knowledge around us, we ended at the conclusion, that was lower stories were made with the bulk of the stone, with no hollow inside. If it was hollow inside it would not be justifiable that it withstood the devastating earthquake of 1905, and was still standing.

Everyone knows how much damage that 1905 earthquake brought into the region, even the small huts could not stood against it, and it is not less than a miracle that such a tall structure could do that.

Vinod told me that the temple was built with the 'Kaashth Kuni' style. I think it is not a kind of style, but rather a technique to strengthen the wood and stone structures.

The wooden beams were not only provided at the roof or slab level, but at many vertical interval along the wall, and they were joined together at the corners of the walls, by another vertical wooden post, inserted through the holes created at the beam ends. The irregular shaped and different sizes varying from 5 cm to 20 cm were being used in a newly constructed house.  However, the temple was constructed with the well cornered and plane faced stones. A young priestess stepped up in front of us, but the wide crack and the wooden stairs with no guards discouraged us.

Moreover, we didn't have the dhoti, and persons were not allowed to ascend into the temple, without wearing a dhoti ('loincloth', but longer than the one shown in the Google images). Another similar structure was standing across the grassy ground. In between at the centre of the ground was an elevated rectangular concrete base, constructed for putting the Rath(palanquin) of the deity.

Another most visible building in the village is a temple dedicated to lord Krishna, also known as Madho. This temple was huge as compared to the Chehni Kothi, but was only five storied. When we reached the temple gate, the temple priest overlooking at us from the varandah on the second story invited us by showing the entrance.

He lived there, with his family, so it was not just a temple, and from what I could see, only a fraction of the building was the temple indeed. He told us that in previously it was the home of the king, who brought the Krishna idol and established the temple inside his home. The tradition of the changing the cloths of the idol and morning pooja(Prayer, worship) is continued since the time of the establishment of the temple. We talked to him for ten to fifteen minutes and then descended back.

Jalori pass was still kilometers of pot holed road away, and it already was afternoon. We hurriedly ate the day meal at the Shringa Rishi temple lawn and then again descended back towards the motor-cycle. It was a refreshing day for me, and Vinod as well, because he himself had not yet visited the Chehni Kothi. It was my first time in the Banjar valley, and for me the bad weather and damaged road was not a hardship at all. The details of our ride till the Jalori pass and then trek to reach the Sareolsar and Budhi Nagin temple, shall be covered in my next post.

Thank You!