Sunday, 16 October 2011

Deoria Tal - Tungnath - Chandrashila

31 September, 2011
I was since very long itching to go to the mountains. So on a weekend I made up my mind to revisit Tungnath (one of the panch kedars in the Himalayas) including Deoria Tal (about 2400 mt) this time in my program. One of my friend Manjit was my companion on this trip. Both of us took a night bus from Anand Vihar Bus Terminal to Rishikesh, changed the bus at Rishikesh, Srinagar, Rudraprayag, Ukhimath (about 8 km from Sari Village) to finally stay overnight at Deoria Tal. When we reached Sari Village (from where we trekked up for about 3 km to reach Deoria Tal), it was already 6:30 pm. The locals in the Sari village told us that the tented accommodation is available at Lake. So we started walking up and by the time we reached half the way, it was completely dark. Frankly speaking we were a bit afraid as we were passing through a dense forest land, however the way was open and not misleading. We took a sigh of relief when we saw a light coming from the shop nearby the lake. There were a couple of Israeli tourists who had arrived there that afternoon and were planning to a trek upto Tungnath the next day with the help of their guide. We took our especially prepared dinner by Hira Singh, the shop and the tent owner and slipped into our tents without even knowing where the lake was.

I was actually dying to see the Lake and could not sleep properly as I was waiting for the day to break. I set an alarm for 5 am but got up many a times to check how much time was left. Even before my mobile alarm could wake me up, I peeked out of my tent and what a stunning panoramic view!!! Our first encounter with the serene lake with a backdrop of enchanting snow capped Himalayan peaks, just like a picture postcard, so mesmerizing! I woke up Manjit to enjoy this treasure of Mother Nature. And as I had imagined the first word that came out of his mouth was 'WOW', he was so delighted to see this marvelous scenic beauty. We took our weapons out to capture this beautiful phenomenon and started clicking some pictures. We took a circumambulation of the lake and were fortunate to see some beautiful local hilly birds. Hira Singh told us that as Devas (deities) would bathe in this lake hence it took the name 'Deoria Tal'. Some believe that this is the same lake where the Pandavas (heroes of the epic Mahabharata) were offered to answer the mystical questions asked by Yaksha (in the form of a crane) to let them quench their thirst from the lake and only Yudhisthira (the eldest brother) could answer all the questions rightly and could revive his brothers.

Confluence of Holy Bhagirathi (on left) and Alaknanda (on right) at Devprayag, this is where onwards we call it Maa Ganga  

Saturday, 10 September 2011

Jantar Mantar

10 September, 2011

I was always curious to know what was inside these strangely erected structures while passing through these lanes. As a child, we would always think that this is some kind of Bhul Bhulaiya. So today (9 June, 2011) was my chance to explore these mysterious structures and to know what all this Jantar Mantar was about.

It is one of the five astronomical observatories (at Jaipur, Delhi, Mathura, Ujjain, Varanasi) built by Maharaja Sawai Jai Singh (II), the ruler and founder of Jaipur who had a very keen interest in Astronomy. 

Unique structures

Sunday, 28 August 2011

Janjehli - Shikari Devi - Karsog - Delhi

4 August, 2011
Today I got up early morning as I had to walk a lot to reach Shikari Devi Temple via Budha Kedar Cave and to get down towards Karsog. When I stepped out of the guest house and asked the locals about the way to Shikari via Budha Kedar, I got a feeling that the way was through jungle with multiple trails at certain places which could be misleading and could make me go astray. I was alone and I had only today's time to cover all this, so I decided to give the cave a miss this time and tried a convenient path which would go all along the roads. It is a 16 km trekking from Janjehli to Shikari Devi, one can also go by Bike/Jeep/Car (preferably by a 4x4) but the last few kilometers do give you a hard time as the road is in very bad condition (due to rains probably).

Apple orchards all across the road

Saturday, 27 August 2011

Sunjanpur - Sunder Nagar - Mandi - Janjehli

2/3 August, 2011
Today's plan was to go to Mandi and from there to Janjehli Valley for the trek to Shikari Devi. The day was as lazy as I was. I got up a bit late, had morning tea and walked out with Bali to take bath at the village dhara (natural water stream flowing from the mountains). Just a km up from this place, we had received some very good views of Dhauladhar range when I visited Bali last time for his marriage. We thoroughly enjoyed the natural bath in open and by the time we reached back home it was almost the lunch time. So we started our bike journey only after the lunch with sweet memories at Bali's place, by this time I became sure that we will not be able to reach Janjehli today.

initially thought that the day would not be a fruitful day in terms of travelling, but a pleasant surprise was waiting for me near Sunder Nagar.   

Serene Beas from a bridge near Sujanpur Tira

Riding through beautiful woods on the way to Mandi 

Ghasyarin (the grass cutter women) on the way

Beautiful reservoir in Sunder Nagar

Spent some here just enjoying the nature's bounty to Sunder Nagar

Enjoying the fascinating lake and enchanting layers of mountains in the background 

Bali beside the lake enjoying his Bhutta

Sunder Nagar between a sunder hill and a sunder lake

Captured this mouse like figure in the sky in this beautiful city
After enjoying the nature's gifts at this place, we moved to Mandi and arrived late evening. We left our luggage at Bali's place and moved out to visit ancient Bhimkali Temple. The story goes that Goddess Kali declared that she would re-incarnate in a huge form like Bhima (one of the pandavas, heroes of epic Mahabharata) to protect  the meditating sages from the demons and would be known as Bhimakali. Later during their exile, the pandavas spent few days in Mandi on the bank of holy river Vipasha (now Beas) and worshiped Goddess Bhimakali. The entire temple is built as if the Goddess Kali is sitting on the back of a tiger (see the head of the tiger in the picture below). One can also spot the figures of pandavas with Draupadi (wife of pandavas).

After the temple exploration, we picked up some food from a local restaurant and came back home to finish the day with these delicacies of Mandi.

Jai Maa Bhimakali !!! 
Next morning, as planned Bali and me both set out to go to Janjehli to visit Shikari Devi. On the way, we stopped to click the temple during the day and took a bus to a place just before Pandoh. Upon arrival here, we got to know that one bus had left and the next bus would come a bit late. By the time the next bus arrived, it was already noon, so Bali dropped the idea of going to Janjehli and I moved alone the second time to Janjehli. 

Janjehli (2150 mt), a small village nearly 80 km from Mandi is a paradise for hikers and nature lovers. It is the base for the trek to Shikari Devi Temple, 16 km up from here. Tall deodar trees, apple orchards, lush green meadows, small beautiful streams and enchanting views all add to the beauty of this amazing and quite place. The road to Janjehli is bad at some patches, our bus also got punctured at Thunag and this gave me some time to click some beauties on the way. 

Entering the fascinating Janjehli Valley
I had reached Janjehli before the sunset, so thought to visit Pandav Shila, a village 2 km before Janjehli. As per the locals, the massive rock (Pandav Shila) belongs to pandavas and is actually a filtering stone which came out of the tobacco pipe of pandavas while they were in this village during their exile (which now has grown multi-fold from its original size). To my surprise and as per the villagers, one can strangely move the massive rock only with a finger. I was very eager to try this natural wonder, though not with a finger but I managed to move this rock with both my hands.

Pandav Shila, a natural rock    

Captivating Janjehli Valley
After trying my hand at Pandav Shila, I walked back to Janjehli enjoying the natural beauties around. I had my lunch cum dinner and explored some of the temples in Janjehli before going back to my guest house for a good night's sleep with the sweet memories of the wanderings so far and tomorrow's trekking expedition to Shikari Devi. 

Monday, 15 August 2011

Rewalsar Lake

The lakes, especially in the hills have always grabbed my special attention and it is always my effort and desire to include a lake in the program during my wanderings in the hills. Here unfolds another jewel in the enchanting and mysterious state of Himachal Pradesh.
Rewalsar, a small beautiful charming town surrounded by beautiful hills with an amazing lake as its centre of attraction, is a wonderful confluence of three religions Buddhism, Sikhism and Hinduism. Standing at a height of 1350 meter above sea level, this lake is approximately 24 kms (nearly 1 hour drive) away from Mandi and has a good connectivity by local buses. Since this is one of the very few lakes in Himachal where you do not have to walk a lot to experience the beauty of this place (it is just 2 minute walk from the road head), it proves to be a very good weekend option (from Delhi or nearby areas) for a family outing and especially for the people who get tired very easily walking in the hills. Approaching Mandi from Delhi is very easy, any bus heading towards Manali via Sunder Nagar will get you to this ancient town.

Ancient temples on the bank of mesmerizing River Beas near Victoria Bridge in Mandi

When you come to Rewalsar, you cannot be untouched by the spiritual vibrations being reflected in every activity in this sacred land, be it the chirpings of the birds, soulful chantings from the monastery or temple or Gurubani from the Gurudwara, people feeding hungry souls in the lake, pondering monkeys over the trees, Buddhist prayer flags swirling in the air, swimming ducks in the lake, meditating and contemplating holy people on bank of the lake, the green and serene water of the lake, monks running the prayer-wheels, beautiful surrounding hills, finely ornated colourful monasteries with young monks playing around, burning oil lamps, ringing bells, cows and dogs resting near the lake, swaying trees, smiling flowers etc, whatever passes through your eyes gives you a sort of positive vibrations.

Devotees feeding the hungry souls in the lake.
This was the first time I had seen so many fishes struggling hard to grab the food offered by devotees. The unfortunate dogs and monkeys were merely the spectators.
A local Buddhist elderly with his prayer wheel near the lake

Colourful holy prayer flags beside the lake

I was initially supposed to be accompanied by my friend Rajesh on this beautiful exploration, but due to a rumour of a possible theft at his home, he had to cut short his trip and get back home as early as he could. Wishing Rajesh best of luck, I continued my adventure alone to explore some of the most interesting and beautiful places coming onto my way in this trip. The day started on a sad note but the journey did not. After bidding a bye to Rajesh, I took a mini bus to Rewalsar from Mandi. I was however missing Rajesh as I was sure that he would have loved being at this place (as I still remember the pain he went through while climbing Bijli Mahadev). Upon reaching the town, I fell in love with this lake and the place at the very first glance because of its captivating surrounding. The lake and its inhabitants (fishes and ducks) were presenting such a magical ambience that I kept sitting near the serene lake for around 2 hours just enjoying them doing their usual activities and fantasizing as if I would be a duck swimming around the lake or a bird enjoying this beautiful town from the sky.

Calm lake with some floating ducks, temples and monasteries in the background
It was so soothing sitting on this side of the lake and relishing the nature’s wonders.

Queens of the Lake

Rewalsar as a sacred place to people from different religions, offers peaceful praying time for the religious and spiritual souls at the various holy shrines. A huge statue of Acharya Padamsambhav atop a hill literally dominates this place and is easily visible from most part of the lake. The master is supposed to have flown to Tibet from this holy land by virtue of his supernatural powers to spread ‘Dhamma orDharma’ and to propagate ‘Mahayana Buddhism’ in Tibet where he is regarded as second Buddha and is known as Guru Rimpoche. It is said that when he came to this land to preach the holy word of Buddhism, the King of this place ignorantly ordered to burn him alive at the very site of Rewalsar after hearing some rumours about the master. But to his surprise, the flames of the pyre turned into a deep beautiful lake and there emerged the master unaffected sitting onto a lotus flower in the middle of the lake. Realizing the master’s powers, King apologised for his act and devoted rest of his life to the sublime teachings of ‘Dhamma’. It is still believed that the master’s spirit rests in the island of floating reeds on the lake.

Acharya Padamsambhav sitting on a lotus dominating the city
Just below are the two temples orange (dedicated to Laxmi Narayan) and the blue (Lord Shiva) with mild reflection in the lake.

Acharya Padamsambhav, showering the divine blessing upon the entire valley from top

This place was also visited by tenth Sikh Guru Shri Gobind Singhji who resided here for a month in its pristine and peaceful atmosphere, hence this place is held sacred in Sikhism. A gurudwara has been built to commemorate the guru’s stay at this place by Mandi’s King Joginder Sen (The town of Joginder Nagar near Mandi is named after this King). There are three temples near the lake dedicated to Lord Shiva, Lord Vishu and sage Lomas. The nearby area is also supposed to have been the shelter of the Pandavas (the heroes of the epic Mahabharata) for some time who visited this place after escaping from burning wax palace built by Kauravas for their stay. A lot of devotees can be seen nearby the temple feeding small flour balls to the innumerable hungry fishes in the lake. As soon as I entered into the lake premises, this activity attracted my attention and I rushed eagerly to witness it from close by. After spending a peaceful and soul lifting time near the lake, now it was time to explore the surroundings. I first decided to explore the lake from different angles taking a circumambulation of the entire lake. Moving onto the left side of the lake towards the gurudwara, once often gets to see the meditating monks and an array of colourful Buddhist prayer flags amongst the bushes and flowers spreading the teachings of Lord Buddha in the atmosphere. As you move further, you pass through the market where you spot people chatting and sitting lazily, selling some eatables. You also have some staying options available in the market area.

Laxmi Narayan Temple

Prayer wheels across the lake in the market

The silent divine bell to awaken the souls

A monk walking past the oil lamps in the monastery premises

Passing through some monasteries and temples, now I wanted to make my way uphill towards the statue of Guru Padamshambav. On the way, I came across some other monasteries where I moved the prayer wheels, observed the monks passing their leisurely time and enjoyed the intricately decorated monasteries. I climbed up near the statue where Guru Padamsambhav is depicted meditatively sitting on a lotus flower and blessing the entire town. The height of this place actually makes it a wonderful view point to witness the enchanting views of the lake and the valley. The green lake surrounded by green hills looks like a pond from this point. I have always been amazed and hypnotized by the mystical and enticing Buddhist art on the monasteries with colourful wall paintings ‘thangkas’, beautifully carved dragon images, lit up oil lamps, illustrated mythological stories, the images and statues of meditating Buddha, the soulful chanting with the use of their traditional musical instruments, this whole ambience is sure to transport you into a spiritual world and you get to experience a state of utmost peace and tranquillity within.

Path leading to the teachings of ‘Dhamma’ and towards being human

Mesmerising lake from the top surrounded by Gurudwara (in the north), monastery (in the east), temples (in the south) and a small zoo (in the west)

Mystical dragon carving on the outer wall of a monastery

Meditating Lord Buddha

A beautiful wall painting with blisfull Buddha in the centre

After exploring this wonderful town, as I was planning my journey back to my friend Bali’s place where I was invited to attend a small family function, I heard some kids talking about a zoo. Upon enquiring, I discovered that it was near the lake. Since I am very fond of wildlife too, I was happy to know about this, though I generally prefer to see wild creatures out of the cage in their natural habitat. Since this zoo is set in a natural wild atmosphere amongst dense forest, it does give you a different feeling seeing the animals in the forest however caged. It is a very small zoo and I was a bit sad to see a caged bear that was looking very unhappy, firstly perhaps because he was alone and secondly because the space was too limited for him to roam freely. On the other side, there were some herds of deers comparatively looking happier and had comparatively a wider area. This day had almost everything that I usually look for in my wanderings. The time did not further permit me to visit the gurudwara this time as I had to reach Bali’s place by local buses. While waiting for the bus at the station, I chanced upon some food.

A bunch of Hog Deers in the little zoo

Caption – Cute and friendly barking deers

Poor bear, felt very sad to see a creature of such size in such a limited space

A good bye look at the lake with a promise to come again

Since there was no direct bus available to Bali’s place, I had to take several buses (Rewalsar – Jahu – Bhota – Hamirpur – Sujanpur Tira) to reach there. When I reached Sujanpur Tira, it was dark and I had unfortunately missed the last bus to his village Gander, so I hired a taxi from the station. As usual something unusual took place this time as well and the taxi driver stopped to buy some stuff just a kilometer ahead. A gentleman approached me and started enquiring about me. To my pleasant surprise, he was Bali’s brother-in-law who was going to his home from the market area and Bali had informed him about me. We paid some money to the taxi driver and drove into brother-in-law’s car and reached home safely. I was dearly welcomed by the family members and had a nice dinner. It was really nice to see Bali and family after a long time. In the evening, we received a message from Rajesh saying that everything was fine at his home and it was just by a gust of wind that the door of his balcony got opened and the neighbours took it as the entry of a thief into his home. It was funny for all of us and relieving too. While discussing with Bali’s father I got to know that there were actually seven more little known lakes almost of the same size of Rewalsar just above the town with some caves where Pandavas spent some of their time into the escapade. It was a wonderful discovery for me and I intend to explore these lesser known lakes very shortly. Overall, it was another wonderful and adventurous day for me.

Sunday, 14 August 2011

Bijli Mahadev

30 July, 2011
My friend, Rajesh and I started this small trip to Himachal as a re-union with one of our old friend Bali at his home in Gander, near Sujanpur Tira apart from exploring some other sites. Our plan was to cover Bijli Mahadev, Rewalsar Lake, Bali's home, Shikari Devi (via Budha Kedar), Kamru Nag Lake, Karsog, Tattapani and back to Delhi. 

We reached Kullu on the morning of 30 July'11 and took a bus to Bijli Mahadev (7,874 ft - 10 Km) from Kullu Bus Station. To reach upto the main shrine, one has to trek 2.8 km up passing through some of the villages, the beautiful deodar forest. The temple is one of the most sacred in the entire valley and is frequented by the locals as well as travellers. As per the popular belief, every year the lightening (Bijli) strikes the shaft above the temple and breaks Shiva lingam into pieces (which symbolises that Lord Shiva absorbs all the sufferings/dangers falling onto the world upon himself). The lingam is later restored by the temple priest using butter.

This is where the trek starts and ends. Jai Bhole Shankar!!!

Look at the happiness on the face of Rajesh as initially he was in pain when we started climbing up

Beautiful Kullu Valley across Beas River through deodar trees

Delighted to find this open area near the temple with some camps (for meals/overnight stay). Some muddy ponds, grazing horses, blue sky with plane like cloud, flying bird, deodar trees all adding to the beauty of the place

Steps leading to the main shrine

Sanctum sanctorum with the Shiva Lingam. Jai Bijli Mahadev!!!

Nandi, the divine bull (mount of Lord Shiva) guarding and facing the temple

Tall poll facing the temple (the lightening strikes this poll)

Me with enchanting Bhuntar Valley in the background and meandering Beas
View from the top (deodar trees appear as hair, the two ponds as eyes and the trail as nose)
Wild beauties on the way back
Mesmerizing Beas from Victoria Bridge, Mandi with ancient temples

The mouth watering apple orchards on the way whet our appetite, so we had chickpeas (chole) stuffed inside the butter bread (band) when we got to Kullu and moved on to Mandi for overnight stay at Bali's place.

Two more interesting things that we enjoyed on our way to Kullu were Pandoh Dam and 2.8 km long tunnel at Aut. The water falling out of the dam was so fascinating that we decided to stop at the dam while coming back as we were in a bus that time and were not expecting anything so exciting. The serene river just behind the dam with mild mist spread out was very enchanting. However, while coming back the water from the dam was not flowing that massively as we had seen it earlier, so we decided to continue to Mandi. This was the first time when we had entered into such a long tunnel, the experience was really unforgettable. 

More in the coming posts!!! Till then, happy travelling!!!