Mountain Pilgrimages in India

ManiMahesh stroll was always under consideration but not on priority, for the locality has still many to play around!

Anyhow there was a clean-up drive hosted by Dhauladhar Cleaners around the temple of Bharmani Mata in Brahmour / Bharmour.

So being a volunteer for the group was the advantage and was one of the volunteers, who had opted to participate in clean-up in Bharmani Mata temple on October 2nd, 2019.

We the volunteers of Dhauladhar Cleaners were in Bharmour of Chamba district by Oct 1st and some arrived early in the morning of Oct 2nd, 2019.

On Oct 2nd they were eight in numbers and headed to the temple of Bharmani Mata for the clean-up. There was a whole lot bunch of students from different school of the area including some private employees.

The clean-up was successful with a message, though the process of clean-up done by the school students and private employees was not planned and systematic and due to the lack of the time, the Dhauladhar Cleaners were not able to address them all on how to do the clean-up properly with proper collection and segregation of the garbage. So the whole event and the process was “just” a clean-up in general sense.

The honorable ADM addressed all of the volunteers and one of the volunteers of Dhauladhar Cleaners from Austria, Julian Kragler also got the chance to speak about the plastic and its consequences and encouraged to lower the usage of Plastic.

Though language was the main barrier, there was no translator for him!! Anyway the message was clear for all to understand. In the end the school students raised their hands and took an oath to reduce the usage of plastic and try to keep Nature Clean and Green.

After the clean-up, we headed towards our place of stay in Bharmour. All enjoyed their walk through the lush green pasture lands, which further are beautifully crowded by the native trees of Devdar!

The views in distant are enhanced by the majestic mountains holding the Chobia Pass the gateway to Lahaul and Spiti district of the so called concrete and polluted modern Dev Bhumi, Himachal Pradesh.

During our walk down from Bharmour, we enjoyed the views and spent some/most of the time sitting with the views and the sunshine. As we walked down further, we were surprised to see, how the apple farm are badly managed.

There were 100 of kgs of apples lying on ground and left to rot with in the orchard. You get cheap apples in the market from such neglected heaps!

Mr Anshul, Miss Sandhya and Arvind bhai ji were still staying back in the meadows, enjoying the views, while Abhay bahi ji and Miss Shilpa had left to visit their relatives and four of us Dorjeenedup, Julian, Prabhu ji, and I was now in different locations.
We were lucky to have the age old Chaurasi Temple on our way back to guest house.

The temples are beautiful and indeed have good artwork. There too we spent a good time and later had some snacks in the tea shop near the premises of Chaurasi Mandir.

The discussions with tea was good which was further accompanied by Balushai, Sewain and then Samosa and Julian enjoying photography and giving some tips on the Austrian words.
12 cups of Tea and 3 types of  Snacks for four, all hosted by Mr Prabhu ji!

Julian stated that the way, the school children take oath in the schools of India, will give different message in Austria.
Because the form of raising hands up to shoulder point is something similar to the way of Nazis.

Though we cleared this, that this style is very old in our country, like during the rules of kings, the soldiers and kings used to make the Fire Daity as their witness of their pledge/promise and how they used to place their hands over the holy fire and take oath (placing the hands over the fire not into the fire). It was easy to put forward and easy for him to understand. Anyhow after tea and good hours of stay in that tea shop we moved out.

The local geography of Chamba and Bharmour, moreover say of whole mountainous region of Himachal is not good for multi-story buildings made of concrete and cement still the locals are trading the beauty of the region with cement buildings, which further are being constructed unregulated. It is just copy cat act and not the necessity.

All most all of the buildings are with 3 or 4 stories! Though we ourselves are not engineers but it is very easy to understand, even for the layman.

As we arrived in the guest house, I and Prabhu ji were to collect wood logs for the night camp fire!!
This search for the wood log was an adventure in itself with a misunderstanding with some locals in the cab in some distance of around 2km from the guest house. For Prabhu ji, this little adventure could have been a hot point to discuss with the rest of the team, but we promised not to discuss.
The dinner was getting ready and the camp fire was on. The main light of that campfire is one of the best guitar player Dorjeenedup of Dharamsala.
The guitar numbers livened up the cold atmosphere and moments for all, though some went to extreme! We will talk about it in next post!
Come next day, the whole team of Dhauladhar Cleaners was divided in two. One group was ready to return for Dharamsala and the other was to stay for a little more and head towards ManiMahesh, with the intent of having the glimpse of how the “the pilgrimage and the local charity” has impacted the trek of pilgrimage, the ecology and the holy lake itself.

The morning breakfast was lame with so called Aloo-Prantha at some local tea stall. The first group boarded the bus for Chamba and the four of us left for Hadsar in a taxi with Arvind bhai ji deciding to stay back in the Guest House and enjoy the sunshine.

I lived most of my time in Chamba and never been to Bharmour and Hadsar. As we neared Hadsar, our mobile signals vanished only BSNL was working.

We were in that tiny village by 9:50 AM and started our stroll on Hadsar-Dhancho trail.The big bridge to left goes for another remote and the last village Kugti and towards Chobia.

We were welcomed by a heap of walking sticks right on the start of the trail and some shepherds were making their sheep bath in the stream coming from ManiMahesh!
We were four, three from Lucknow, two had arrived a day before this pilgrimage and one was with Dhauladhar Cleaners she is completing her studies in Dharamsala.

As usual myself take time to mix in and don’t rely on new ones that easy, sorry but that comes with an experience.
Any way we moved on with the beauty of the trail. This pilgrimage trail is awfully trashed right from the start with leftover of the shelters and make shift langar halls made by the people.

We were not in hurry but had decided to reach the lake by end of the day! So we moved on at an average speed. Among us only one person Miss Sandhya was on this pilgrimage trail for the second time, rest of us were the first timers.

But this pilgrimage trails is well beaten, so you can even come here solo but do take note of the weather and avoid solo during Winters.

One thing never to forget is that never Judge Mountains or hills by their heights and trails also if you are hitting the trails late like after 8 AM or 10 AM then try to spend less of the time on photo-session, because that holds your speed and makes you get tired early or try to camp in the shops on trails.

Though this is a no worry trail but still a careful walk is never to be ignored. We moved on and then after few turns the smell of burning wood gave us the impression of some tea hut but it was a small boulder cave inhabited by some babaji, I leaned a little and wished baba ji and carried on.

We crossed some wooden bridges that are heavily tied with so many saffron and yellow colored holy threads.

The sight of the large amount of trash is like a nightmare, you just can’t ignore that. If you can ignore that, then you are almost equal like some walking zombie!

Nevertheless the views of the mountains towards Kugti helped me to move on.

I was wondering how the so called pilgrims be so careless, if they really cared for Nature, which is the form of SHAKTI and who HERSELF is a part of SHIVA!

How can you be so careless towards Nature, how can even think of trashing and claim to be the bhakt of Bhole baba Here I’m not validating myself as bhakt but at least I don’t throw my trash like insane Zombie!

After about 2-3 hours walk we neard Dhancho and spread in the tea and guest house of Mr Pappoo from Hadsar. He stays in Dhancho and keeps his guest house running till Diwali and it is this only the guest house that remains functional after official ManiMahesh Yatra.

As during our walk we had experienced mild rain so a hot cup of tea was like an instant energy for everyone with some biscuits, which later was followed by the lunch in the Live Kitchen.

There in the shop, my attention was caught by another temple like structure in distant and difficult to reach hill. Later learned this temple is dedicated to Baba Jaladhari and is for men only to pay visit.

The trail to the temple of Baba Jaladhari is steep, kept a note for this one and finished up with the lunch.

It was almost 2.30 PM and the rain had stopped so we decided to move on. One thing we did not inquired about was the trail ahead. So we kept on the regular trek, skipping the one went through “Bandar Ghati”.

Dhancho is a big area, where shelters and shops are set up for huge huge number of crowd of the pilgrimage. So there too is a lot of trash. We crossed another bridge and walked through the paved trail, climbed a little and were face to face with a waterfall.

People spent good number of time for photo-session so, we were delayed a little more. I was not sure about the trail either of Bandar Ghati (the name of which I learned later) so we were just walking on the trek that was right in front of us and was visible from the tent Guest House!

I opted for clearly visible shortcuts to avoid long curved turns and so was keeping a distance from the rest but never kept a long gap and had other team members on sight.

At one point we stopped for rest and noticed another trail going to the right, probably it goes through Bhairav Ghati and also noticed two pilgrims on the opposite trail ( Bandar Ghati ).

As already mentioned we had not inquired about the trail condition so we had a little surprise waiting for us. After some rest as we moved further, jaw dropping sight welcomed us because the bridge was nowhere to be seen and huge stream was flowing at full pace.

Now, we did not want to turn back and take on the other trail but were not sure how to cross the ice cold stream. We scanned some ford type of space and noticed a plastic water pipe in the middle of the stream.

Untied our shoes and tied up with our backpack, took the leap of faith in the cold water and; reached the middle of the stream (ford) and took hold of the long plastic water pipe, which further appeared to be tightly plugged through the boulders.

So with the help of that pipe we crossed over the stream rather than climbing down back to Dhancho and take on to the trail of Bandar Ghati or another trail of which we had no certainty.

While crossing the stream we noticed a dog following us, she had appeared from nowhere! We had not seen her in Dhancho. Though it was difficult for us to cross over the ice cold stream and she was trying to be on our side and it was not feasible unless.

One of us had gone in the middle of the stream and picked her up. Which we thought was not wise and so we tried to shoo her away to the safe side.

While other team members were drying up there feet, the dog on the other side was trying her best to jump over or find a safe crossing. She did her best and that made me to pick up a few pebbles and throw towards her so that she retreated to Dhancho.

After some attempts she fall to the pebbles which I was throwing towards her and she settled on safe space and after a while took off towards Dhancho.

As she left towards Dhancho, we moved on.  Here myself offered others to follow another steep shortcut, which they declined and myself again moved up and reached Shiva Gharat and moment later rest of the members.

Shiva Gharat, people offer raw wheat over here because the sound that follows out from the rocks under that huge boulder is like the one we hear in Gharat (Gharat = WaterMill for Grains)!

We were resting near Shiva Gharat and having snacks. There Miss Sandhaya shouted,”look at that dog, she crossed to this side and seems somewhat partially wet!”

I too was surprised but then was impressed with her style of not giving up. She appeared completely exhausted.

Since I had hurled pebbles towards her (because I couldn’t have afford to see the dog drown), this time she kept a distance from us and set down. I approached her and put some biscuits in front of her, which she hesitantly ate.

We were on move again and the dog followed us. Our purpose was to reach the only open shop by the side of holy Lake ManiMahesh. But the trail was still long with sharp turns but as of the trail it is alright for all to go through!

After some hours more on the trail and we realized that it probably will be 6 or 7 PM by the time we reach the lake side shop. But with that we were losing on speed and the clock time of TAT increased from 7 to 8 PM or even later!

Despite of the large amount of pilgrimage garbage, the views are still beautiful though. We even had thought that once we cross over Gauri Kund, we can move with torch lights up to ManiMahesh Lake!

There we had another option to go by either short cut that went by Bhairav Ghati or take on the regular twisted trail that went through a 10 meter of glacier rock patch.

The shortcut was ruled out as it was termed too steep, so the long twisted turns was the only option and the night of dusk had started to spread evenly at a fast pace.

My eyes were caught by the rising storm and the thunderbolts over Kugti or Chobia side and the clouds were already climbing high in the sky!

We were not prepared for the night trek with torch lights! Then there was a constant reminder which was from Arvind bhai ji,”avoid walking in the night of early dawn or late dusk”!

The dog that had joined us from nowhere suddenly started to bark towards the trail ahead which was under the shade of the darkness.

“What-ever kind of trek you are undertaking, be it easy, day hike or long days trekking or even simple pilgrimage, forget not to carry a regular flash light! Don’t depend on the LED torch of your SmartPhone!”

As the dog started to bark, we had to cancel the walk with torch and mobile lights and tried to find a suitable place for the shelter, right in Sundardasi!

The sky was getting dark with more chance of rain in next a few hours!

It was good for us that we found an open store type of place with rolled in mats and some stuff to cover ourselves. Though I was carrying my sleeping bag still the other stuff helped the rest of the member to keep themselves warm for the night.

Soon after we slipped inside the cover, it started to rain and we were happy with the decision to cancel to the night walk and thanked the dog, which had coiled herself by the side of the entrance.

Come morning we closed the temporary camp and repacked all mats as they were. We left for the Gauri Kund by 06:45 AM. There are shortcuts, one can take on to avoid long turns.

After crossing the rockfall zone we were to cross a small patch of hard snow.

Gauri Kund was in our sight and a few moments later we were there.

The peak of ManiMahesh is visible from here. The place is again neatly trashed. I saw around a dozen of unopened plastic bottles of Coca Cola.

The cold drink was out of date, so were left around Gauri Kund to increase the beauty of the holy place!

I tried to capture the sunrise through the clouds, but the wind was super cold and fast. Somehow found a metal angle to use as tripod for the mobile to make a time-lapse of the cloudy Sunrise.

It was around 9:30 AM and finally we were at the point! ManiMahesh Lake view!

At Lake Side tea shop, hot tea was served for all and then we headed towards the lake. The water of lake was less because of discharge from shore side. After few dips in ice cold lake water, we spent some time for the photo session and explored the trash around the lake.

We could have spent another day up here but the weather was in no mood to be cloud free and there was some indication of mild snowfall by night!

So after breakfast and with some hot water in the thermos, we started our climb towards Dancho by 12:00 PM.

This time another dog from lake side shops also joined us.  Again shortcut helped us cut down the time for climb down.

It was already around 2:30 PM when we arrived Dhancho for the lunch! After Dhancho, myself decided to make a gap from the rest of the team so that could do some extra activity and carefully sped out on the trail!

Picked up an empty bag, which you can find anywhere on trail. Started picking up the trash that was right on trail and moved on. By the time I reached near the road head, the bag was full to the top.

Despite that the trash was collected only from the trail and not from the sideways of the trail ( One would need to camp all along the trail to make it all clean).

I stopped before the road head and waited for the rest of the team members to show up and then noticed Miss Sandhya. She was also collecting the trash from the trail and the bag she was carrying was awfully full and heavy!

Since we had not much of the option, so we packed the trash bags near the bus stop of Hadsar for the local administration to take care of!

There is more yet to be picked up! The two members of the team got lift up to Bharmour and two of us stayed back for the cab or another lift.

We reached at “Moti Ka Dhaba” in Hadsar and had a hot cup of tea till any cab or lift showed up. The mobile networks were still not working because we had “Jio” and Bsnl was only working over there.

Anyhow the shop-owner, who is from Dehradun and run that “Moti Ka Dhaba” (name of the Dhaba was selected by the husband, out of love) so the owner had no shame in revealing the name of the Dhaba!

She later confirmed us that the pick-up jeep that was coming from Chobia side and heading to Bharmour will be stopping at her Dhaba for food and so in the process will take you to Bahrmour as well.

The wait was long for Miss Sandhya!! The pick-up arrived and we were in Bharmour by 08:30 PM.

Next day the two guests from Lucknow headed back to their places and three of us were in Kugti village. The visit to Kugti village was like a refresher for me!

But then the sight of few foreigners changed my perception about the place. Development is knocking the doors of Kugti and this will change things to the worse!

There is a plan to spread the road up to the temple of Keylang Wazir! The false picture of Development is presented so cleverly that the naïve village folks generally fall for it. This thing is very difficult to describe let alone make village folks understand! It all depends on how you see things.

The local administration is constructing a narrow bridge over a stream and which most probably will wash away in heavy monsoons.

We three had good time in photo-session and with the villagers. By the time we started towards the upcoming bus stop, the last bus for Bharmour had already left.

After some snacks and tea at the bus stop, we had no option but to walk up to Hadsar and there for started our long walk, chatting, taking pictures and enjoying the views! After about 1 or 2 hours walk on the road, we were at another tea shop. This village has only two home. After a short tea break we started our walk again. We could have stayed in that village with two homes, but we moved on.

About 45 minutes or 1 hour of walk, a pick-up jeep ferrying Kugti Apples stopped just because the driver had seen Arvind bhai (cartoonistarvind) at Bharmour many times! Else they don’t run the risk of giving lift specially when loaded with precious items!

So three of us “adjusted” along with the driver and were in Bharmour by late evening. Dinner was prepared and everyone went off to sleep.<br>Come next day we boarded bus for Dharamsala via Chowari Jot. I lived around “Jot” but never got the chance to be in that place let alone Bharmour as have mentioned in the beginning.

So, I could not resist a drop and hiking around “Jot”! The bus stopped at Jot and after lunch, I stopped in Jot and Arvind bhai ji and Miss Sandhya left for Dharamsala.

I had my tent, sleeping bag and two days ration with me, so staying and food was no issue. I wanted to reach Dainkund and camp over there near the temple of “Pohlani Mata”.

Ever since the size of 3 feet, in the shade of night, had been seeing the lights of vehicles crossing Jot and the shape of the mountain was like…no words to describe. But today, I am there.

Walked upward but headed to other side of Jot, the temple of “Kali Mata”!! I noticed a heavy flock of sheep and goats which were returning from Lahaul crossing some unnamed Pass in Chamba! Stayed around the temple for a while and then asked one village folk about the direction to the temple of “Pohlani Mata”. It was already 2:30 PM and I was sitting on the wrong side!

Later I learned that the trail for the temple of Pohlani Mata is of 5 KM from road head! Started off towards DainKund and the upcoming park has the huge statue of the Black Bear to welcome you!<br>The sight of the statue reminded me of the Black Bears and the Leopards of the region. Since it was the period of Navratre of Dashera, so I was somewhat sure that there would be enough people in the temple and possibly a session of Bhandara as well.

Though the walk of 5 KM is not that much but it matters, when you are new in the location and are the only one on spot. Nevertheless the walk is pleasant though. After 1 – 2 hours walk, I was near the temple of “Pohlani Mata”.

There were many people, two three shops and bhandara was also in process! The Airforce radars were visible. The sight towards Pathankot was clear but it was cloudy towards Bharmour and the wind was strong and cold!

I did not have to spread the tent or use my ration! There is “sarai” for who so ever wishes to stay for a night and food was already plenty. I would have used another trek from Dainkund to another villages crossing two three hills but left that for some other day and on next morning headed towards Kangra with a short stop at the gates of Nagani Mata for Jalebi and Andrasa.

This visit to Bharmour was like an appetizer and the feast is yet to be tasted!

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