Why I Keep Going Back To The Himalayas
Why I Keep Going Back To The Himalayas
Not all treks in the Himalayas require you to start preparing for them one month in advance. The trek to Tunganath and the Chandrashila peak in Uttarakhand does not take a physical toll on you, and yet takes you to places with magnificent views.
Nandini S Shirguppi experienced just that on her great Himalayan adventure.
AGAIN…??? That’s the only question I encounter when I tell my family and friends that I am heading for the Himalayas. Even I often wonder, why is it that I want to go there time and again even though
- It’s quite far from home
- The day journeys are long
- There is an element of risk involved
When it comes to mountains, my mind and heart are always on the same page. Caution is usually thrown to the wind and before I know it, my bags are packed! This particular trip was the result of a compulsive desire coupled with sleepless nights to work it out. Also I am staunch follower of Lord Shiva. And the idea that the most powerful entity in the world is a Yogi and lives without any materialistic wealth definitely supports my wanderlust. So I made my choice and ‘froze’ Tunganath and the Chandrashila peak as my next Himalayan adventure destinations.
Some Fascinating Legends About These Places
Legend says that after the Mahabharatawar, the Pandavas were grieving and there was some repentance about killing their brothers and more particularly their Teachers and Brahmins. So to seek salvation from this guilt, they decided to seek the blessings of the Mahadev. They knew he would be the only one who would relieve them of their doings and grant them the peace they were seeking.
When they set out in his search, the Lord already knowing this, was trying to avoid them. Finally when they reached the Himalayas, Bhīma came across a different kind of a bull and immediately recognized the Lord who had disguised himself. He got into an encounter with the animal and tried to stop it. The bull disintegrated into five parts which appeared in different parts of the Himalayas. The Pandavas understood this and then built temples at these five places.
These are now Kedarnath, Tunganath, Rudranath, Madhyamaheshwar, Kalpeshwar collectively called the Panch Keadar. These temples have a part of the Mahadev’s body as the main deity inside the sanctum. All of them are situated in Uttarakhand.
The Journey Begins From Delhi To Haridwar
The sight of Ganga flowing serenely through Haridwar was quite captivating enough. There is a Ganga Aarti performed on the Ghats every morning during sunrise and evening at sunset. It is a magical experience when hundreds of lights illuminate the Ghats, along with the sounds prayers and hymns. This is also a very spiritually uplifting experience and must be definitely attended.
Once you’re at Haridwar, it is an 8-9 journey by road to reach Dugalbitta, a small settlement in the Rudraprayag district of Uttarakhand. There is an alternative route from Jollygrant Airport near Dehradun, which you can take if you are travelling on a tight schedule. There are places which offer decent accommodation in tents. You can also try a homestay.
The Panch Kedar temples are open from May to October. This is from the auspicious day of Akshay Tritiya till the second day of Diwali. This is also the time when the Char Dham Yatra takes place. During winter, the deities are brought down to Ukhimath. This is referred to as the winter abode of the God. This is another beautiful and serene temple where the deities are worshipped for six months.
Baby Steps To The Peak
The trek to Tunganath begins from Chopta. This is the highest Shiva temple in India at 12,000 feet. It is a 2.5 km uphill climb on a well-marked trail. You can hire a pony or walk. The season of spring adds color due to the rhododendron tress in full bloom of red, pink and fuchsia. It’s a treat to the eyes to walk this path. You can reach the Tunganath temple after a three hour walk (again depending on your fitness). As you reach the site of the worship, the temple is closed but you can feel a characteristic aura surrounding it. You can pray and relax for some time, taking in the surrounding beauty and feel the peace.
You can hire a guide to accompany you and carry packed lunch and have it in the temple premises. There is a stall on the way where you can have tea, coffee and noodles. During the season, you can stay at the house of a local priest or residents at a nominal charge. They will provide basic food, toilets and warmth. There is no electricity but you really don’t seem to mind.
Keep Charging Forward
The Chandrashila peak is another 1.5 km climb to the from the temple. It is said that the moon god meditated here hence the name (Chandra – Moon , Shila – Rock ). I was particularly exhausted after the climb to Tunganath and every fibre in my body screaming and protesting against the climb to Chandrashila. But the mind ruled and am I glad it did! When you reach the top, you experience a different kind of joy, a high. The peak provides some unparalleled views.
It Only Happens Here!
Some people trek really early to see the sunrise at the peak. That will definitely be a one of a kind moment. The off season means there are lesser (almost no) pilgrims and more trekkers. It’s very heartwarming to see random strangers being friendly and even encouraging you to go ahead and helping with safety tips. I see this happening very frequently on treks and rarely in shopping malls. Would we ever chat with any unknown face in a city?
Some More Trekking Options
I returned from Tunganath by late afternoon feeling happy, content and blessed. You can explore the Ukhimath market and surrounding area the next day or go to Deoritaal. Deoritaal, a lake with a campsite adjacent to it, is another short trek from the nearby village of Sari. The lake is surrounded by forests and has the stunning Chaukhamba peak along with the greater Himalayan range towering above it, which is simply a magnificent backdrop. Chaukhamba literally means four points, as this mountain has four peaks. There are stalls that provide food, so you have the option of spending the day or camping overnight. The reflection of the Chaukhamba in the lake at sunrise is something that should not be missed, but the weather needs to be your friend (it should not be cloudy or windy).
Pit Stop At Rishikesh
En route, you can plan a break at Rishikesh and indulge in white water rafting. Rishikesh is known for its amazing rapids and is one of the most sought after places for white water rafting. I cruised over the chilling waters of the Ganga in a raft amidst the rapids, jumped over from a cliff in the river, got drenched in a waterfall and loved every bit of it .. Bliss!!
Why I Keep Going Back!
There is a kind of rare, magical quality associated with a Himalayan holiday. Sometimes you find many answers to the questions which you may otherwise not get. Trekking in these mountains makes us realize that our capacity to overcome tough adversities and emerge victorious is astounding.
Himalayas are not only magnificent mountains but they really are our pride and glory and so much more I also believe that they reinforce strength, humility and courage.
About The Author
Mrs. Nandini S Shirguppi is Graduate in Computer Science, Diploma in Early Child Education and a Masters in Counselling and Therapy. She resides with her family in Mumbai, and is an avid reader, photographer and an ardent nature lover. Her song and activity book for pre-schoolers is set to be released by November 2016. Nandini firmly believes that constant reinvention is crucial to progress and the best way to do that is through Travel