Shivalik Hills are the gateway to the higher Himalayas of Kinnaur and Lahaul & Spiti. This range, youngest of the Himalayan ranges, stretches all the way from Kashmir to Arunachal Pradesh. Shivalik translates to “the tresses of Lord Shiva”. And there is no doubt that he is one of the most important deities of the region.
Sirmaur is a district of Himachal Pradesh that lies in the Shivalik mountain zone and contains Churdhar, the heights peak in the southern part of the state. Churdhar at 3647 meters altitude (11965 feet) is also known as Churichandni, for the snow covered peak resembles a silver bangle.
At the top of the peak, is believed to be the place where Lord Shiva in the form of Chooreshwar Mahadev (also known as Lord Shirgul) resides. Believers have installed an impressive statue of Lord Shiva sits on the peak and tourists and pilgrims tie prayer flags around it. A temple dedicated to the presiding deity, a few meters below the peak, is a place of pilgrimage for locals of surrounding areas. Trekkers also visit this peak because it offers very commanding views in all directions on a clear day.
George Everest, the Surveyor General of India after whom the world’s tallest peak is named, during the British Raj, is said to have surveyed the Himalayas from this vantage peak. To the northeast, for this peak one can sight the Badrinath and Kedarnath peaks in distant Himalayas of Uttarakhand. To the south, the vast plains of the Gangetic basin open up to meet the horizon.
The mountain is part of the Churdhar Sanctuary and home to some important flora and fauna including the state bird of Himachal, the beautiful Monal. Legends in the region hold that Lord Hanuman, as described in the Hindu epic Ramanaya, found Sanjivni Booti at this peak, which saved the life of Lakshman in the battle with Lanka king Ravana.
During winters, Churdhar receives moderate to heavy snowfall. The best time to visit is during the summer months. Trekkers can stay in the dharamsala (pilgrims’ rest house) of the temple or carry their own tents. Black bears are to be found in the area, so tourists need to be careful.
There are three approaches to Churdhar Peak. One is from Chopal in Shimla hills, which is an 8 Km climb. The second is through Nauradhar in Sirmaur, which is about 20 Kms and the third one is from Haripurdhar also in Sirmaur district which happens to be an 50 Km trek.
The ridge top township of Haripurdhar is at 2687 meters altitude, which has a aesthetically built temple dedicated to Maa Bhangayani, considered to be the sister of Lord Shirgul.
A fort was built at Haripurdhar to protect Sirmaur from the neighbouring Jubbal state, during the days of royal houses. Parts of the fort still stand and are used as a rest house by the forest department. Churdhar is visible from Haripurdhar and a trek from here is the best for those who want to enjoy spending more time in the pristine natural forests of the Shivalik Hills.
Haripurdhar is 106 Km from Nahan and the place can also be accessed through Solan via Rajgarh. Summer months are the best time to visit Haripurdhar as the road closes shut down during winters.
Tourists can visit Haripurdhar as the starting point to the Churdhar trek or on its own. The Maa Bhangayani temple and the fort, coupled with beautiful views are enough to merit a visit just to Haripurdhar.
These areas of Himachal are surely offbeat and might not be as famous as Kullu, Manali and Shimla, but they certainly offer a lot to the right kind of tourists. Those looking to escape the heat of the coming summer months, or those who want to get started in mountaineering and adventure tourism with some easy treks, should consider Churdhar and Haripurdhar as their summer vacation destinations.