The abode of Shiva is the supreme calling for any human being. No amount of rugged terrain, sick the fury of the weather or the risk of losing one’s life, try stops us mortals from seeking him out. The pilgrimage to Shrikhand Mahadev, is one such journey that seems impossible at first, but once you embark on it, it seems as if the Lord himself carries you through.
Located in the Kullu district of Himachal Pradesh, at an elevation of around 19000 feet above sea level rests a natural, rock-cut ‘Shiva-lingam’ around 70 feet in height, the most revered Shrikhand Mahadev. Considered to be the abode of Lord Shiva, this is a famous pilgrimage site for the Hindus and is a trekker’s paradise too.
Shrikhand Mahadev Yatra starts generally around the eve of ‘Guru Purnima’ and is open for just 15-20 days starting from the mid of July to the first week of August. The yatra is quite tough and the facilities limited, due to the remoteness of the area. Please consider undertaking this journey only if you are physically fit and mentally strong. It is not a pursuit for the elderly or children and also not for those suffering from any kind of chronic ailment.
According to Hindu mythology, ‘Bhasmasur’ (a demon) practiced hard penance and meditated for years, he was blessed with the power of ‘Bhasma Kangan’. In other words, whatever he touched would turn to ashes. The ‘asura’ tried to use this power on Mahadev himself. He hid in the caves of Devdhank and later appeared on the peak of a mountain, which we today know as the Shrikhand Mahadev Peak.
The popular route followed by pilgrims and tourists is from Shimla to Rampur and then to Jaon village. About 18-20 kms from Rampur lies the sacred temple of ‘Dhankeshwar Mahadev’, commonly known as ‘Devdhank’. A visit to this temple is considered a must before continuing the journey to Jaon village, the starting point of the yatra.
There are several places of religious and cultural importance to stop over before one finally reaches the top of the peak. The complete journey is almost 40 kms with breaks at the following places –
Jaon to Singhad – 4 kms.
Singhad to Barahatti – 3 kms.
Barahatti to Thachru – 5 kms.
Thachru to Kalighati – 3 kms.
Kalighati to Bhimdwari – 8 kms.
Bhimdwari to Parvati Bagh – 4 kms.
Parvati Bagh to Nayan Sarovar – 3 kms.
Nayan Sarovar to Shrikhand – 7 kms.
The trek is simple in its initial phase where one follows a riverside path, through orchards and fields of the villages till Singhad and then all the way to Barahatti. One usually makes a stop here as a camp is organised by a ‘Babaji’ who takes care of food for the pilgrims and tourists. From Barahatti starts a highly steep climb up till Thachru and is known as ‘Dandi Dhar’. The climb goes through thick forests and one usually makes several stops before finally reaching Thachru.
Thachru is considered to be a sacred place where the villagers believe the ‘Van Devta’ (Forest God) resides. After relaxing for a while one must continue this uphill task for another 3 kms, before reaching Kalighati, a valley dedicated to the worship of ‘Kali Mata’. A small temple has also been constructed which consists of the holy shrine of the Goddess. After worshipping , one continues his journey through a path that goes downhill, uphill, and again downhill. On the way you cross various streams, waterfalls, glaciers and witness the most majestic and picturesque views of nature. Various resting sites can also be found at almost every 2-3 kms. The pilgrims can sit, rest, eat, relax and ponder over futility of the life we live in the real world.
On reaching Bhimdwari, it is advisable to rest overnight. ‘Langars’ are organised by the local village committee and the arrangements of tents is also taken care of by them. Legend says that Pandavas used to visit this place. The flowing red water, is considered to be the blood of an ‘Asura’ or demon whom ‘Bhim’ is supposed to have killed. After a full night of rest, the journey is continued. One faces an all-uphill task from here on till Parvati Bagh and thereafter as well.
Parvati Bagh is the last camp site, the conditions here are not harsh or extreme and most of the pilgrims and tourists spend the night here. Be sure to stop here and enjoy the exhilarating views this place has to offer, on your way back. Moving forward, one continues his journey on a rocky upward path, with a decent amount of snow here and there, all the way to Nayan Sarovar lake. This lake is considered to have been formed from the tears of Goddess Parvati and is therefore a sacred place for the pilgrims.
Now starts the last stretch of this amazing journey, which is the most difficult and dangerous. Low oxygen levels, scary heights, and an all glacier path where even a small slip is sufficient to end one’s life needs to be crossed in order to reach the final destination of this trek. You get the first sight of the Shrikhand Mahdev Shivalingam from here. Not surprisingly, the pain and tiredness vanishes and one feels completed elated. After performing the necessary rituals and ‘pooja’ followed by a ‘parikrama’ of the shrine, just sit and soak in the power and majesty of the place. You can’t get any closer to God than this, not in this world at least.
Start your descent and promise to be back soon. It’s the calling of the ultimate kind, not many of us can ignore that.
For those of you planning to go this year, we have collaborated firsthand information and these pictures from a local travel enthusiast Nikhil Chauhan, who undertook the journey from 2nd to 6th July, 2014. According to him-
- Carry light woollens and preferably something that is waterproof
- The last stretch of the journey has almost 6 to 8 feet snow this year
- It’s a complete no-no for unfit individuals
- Medical camps can be found at Bhimdwari and Parvati bagh
- You can drive a small car right upto Jaon, if you want to avoid the bus
- There are only 4 to 5 buses a day from Rampur
- Equipments to be carried- torch, a trekkers stick, asthma oxygen pump, umbrella
For those of you going this year, remember to carry a good camera with you and share the picture with us.