25 October 2005

Mani Mahesh Trek

The spectacular view of the Manimahesh lake and temple in Chamba district of Himachal Pradesh situated 13000 feet above sea-level.—PTI

By Balkrishan Prashar

Manimahesh — the holy Kailash — is located at an altitude of 5656 m. Down the foothills at an altitude of 4170 m nestles the scintillating Manimahesh lake. Mount Kailash, believed to be the abode of Lord Shiva, falls in the Bharmour tribal valley of Chamba district. This pilgrimage centre gains importance on two religious occasions, one on the Janamashtami and the other on Radhashtami. Only saints and sages grace the former while people from all walks of life undertake the latter.

Beginning on September 15, the Chhari Yatra in which the holy mace of Lord Shiva is carried to Manimahesh from the 1000-year-old Lakshmi Narayan temple in Chamba town marks the inauguration of this sacred occasion. The devotees reaches Manimahesh lake on September 22 to take the holy dip.

Apart from the religious fervour, the steep hills and pointed crags glowing with crimson light, rippling springs and splashing cascades arrest the sensual consciousness of the travellers.

The Manimahesh yatra becomes more delightful and enjoyable when the devotees sweep into the sprawling Bharmour tribal valley. Located at an altitude of 2195 m, the valley has a cluster of 84 hoary temples popularly known as ‘Bharmour Chourasi’.

These temples were built as a sequel to the visit of 84 sidhas from Kurukshetra to Manimahesh. While en route to Manimahesh, they were warmly welcomed by the King of the erstwhile Chamba state at its capital Brahmapur (now Bharmour).

The sidhas were pleased with the King’s courtesy and blessed him (as desired by the childless King) with an heir. The blessings worked and the King built these temples in their honour.

The idols in each shrine are dedicated to different deities. However, the Manimahesh temple among them is truly eye-catching.

The oval-shaped Manimahesh lake is 14 km from Hadsar. The distance of 13 km is marked with steep ascent, which has to be inevitably trekked. Here is the tough ordeal for the devotees. With two enchanting deep vales the Baandar Ghatti and Bhairon Ghatti, nature offers the pilgrims a plethora of experiences.

Gauri Kund and Shiv Karotary are two different places, where as the legend has it, the Lord Shiva’s consort, Parvati, and Lord Shiva bathed, respectively, on the Radhastami day. The pilgrims follow the tradition.

On the eve of the holy dip the precincts of Manimahesh lake seething with a large number of devotees, presents a colourful spectacle. On the Radhasthami day, pilgrims take the holy dip amid the chanting of mantras. Thereafter, pilgrims offer prayers to Mount Kailash and make floral offerings at the image of Lord Shiva established on one side of the lake.

24 October 2005

View of Chamba from Chamunda Temple

18 October 2005

The Great Himalayan National Park

While browsing for nature parks of Himachal I came across The great Himalayan national park website, which is a group of nature adventurers working for the conservation of the this vast park which is spread almost all over in Himachal.

Himachal has more than 50% green area and is major source of herbal medicines and is famous for various nature treks thousands of people criss cross all of the Himachal on foot, whether it is ManiMahesh annual trek or you take Parvathi valley trek famous with foreigners, almost all of Himachal carries huge forests.

However with ever growing population, forests are in grave danger, I think the efforts of volunteers come here, people need to be made aware that their own existence depends upon nature.

I think it is a great effort by this group and we need to be a part of it.

Here is little information about the park from http://www.greathimalayannationalpark.com:

GHNP is a major source of water for the rural and urban centers of the region with four major rivers of the area originating from the glaciers in the Park. It is also a source of sustenance and livelihood for the local community living close to GHNP. In addition to lumber, the forest environment provides local people with Non- Timber Forest Produce (NTFP) such as honey, fruit nuts, bark of birch and yew, flowers and fuel wood.

Globally, as well as locally, the Great Himalayan National Park has a very high public profile. The international community regards at it as a pilot site where the community based Biodiversity Conservation approach is being tested. The local people in the Ecozone (or Buffer Zone adjacent to the park) of GHNP recognize the fact that they have overexploited the medicinal herbs and NTFPs, and their sheep and goats have overgrazed the pastures.

In 1980, the Himachal Wildlife Project (HWP) surveyed the upper Beas region to help establish the boundaries of the park. An area comprising the watersheds of Jiwa, Sainj, and Tirthan rivers became the Great Himalayan National Park in 1984. Starting from an altitude of 1,700 metres above mean sea level, the highest peak within the Park approaches almost 5,800 metres. The area of the National Park at the moment is 754.4 sq kms and it is naturally protected on the northern, eastern and southern boundaries by permanent snow or steep ridges. To facilitate conservation a 5 km wide buffer area, extending from the western periphery of the Park, has been classified as theEcodevelopment Project Area (EPA) or Ecozone.

The EPA has an area of 326.6 sq km (including 61 sq kms of Tirthan wildlife sanctuary) with about 120 small villages, comprising 1600 households with a population of about 16,000. Since, the Indian Wildlife Protection Act 1972 does not permit any habitation in the National Park, an area of 90 sq. kms. in Sainj valley encompassing the two villages of Shakti and Marore has been classified as Sainj Wildlife Sanctuary (WLS). These two villages although technically "outside" the National Park, are physically located between two parts of GHNP. Thus the total area under the National Park administration is 1,171 sq km.

12 October 2005

Kullu Dussehra

Tribune article


The annual mela or festival takes place in the Kullu Valley - also known as the Valley of the Living Gods, in North India. The festival celebrates the triumph of the God Ram over evil. The Rath Yatra of the idol of Lord Ragunath is led by the Kullu Raja and village deities, and is known as the running of the Gods. The procession starts a week of religious ceremonies, cultural activities, socializing and shopping at the huge bazaar, or market, that comprises most of the mela ground.

Dussehra at Kullu commences on the tenth day of the rising moon, i.e. on 'Vijay Dashmi' day itself and continues in seven days. The birth of Dussehra in Kullu lay in royal fads and it nourished on religious, social and economic factors and ultimately came to be well established, because of the inborn love of the hill-men for fun, frolic, displayed in community singing and dancing. Numerous stalls offer a verity of local wares. This is also the time when the International Folk Festival is celebrated.

09 October 2005

Himachal to prepare blueprint of tracks

Tribune article

Bid to attract global tourists

Tribune News Service

Shimla, October 8

The Forest department will prepare a blueprint of all the tracks connecting religious shrines, forts and other places of historical and cultural importance in the state, information of which will be available at the click of a mouse on the official website.

It is with the objective of promoting eco-tourism and providing avenues of employment for the villagers that the tracks are being identified. With more and more tourists preferring to go in for adventure activities like trekking, the government hopes to attract a large number of visitors from all over the world.

Since the information regarding the tracks, places of interest along the route, lodging facility and the nearest road or rail head would be available on the website, a person sitting in America can decide his destination and get bookings done.

“To begin with we have identified two tracks, one form Nainadevi shrine to Bhadrapur and the other in the Kutlehar area adjoining the Gobindsagar water body,” informed Forest Minister Ram Lal Thakur.

Apart from identifying the interesting tracks, the department is also planning to create infrastructure for tourists near the Pin Valley and Great Himalayan National Park, as part of eco-tourism promotion. Similar facilities like tent accommodation and camping sites would be made available at other wildlife sanctuaries.

The Forest Department has already started the task of creating infrastructure along these tracks for the convenience of the visitors. To begin with some of the forest rest houses located in the most idyllic locations are being repaired and refurbished. The Forest Department has over 140 rest houses all over the state, which will be thrown open to the visitors.

“We have got very good response from the scheme to hand over the rest houses of the Forest Department to the Forest Corporation for providing accommodation to tourists,” said Mr Thakur. Within the last three years, an income of Rs 3.50 lacs has come from the three rest houses, which have been thrown open for tourists in the first phase.

Interestingly, it is not just the Forest Department and the tourism department, which stand to benefit by developing these tracks as there will be special emphasis on involvement of locals. “The locals will be involved in the scheme as they can work as guides and even offer their houses for stay of the visitors, who wish to have a feel of the rural life and hill culture,” said Mr Thakur.

Keeping in mind the fact that no scheme can be a success without community participation, the mahila mandals, youth clubs and local panchayats will be involved.

On the behalf of the department, the concerned Range Officers will ensure that all facilities and information is extended to the visitors.

05 October 2005



Spiti's second oldest monastery is located in the Pin valley. The Kungri gompa built around 1330 AD. Kungri provides unmistakable evidence of tantric cult as practised in Buddhism. Kungri gompa is the main centre of the Nyingma-pa sect in Spiti. The gompa consists of three detatched rectangular blocks facing east.

The curious looking buzhens perform a sword dance and are perhaps the only branch of Buddhism in which use of weapons is practised. Some of the buzhens live in Mud village on the right bank of the Pin river. It is a chance encounter with buzhens as these lamas are wandering friars. Most of the Pin valley has been demarcated as the Pin Valley National Park which is the natural habitat of the snow leopard and Himalayan ibex.

There is a PWD rest house at Sagnam. Some more accommodation is also being added. Must carry own tents and camping gear. Tracks from this valley lead to Kullu over Pin Parbati pass and Kinnaur over Bhaba pass.