By Hiramani Kashyap
Hiramani Kashyap is an avid traveller and travelled to almost every part of India. He is a teacher of Tourism in Himachal Pradesh University at Shimla & likes to trek extensively in Himalayas. He is also a keen wildlife photographer and has visited various National park in India.
The Shrikhand Mahadev trek is a pilgrim trail that leads to the Shrikhand Mahadev peak (5227 meters/17150 ft.) named after Lord Shiva. The key attraction of this trek is the breathtaking view of the Himalayan ranges from Parvati valley of Kullu, Jorkandan, Rangrik ranges of Kinnaur and Hansbeshan and other surrounding peaks in the south east of Satluj river. The trek can be done either from Nirmand side or Arsu side. The popular and widely travelled route is from the Nirmand – Jaon village side. To reach the base camp, you have to drive from Shimla towards Rampur and cross the river Satluj to enter Niramand region of Kullu district and drive till Jaon Village. This trek can be done in 5 - 6 days, (i.e. Delhi to Delhi, involving 3 days of trekking).
Folklore about the Shrikhand trek:
According to the folklore there used to be a demon named Bhasmasur. He worshipped lord Shiva for many years. By seeing his dedication lord Shiva was so happy that he asked Bhasmasur to ask for anything. Bhasmasur asked for the power of burning any creature just by placing his hand on the head of the creature. Lord Shiva blessed him with the asked power. Bhasmasur became so proud of his power that he tried to burn lord Shiva. Then lord Shiva had to hide in a cave near Nirmand at Deo Dhank as a mosquito.
Lord Vishnu came to save lord Shiva from the demon. Vishnu incarnated himself as Mohini a beautiful lady. She (Vishnu) asked the demon Bhasmasur to dance with her. Bhasmasur was so much mesmerised with the beauty of Mohini that he could not resist himself from dancing with Mohini. Mohini cleverly got Bhasmasur to place his hand on his head and Bhasmasur turned into ashes. Just after Bhasmasur burned all the God’s reached Deo Dhank to look up lord Shiva. They found Lord Shiva detained under the web in the cave. It was very difficult to release lord Shiva from there. So Lord Shiva used a secret route and emerged as Shakti Roop at Shrikhand Mountain from cave at Dev Dhank .
When lord Shiva was getting out from Shrikhand Mountain, there were a great blast and only the present Shrikhand Shivling remains. On the way to Shrikhand top you can find out big boulders that look like as the part of any big mountain. At Shrikhand there is main peak (Shivlinga) dedicated to lord Shiva. Just opposite to it another big stones are known as Godess Parvati and Lord Ganesh. Just behind the Shrikhand peak there is a peak known as Kartikeya Parvat.
History of the trek.
This is a holy place which is associated with lord Shiva and Maa Parvati. Local people welcome the pilgrims during the Yatra days in the month of July every year. Most of the people don’t consider this as a trek or hiking. They take it as a part of Holy Yatra only. Earlier it was considered as one of the toughest trek. But now with the passage of time during the Yatra time there are many associations who put up their tents on the way. You can find these tents at Jaun, Barathi Nala, Taacharu, Kali Ghati, Bheem Talai, Kunsa, Bheem Dwar and at Parvati Baag. In the year 2012 around 35000 pilgrims travelled to Shrikhand. Last year in 2011 this sacred place was visited by around 30000 pilgrims.
Altitude: 5162 meters (16930 feet approx.)
Trail Type: Difficult gradients. Steep incline trek going through rough glaciers covers, rocky moraine path. People with no or less High altitude trekking experience should not attempt this trek.
Rail head: Shimla is the nearest rail head to Jaun village - 170 Kms. Shimla is connected with narrow gauge line with Kalka.
Road Head: Buses are available from Shimla ISBT.Take a cab/ localbus from Shimla to Rampur 130 Kms, then to Jaun village via Nirmand (Kullu). Last 8 Kms from Bagi pul to Jaun is a kuccha road.
Base Camp: Jaun Village or Shingaarh.
Day 1: Jaun to Taacharu. 12 Kms, 8 – 9 hrs.
Day 2: Taacharu to Parvati Baag. 13.5 Kms 9-10 hrs.
Day 3: Parvati Baag to Shrikhand and Parvati Baag . 6 Kms ,one side 4 hrs.
Best Season: Late may till mid Oct.
Day 1. Jaun to Taacharu (12 Kms, 6397 ft to 11318 ft)
The Holy Shrikhand trek starts from Jaun village which lies in Kullu district at 6397 ft. It is a small village on the right bank of rivulet Kurpan which originates just from the bottom of Shrikhand Mountain Range. This is a fast flowing rivulet with white water. During monsoon this small rivulet Kurpan looks like a treacherous river.
Jaun is a small village of around 50 houses and a temple dedicated to Mata Katyayni. From Baagi Pul to Jaun there is a Kuccha road of 8 Kms. Jaun is a village in the midst of great himalayan range. One can admire the beauty of mother nature sitting amid mountains, rivulets, small houses, temples and most important and pleasant fully developed apple orchards of Jaun. Jaun provides a clear and beautiful view of Shrikhand Mountain. If weather is clear you can get a glance of holy Shrikhand peak from here. Jaun is the last place from where you can buy few necessary goods for the trek.
Jaun is a place where one can find innocent people with a lovely smile on their faces always. They are the most hospitable people. This is the place where you can spend some time with the locals who can familiarise you about the folklores related to the Shrikhand Yatra and how it has become a source of renumeration for the locals.
After spending some time at Jaun start to Shingaarh which is at 6873 ft. Jaun to Shingaarh is a trek of 3 Kms besides the right bank of Kurpan. On the way to Shingaarh you have to cross several apple orchards, some small streams and a village with old beautiful houses - most of which are two storied. It takes one hour to reach Shingaarh. It is a paved trek besides Kurpan.
Shingaarh is a place where you can stay for a while or take a rest. It is a holy place; people regularly pay rituals here for the completion of their trek. One can visit temples here at Shingaarh. It is a place surrounded by lush green forests. This place is known for its dense forest with Deodar trees.
The next step for the first day is towards Barathi Nalah at 7283 ft, which is the place of the confluence of two small rivulets that make Kurpan. The trek upto Barathi Nalah is breathtaking. This is a trek of 3 Kms and takes 1.5 hours. On the way to Barathi Nalah sometime you have to cross the Kurpan through wooden bridge which are just a rip of Deodar tree. It creates excitement and thrill among the trekkers for being so near to nature.
You can take a rest at Barathi Nalah. Form Barathi Nalah to Taacharu there is a vertical climb of 6 Kms of Danda Dhaar which takes around 6-8 hours. This climb requires good stamina. You can halt on the way to Taacharu. This climb is through the dark forests of deodar where because of the dense nature of the forest nothing is visible. You can hear the sound of rivers, streams and waterfalls clearly from here. There is no source of water on the way to Taacharu so it becomes essential to carry more water for the trek upto Taacharu.
As you trek uphill you can experience the change in the vegetation and from several place one can get a glimpse of Kullu Himalayas. On the way you can find some big Deodar trees which are centuries old. One can fine some beautiful birds here on the way to Taacharu. On the way there are some cliffs from where you can admire the beauty of dense forest and rivulets near to Danda Dhaar and Surrounded areas of it.
Taacharu at 11318 ft is a place where tree line ends and herbs and shrubs remain for the next patch of the trek. Day one trek stops at Taacharu. Evenings are very beautiful with views of Sarahan and Kotgarh region towards Southern side and Shrikhand peak towards Eastern side and Kullu Himalaya at Westerns side. Taacharu is the best place for night stay because this is a place just after the vertical climb of 6-8 Kms. From here to Parvati Baag the trek is gentle and not very energy consuming.
Day 2- Taacharu to Parvati Baag. (13.5 Kms, 11318ft to 13622 ft)
Next days start early in the morning, so that you can reach at Parvati Baag with ample time to spare. From Taacharu to Kali Ghati there is a straight climb of 3 Kms. It takes 1.5 hours to complete this. On the way to kali Ghati one can find some rare flowers of Himalayas. The way to Kali Ghati from Taacharu is straight north facing and one side has a deep ditch. After spending about 1 hour on trek you reach an open place full of big rocks. It provides a close view of surrounding mountains. From here it takes 15 minutes to Kali Ghati. Kali Ghati is the top of Danda Dhaar. It is at 12778 ft. The vertical climb started from Barathi Nala ends at here. From Kali Ghati you can get 360 degree view of the Himalayas.
A small temple dedicated to Maa Kali is here. Next journey starts here after worshipping Kali. From kali Ghati trek extend towards Bhim Talai which is just 1.5 Kms. It takes only 30 minutes to cover this distance because trek is gentle. Bhim Talai is a place where according to legends Bhim one of the Pandava brothers used to take bath. This is a place surrounded by high peaks, bugiyal and tiny waterfalls. One can see shepherds here at Bhim Talai. Bheem Talai is at 11279 ft.
From Bhim Talai to Kunsa which is 3 Kms ahead is a smooth trek. It takes 1.5 hrs to cover this patch. Just after crossing the Big Bugyals (Grass Ground), you have to cross a glacier around 500 meters long and 80 meter wide. From this glacier to Kunsa there is a vertical climb with rocks. Kunsa at 12746 ft is a place surrounded by big waterfalls. It is a place of breathtaking scenery. Nature is splendid here. One can spend hours here just by admiring nature with waterfalls, clouds, flowers. This is the best place to take some rest and rejuvenate with nature.
From Kunsa to Bheem Dwar there is a level walk with small ups and downs. It is a trench of 3 Kms which takes 2 hours. The route to Bheem Dwar is filled with rare Himalayan flowers and different shrubs. This place is like the valley of flowers in Uttrakhand. One can find very rare flower here easily. This place is so wide and it provides a panoramic view of deep valleys, deep gorges, big waterfalls and some small streams flowing on the way. Kunsa valley provides gorgeous view of clouds, mountains, small patches of snow and the sweet sound of fast flowing streams just one after one. Kunsa valley is like a beautiful scenic dream.
After spending 2 hours in the meadow of nature you reach Bheem Dwar. This place is at an altitude of 12175 ft. It is said that during Pandavas exile they stayed here. Today this place is known as Bheem Dwar. This is a big Bugyal surrounded by big waterfalls and a numbers of glaciers. On the way to Parvati Baag you have to cross the biggest waterfall on this trek.
During the Shrikhand Mahdev Yatra held in every July, this place Bheem Dwar provides the base for the pilgrims. Shepherds’ use this place to graze their sheep and goats. One can stay at Bheem Dwar in nature cave here. Most of the pilgrims use these for rest purpose. The beauty of this place is terrifying. One can easily spend hours here admiring the beauty of mother nature.
Parvati Baag 13622 ft is just 3 Kms from Bheem Dwar. It takes 2 hrs to reach Parvati Baag. Up to the big waterfall the trek is gentle. Just after crossing the waterfall there is a vertical climb of 2.5 Kms up to Parvati Baag. Parvati Baag is a beautiful place for night halt. According to legends it is said that Mata Parvati used this place for their stay. So it is called Parvati Baag. This place is full of rare flowers of higher himalayas and famous for rarest Brahma Kamal. One can easily find this rarest flower here at Parvati Baag. This place is just below the Holy Shrikhand Mountain. At night it feels like you can touch the sky with your hand.
Day 3 Parvati Baag to Shrikhand and Parvati Baag (6 Kms, 13622 ft to 17195ft)
Early in the morning you have to start towards Holy Shrikhand Peak. Parvati Baag is the last place where you can find Grass and some high altitude shrubs and herbs. After Parvati Baag you will trek on only moraines and snow. Shrikhand Peak is just 6 Kms form Parvati Baag. On the way to Shrikhand you have to cross glaciers, streams and stone tunnels.
First part of the trek upto Nainser Lake is gentle with snow and boulders. Nainser is a high altitude lake at 14527 ft surrounded by an area of about two football fields. It takes 1.5 hours to reach at Nainser. The whole trek to Shrikhand Mahdev is associated with Lord Shiva and Nainser Lake, it is said that this lake was created with the tears of Maa Parvati when she was worshipping lord Shiva.
Nainser Lake as dedicated to Maa Parvati as a place of worship. Before trekking further spend some time here for worship. It is said that if one prays here at Nainser his/her trek will be completed successfully.
Trek to Shrikhand is very steep and vertical from Nainser Lake. First patch of this trek from Nainser Lake is a glacier of 200 meters. It takes about 45 minutes just to complete this part of only 0.5 kilometre. It requires a lot of endurance to complete this part. After spending 45 minutes you reach the top of a cliff at 14967 ft. From here you can see the beauty of Nainser Lake very clearly. Towards Shrikhand one can see the big boulders and glaciers. If you reach early in the morning then you can see the beauty of Kinnaur Mountains from here.
After this the next part on the trek is full of Moraines and snow at very few places. There are seven small peaks which you have to climb to reach Shrikhand. On the way you can feel that you are above the clouds as sun rises. On the way to Bheem Baiee you have to cross many small stone tunnels, glaciers and moraines. Bheem Baiee is a sacred place dedicated to Bheem at an altitude 15921 ft.
You can find different marks on stone here. It is said that Bheem once constructing the stairs from here to Heaven, but it was not completed due to lack of time. You will find a number of stones one top of another which appears like a stairway. From Bheem Baiee you can see the holy Shrikhand Shila. It takes half hour to reach Shrikhand. You have to cross a big glacier to reach Shrikhand.
This place provides endless view on Himalayas from three sides and from one side a magical look towards Rampur Sarahan and Shimla hills. Shrikhand at 17195 ft is a place where you can feel the fragrance of nature everywhere.
This is a place where all things believe to be the part of almighty of lord Shiva. This is place from where you can see Kinnaur Himalaya from one side, Kullu and Shimla mountains from other sides.
How to do this trek
Getting to/from: Can be attempted for Nirmand in Kullu district, Fancha in Shimla District or from Banjar. Toughest route is from Fancha side. Most popular and safest is Nirmand, Bagipul, Jaun, Taacharu, Nainser.
Guides and Porters: Guides and Porters can be hired from Nirmand of Baagi pul if required. .
Total Distance: 32-35 Kms one side. Maximum Elevation: 5162 meter – Shrikhand Peak.
Permits: No need of any kind of permits. .
Some Important Information
How to reach base camp: Jaon Village in Kullu district can be reached by bus, cab, own conveyance by following Delhi, Chandigarh, Shimla, Rampur route. From Rampur cross Satluj River to enter Nirmand district and proceed till Jaon. Jaon is at a distance of 167 km from Shimla. Buses are available from Shimla local bus stand to Jaon, Nirmand, and Rampur. Alternatively you can also book a cab from Kalka taxi union at old ISBT in Shimla for Jaon.
Weather: Cold and windy terrain, temperature at nights can dip in minus. It is advisable to carry sufficient warm clothing. Probability of snow-fall at the Shrikhand peak is always there.
Best Season: July till August is also the peak time of pilgrims visit to the area. The route is open only in these months due to extreme weather conditions on the Shrikhand peak.
Grade: Moderate-Difficult with long steep ridge walks.
Trail description: 30 km one way trek (60 km approx. in total). In June and early July you will find lot of firm snow on the trail. In autumn you will have to negotiate and climb some steep sections of rocks.
Accommodation & Food: Normally tent accommodation along food is available (Taacharu and Parvati Bagh) but can be costly. In peak pilgrim season you may find it difficult to get a tent. It is advisable to carry your own tent if visiting in Pilgrim season.
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