Monday, February 18, 2013

Ancient Pilgrims Trail in Himalayas Part I


Budha Kedar means Old-Man Kedar or ancient Kedar. It is a serene place in Uttranchal. As the name indicates, it has a Kedar Nath’s temple. Traditionally this temple is run by Gorakhnath monks. This place was famous long ago when pilgrims used to do all char-dham-yatra on foot. From Gangotri they walked to Bhatwari (near Uttarkashi) and there they took a trail to Lata, then Belak and then to Budha Kedar, from Budha Kedar trail lead to Ghuttu and then to Triyuginarayan and then to Kedarnath and then to Badrinath.

Budha Kedar is living in a great hope that one day a road from Uttarkashi will come here so will create a shorter road route from Uttarkashi to Kedarnath and then pilgrims will again begin visiting this ancient holy place situated on the confluence of two bubbling rivers. Road is indeed in construction from here but at snail’s place. It may take several years to connect with Uttarkashi valley.
To visit Budha Kedar by road, Ghanshali is the town that is connected with Sri Nagar (Garwal) and also a road from Ghanshali goes towards Augustmuni in Kedarnath valley hence creating a popular shortcut from Uttarkashi for smaller vehicles. Budha Kedar has only 2 places to sleep and eat. It is a small village around the temple. It is sandwiched in between two rivers. Amazingly the town and its small market itself is situated in the narrow V of both rivers, on a raised small rocky plateau. In the north, there is just one more village Belak after Budha Kedar and then a tower of icy mountains begins. After these mountains are the glaciers of greater Himalayas (in ancient texts it was called Sumaru Parwat) and then begins Tibet.
Chandrabadni Temple
I was with my friend Harish and we arrived in Budha Kedar from Dev Prayag via Chandrabadni. We did several kilometers long, downhill tracking from Chandrabadni and then took the road to Ghanshali and stayed a night there. Ghanshali is a bustling small town with busy bazaars and several hotels. It is now growing up because of the shorter route form Uttarkashi to Kedarnath passes through here now. Many trails originate from Ghanshali, one can take a road to the ancient pilgrim night stop, Ghuttu.
Ghanshali offers several decent restaurants and food is good. From here we took a shared jeep to Budha Kedar. It was the first time we were coming here and this turned out is a very beautiful place under the pine and deodar trees. A very quiet and calm place and people are very gentle here. The very first restaurant between the two river bridges has beds in a room upstairs. There was another very basic hotel/restaurant but since views were better from the first floor room in this one so we came here and the room was given to us on the condition that other travelers cannot be denied so we must share the room with others if anyone comes. You call it room or you call it dormitory. When travelers were more they were given carpets to sleep on the floor.
Budha Kedar
We took the room and placed my numbered lock on the door and then went to take a bath on the river near the temple on the confluence of the rivers. Hermits at the river happily lent us their bucket and mugs. It was a great bathing there, after bathing we washed our clothes and then used the bushes to dry them. We were enjoying sunlight on the ghat and a hermit brought us tea.
When we returned, a bunch of children were playing with our numbered lock, they were trying to open it. As they saw us they circled us and closely watched us to open that lock. When Harish told them that the lock is for our security and we cannot let them know the number, they laughed it off. They were so innocence that they only wandered why we need to lock a room in their town at the first place. Hotel attendant also showed up to tell us that lunch is ready. He also asked us politely to not to lock the room so it stays available for other travelers. So children followed us carrying that lock in the restaurant and now everybody begun playing with it. We had to demonstrate the opening of the lock to the whole crowd (that was now bigger and there were not just kids but men also). Then on the request of the hotel owner, crowd took the lock opening business outside of the hotel. Slowly many people learned to open the lock. Then crowd disappeared and lock too disappeared.
Ghanshali
We spent 4 days at Budhakear, that lock came back to us several times and then again it went away. Kids were taking that lock to their homes or school and it became a great thing of curiosity in the village. Time and again people waved us on our day trekking trips and shouted us, “Hey baujee, so it was your lock. Come, have a cup of tea with us.”
Because of that lock we made many friends.
Budha Kedar Temple
At our fourth evening we decided to take the trek to Uttarkashi at the next morning. Uttarkashi was our ultimate destination. There are two trails from Budha Kedar, one is very difficult one towards Ganga Valley, that goes via Belak, Lata and meets the road at 35 kilometers after Uttarkashi towards Gangotri, this is a high altutude and jungle trail. Other is the relatively easy one, this passes through villages and leads to the next road-head at Kumud. From Kumud one can either take road to Uttarkashi or take further mountain treks.
Budha Kedar Temple
That day we took a long and scenic trek to the village of Binak Khal that was above Budha Kedar on the mountain in the east. Actually Binak Khal is situated on the same ancient trail from Ganotri to Kedarnath. There is a road also to Binak Khal that takes off some kilometers before Budha Kedar when we come from Ghanshali. Walking trail from Budha Kedar to Binak Khal is six kilometers, very steep and passes through a dense jungle. On the whole way we did not see anyone else. Binak Khal is a beautiful village on the mountain and there is a small hotel also. Mountains from miles are visible from there except snowy mountains because it is such placed that offers views of East-West corridor. Snowy mountains are in the north. To get here, it was some serious climb and we reached there at noon. Trail is very beautiful and on the way there was a small pond under the huge deodar trees there we made a bed of pine needles in the depression in the ground and reclined down and enjoyed the views. It was just awesome to be there, birds were singing and many many were coming to the pond to take bath. Aroma of pine and deodar was abundant. Mountain in front of us was standing like a wall so Harish shouted and hence it begun a chain reaction of echo. We did it once more and then no more because our noise only corrupted the atmosphere. Finally we left that place. Pine needles were everywhere on the path and it was a bit slippery due to their silky texture. This path is well maintained because local folks visit a temple in Binak Khal. Finally we arrived at the ridge where the village begun.
A small but spread out market was closed at noon time. There was only one restaurant, they had some Rajmah and owner cooked some fresh rice for us. It was delicious. May be next time we will spend some days at Bimak Khal.
To be continued.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the write-up, we want to do the trek, will you please provide your e-mail? mine is dhiman_panihati@yahoo.com

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