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Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Enchanting Himachal – traversing through Chamba

Enchanting Himachal – traversing through Chamba

Author atop a wooden bridge across River Ravi on way to Bharmour in Chamba District
              Having seen the photographs posted by Mr. Sadanand Kamath in his blog ‘Rambling in the Gaddi Heartland of Himachal Pradesh’ posted in May, 2012, I had wanted to visit Chamba since, as it was one of the areas in Himachal not visited by me till date.  Therefore, during the summer break of my kids I decided to visit the pristine destination alongwith our extended family, which included my mother and mother-in-law also.  The distance from Delhi to Chamba is about 580 Kms. and it would have taken more than 14 hours to reach the destination by road, had we been able attain an average speed of 40 kmph, but this was next to impossible during the peak summer rush.  Such a journey would not only have been physically discomforting for the elderly, but also a tiresome journey for all us too, which would have marred the joy of journey at its inception itself.  Having weighed all the pros & cons, I decided to cover the major distance by train and accordingly, booked the A/C tickets in ‘Dhauladhar Express’ for the     6th June, 2014 upto Pathankot.  There are plethoras to trains running upto Jammu and Pathankot being a major station on the way, all such trains stop at this destination.  However, I found from the schedule that most of the trains start early and subsequently also drop you at Pathankot very early, before 5.00 A.M in most of the trains and by the time you reach your destination, you are neither fully awake nor able to sleep during the drive, thus, you do not enjoy your onward journey under such conditions.  The 6th of June, 2014 being a Friday and working day, the ‘Dhauladar Express’ was most convenient, as it leaves Old Delhi Railway Station at 10.45 P.M. at night and one has ample time to get back from office and leave in time for the ensuing journey, simultaneously it reaches Pathankot the next day at 8.20 A.M, by which time there is sufficient day light for good photography as well as people usually have completed their morning ablutions by that time.
Leaving Pathankot
The author with his wife, daughter & Mr. Mahajan-epitome of hospitality in Pathankot
View of Ranjit Sagar Dam from road to Chamba
The winding roads after Pathankot
            We started our journey in the right earnest by hiring a taxi from my residence and the station being a wee bit far coupled with its placement in a crowded location, we started well in time.  The temperature during the day had shot up to 47 degrees Celsius and it was still raging hot when we reached the railway station.  Having boarded the train, we waited for the Air Conditioner to start, but it would not and we had to ingest copious amounts of water and Cold drinks to ward off the heat.  But as the train moved from the station, even after having got past Kishanganj station, the AC did not function properly.  We left Delhi behind, still suffering in agony of the sultry heat and when the temperatures soared inside the train bogey and commuters started asking for the complaint book, a mechanic turned up and made some adjustments after which the AC started working properly.  The reason he gave was that as the power to run the AC is received from the train engine and consequently only when the train engine attains speed that the AC is turned on in full.  Thereafter, the night passed by uneventfully.  However, the main reason for the purported fault in AC revealed itself in the morning, when we saw a huge gathering in the station with all kinds of people and musical instruments thronging the station in Pathankot.  On enquiry, it dawned that the local Member Parliament of Gurdaspur, Sh. Vinod Khanna was traveling in the same train and in order to facilitate his comfort, the AC in the train had been turned on in full force in his compartment, at cost of other paying members and so referred to as ‘Cattle class’ from the same fraternity, this is an example of how Indian Railways attends to the VIPs.
Nainikhud village on way to Chamba
Bidding goodbye to the Mahajan family in Nainikhud
Bird's eye view of Nainikhud village as seen from road to Banikhet
As the road winds up towards Banikhet
Chamera Dam - view from road just after crossing Banikhet
            Having disembarked from the train at Pathankot, we got on to the Mahindra Xylo, being driven by the tour operator himself, Mr. Bhutto as he had been engaged through Mr.Mahajan, relative of my wife’s friend, who too in all his magnanimity had turned up at the Railway station to receive us and also provided us with a sumptuous B’fast & water et al for the journey ahead.  Since the tour operator Mr. Bhutto personally knew the Mahajan family well, he was in all praise for the kind of grand hospitality they were known to offer to all family visitors & friends alike.  As we had just gone past Pathankot, my wife received a call on her mobile handset from the other brother from the Mahajan family residing in Nainikhud, seeking information about our whereabouts and probable time of reaching their place, despite my wife’s best efforts and stating that B’fast had already been served by the other brother of the Mahajan’s, they were not inclined to relent and we had to promise them to take a break for partaking B’fast with them at Nainikhud.
Approaching Chamba - NHPC residential Complex across Ravi River
Heading towards Chamba town
Water being released into Ravi River by a Hydro Power plant after crossing Chamba
A dam near Chattarari village where the road tunnel is situated
Huge statute of Lord Shiva near banks of River Ravi
Villages perched precariously by mountain sides
            Pathankot is situated in the Indian state of Punjab, but its proximity with the other two states of Himachal Pradesh & Jammu & Kashmir alongwith the border with Pakistan makes it a very important township strategically.  It is a nondescript little destination situated on the banks of Chakki River, which is a rain is fed river.  It is perched at an altitude of 331 meters (about 1086 feet) of mean sea level and therefore, considerably hot.  We went past Pathankot through the Jullunder-Dalhousie Bye-pass raod and thereafter, headed along the Mandi Pthankot Road upto Nurpur.  Beyond Nurpur as you head higher into the hills through the winding roads, you can see the Ranjit Sagar Dam and thereafter, you take the State Highway 33 (also known as Pathankot-Chamba-Tissa Road).  Further you continue uphill upto the point where the where the State Highway 28 meets with the State Highway 33 at Tunnuhatti and therefrom the road starts its downhill run upto Nainikhud, which is at an altitude of 950 odd meters or 3300 feet above mean sea level.  Nanikhud is a small commercial hub with two banks and a small market catering to the requirements of region around.  We stopped here for B’fast with the Mahajan family who run a successful cloth business here. 
Narrow roads running along the Ravi River towards B harmour
Distant view of the bridge at Kharamukh
            From Nainikhud the road again starts winding upwards towards Banikhet, which is at an altitude of about 1700 meters or 5,500 feet of mean sea level.  This is another nondescript but busy village, teeming with shops and small hotels and is the point from where the road continues towards Chamba and another bifurcates towards Dalhousie.  During peak summer seasons, when Dalhousie is full, many travelers who come to visit Dalhousie without prior booking, which is often the case with tourists driving in from Punjab, they seek refuge for the night at Banikhet.  Beyond Banikhet the road starts meandering alongwith the Ravi River, one of the ‘Panch ab’ (Five waters) that make up Punjab, namely Jhelum, Chenab, Sutlej, Beas and Ravi.  After traveling a few kilometers along the road, one comes across the scenic Chamera Dam and being a place that offers water sports, it has become a tourist destination for many visiting the Chamba region.  Passing by many a nondescript little villages, some by the road side and some perched precariously on mountainsides, making up stupendous natural vistas, accompanied by small Hydro Power plants designated as Chamera-I,II, III & IV etc. all along the River side, one reaches Chamba.  Instead for heading for the township, we made it towards Bharmour from the roundabout, continuing with the Chamba-Holi Road.

The bridge across River Ravi at Kharamukh
Budhil Rivulet from Bharmour side meets Ravi River at Kharamukh
Headed towards Bharmour from Kharamukh - an upward climb all the way
The first glimpse of Abode of Lord Shiva - the Manimahesh Kailash
           After crossing Chamba, the road traverses almost along the banks of the Ravi River, as the road is almost at level with the flowing River and one continues to travel along its left bank till one reaches a fairly big village known as ‘Rakh’, where after you cross a bridge and continue your journey along the right bank of the River.  Thereafter, having crossed Chattarari where a barrage/dam has been constructed and just as you cross the bridge you enter a fairly big tunnel about 500 meters or more in length that is a part of the Hydro Power plant situated there and emerge on the other side of the tunnel, headed towards Khadamukh.  The name ‘Khadamukh’ meaning literally ‘A straight face’ aptly describes this little village that is situated at the base of huge mountains all around and at this juncture, the road bifurcates towards Bharmour and the main road continues straight towards Holi.  One has to take a left turn, crossing over the bridge across River Ravi and continue ascending towards Bharmour, which is perched at an altitude of about 2100 meters or about 7000 feet above mean sea level and as aptly described in Wikipedia and I quote – “The land is blessed with deep beauty of abundant alpine pastures and provides home for nomadic shepherds, known as Gaddi, thus also called Gadderan. The foothills are filled with orchards and terraced farmsteads. The epitome of spirituality lies in this land as it is endow with ancient temples. The area goes through inhospitable terrain and severe climate changes. “Kailash Vasio” as the people of Bharmour are known are extremely courteous and welcomes you like their own family member. Along with its ethnic traditions, culture and ancient history, Bharmour forms the perfection of divine splendor”.  Thus, we reached Bharmour the land of the Gaddi’s & Lord Shiva.  More details about the destination in my next blog.


Here is the link to the video for the journey -

8 comments:

  1. Enjoyed reading your description of the journey to Bharmour, Mr Biswas. Also watched your video. As a native of Chamba district, feel good to see it featured in your article and on your video.
    The pronounced name of the river is 'Raavi' with stretched stress on the two vowels and not 'Ravi' as in a name. Hope you don't mind my intervention.
    Warm regards.
    Ram Thakur

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  5. Nice and interesting Information Regarding Bharmour as a Destination to visit. Thanks for sharing.

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