Friday, October 3, 2014

Visiting Holi & Laake Wali Mata temple

Enchanting Himachal – Visiting Holi & Laake Wali Mata temple
River Raavi flowing along the road to Holi
            As we intended to visit Holi, the day after we had visited Hadsar, we got up in the morning, a wee bit leisurely and after having a sumptuous B’fast started away for Holi.  We had to retrace back our steps upto Kharamukh, which is about 14 Kms. from Bharmour.  After getting down to Kharamukh, we took the road towards Holi, which is situated at a distance of 24 Kms. from Kharamukh.  As the gradual ascent started, the scenic beauty of the destination became apparent.  The road was narrower, with the tarring missing from road at many a spots.  We passed by many small villages like Suai, Channota Khas, Lamu, Greema etc. and finally reached Holi after two hours drive, with usual photography breaks in between.

As we leave the entry gate of Bharmour - headed for Holi
Bridge across Raavi River at Kharamukh - birds eye view from road above
Struck in unusual kind of traffic jam - blocked by flock of sheep -
trade mark of the region associated with the Gaddis
Villages perched along the Raavi River Valley
Another pristine view of Raavi River Valley
The green tunnel - trees along the road to Holi
            The route to Holi is a very scenic as the entire road traverses along the banks of Ravi River, with occasional glimpse of snow clad Dhauladar peaks as a backdrop.   One comes across villages perched atop the ridges or clinging onto the mountainside, albeit precariously, with fruit trees and small patches of cultivated lands interspersed.  Most of the village homes appear to have been constructed in a traditional manner, using wood and slate tiled roofs.  Once in a while, the road gets blocked by a herd of sheep & goats being tended to by the Gaddis, making their way towards the higher mountain slopes.  As the schools start a bit late in the morning in these regions, we also came across batches of children cheerfully walking past, headed for their schools.  In all it is a slow paced but immensely peaceful and endowed with scenic beauty akin to what one used to seeing in photographs of Switzerland or Kinnaur region of India.  Holi is perched at an altitude of 2250 meters or about 7500 feet above mean sea leave with the backdrop of the beautiful, snow clad Talang Pass and other snow adjoining mountains. It is a place for doing nothing but rejuvenating and relaxation, if one is able to get the booking of PWD/Forest Rest House, which is located in a very strategic point on a ridge, it is the place for imbuing the scenic beauty of the place. Holi is also the base for some of the high altitudes treks, such as Talang Pass (4643m), Waru Pass (3850m) and Kalah Pass (4720m).  Whereas, Talang Pass is one of the most difficult passes on the Dhuladhar range, considered so because of its high altitude and almost vertical climbs. The pass normally opens towards the end of July.  An interesting incident occurred here in Holi and I would like to share with the readers, as I was busy photographing the Talang Pass with my son, an ageing local peon or chowkidar from either the PWD Rest House or some nearby Government Office, who was thoroughly drunk, right in the morning, appeared and started a conversation with me, which I could not follow because of the dialect.  My driver spoke to him in the local dialect and he was gone for a minute and then back in a jiffy, with a bottle of chilled cold drink and would not let go of me till I had it and I had to finally relent to his wishes.  Later when I enquired from my driver as to what he had told the poor soul, he informed me that he had merely told him that I was a very senior officer and he should not be disturbing me, but he himself was flummoxed by the response of the character.  Initially I felt bad as the poor soul, as he refused to take any money from me, but then I resigned to the Hindu belief that maybe he had a debt to repay from some past birth/rebirth cycle and he had  repaid the same it in this manner.
Typical slate tiled roofs of village homes
Panoramic view of the Talang Pass as viewed from Holi
Extreme close up of Talang Pass from Holi 
Holi township viewed from PWD Resthouse
Raavi flowing by - headed beyond Holi towards Laake Wali Mata temple
Mountain stream flowing by
            Having enjoyed the scenic beauty of Holi, we proceeded further ahead towards La’ake Wali Mata, which is a famed pilgrimage for the locals and lies at a distance of 3 Kms. ahead of Nayagran.  Nayagran has regular bus service from Chamba & vice versa and is a fairly big village.  The term ‘gran’ is a convoluted form of ‘gram’ or ‘gaon’ in Hindi meaning a village, as per the local dialect.  There is nothing much to see or do a Nayagran, but as you go beyond this point the road gets very narrow and passes through dense Deodar (Cederus Deodara) forests, with the Gaddis tending their flocks of sheep & goat, getting them ready for the difficult crossing across the Jalsu Pass.  The road ends at the site where the La’ake Wali Mata temple is located, as the semi finished dirt track has sunk beyond this point.  The La’ake Wali Mata temple is strategically placed on top a spur atop a ridge, overlooking the Ravi River valley deep below and the Dhauladhars ranges in the backdrop.  The temple is dedicated to a form of Goddess Kali, as assumed by the Goddess to slay the demon who tormented the people of the valley, as Bhramari Mata (Bumble Bee form),.  There is a ‘Jatar’ (meaning procession) organized by the local Gaddi community during the month of August every year that attracts lots of locals seeking blessings of the reverend La’ake Wali Mata. The procession is said to be one of the most colorful gatherings of local people.  Most of the treks across the Dhauladar from Chamba to Kangra start from this point onwards.  There is the temple priest cum shopkeeper named Sh.Thakur Chand who informed me that treks across Jalsu Pass to Baijnath in Kangra passes through this region and there are some very beautiful meadows like Channi (8 Kms. from the temple) and Yara Got (12 Kms. form the temple) that make up for some soul rejuvenating treks.
Deodar trees jutting on to the road and then making 90 degree angle on way to
Laake Wali Mata temple
The temple dome of Laake Wali Mata temple
The presiding deity of Laake Wali Mata
Sh. Thakur Chand the Priest of Laake Wali Mata temple
River Raavi flowing through a deep gorge - as viewed from Laake Wali Mata temple
Jalsu Jot or Pass, is one of the Eastern most passes of the Dhauladhar perched at an altitude of 3450 meters above sea level.  Its gradient is gently sloping trail towards the Northern side, it is one of the most extensively used shepherd routes by the Himachali Gaddi tribes. Gaddies of Bharmour especially the resident of Holi valley, who used to undertake this trek, whenever they waned to visit Kangra District, instead of embarking upon the long detour through bus route. Some local peoples are known to complete this trek in a day from Nayagram to Baijnath. This route is not as popular with tourists as some other Dhauladhar passes. The rolling grasslands with vegetation extending deep into the trail, sprinkling of conifers, rhododendron bushes and the beautiful yellow grass flowers offer a colorful experience which few other passes can match.  Like other Dhauladhar passes, Jalsu forms the boundary between Chamba and Kangra districts but unlike other Dhauladhar passes, its beauty is not in the bareness and rockiness but in the variety of vegetation it supports and colors sprinkled by mother nature on either side of the pass. The trek route is also not treacherous, as the entire route is interspersed with people & habitations in form of shepherds, shopkeepers, tourists. The famed Pir Panjal ranges are also visible from atop the pass, but the perspective is completely different from the other points. Being a popular shepherd trail, one can do without camping equipment and complete the trek without carrying any food for most of the journey. This trek starts just after the Laake Wali temple, with a trail descending down to the Ravi River and then leads across the River towards the higher mountains. 
Here the road ends - view from the road end head of Laake Wali Mata temple
The Himachal Government is envisaging the construction of a Road tunnel through Dhauladhar ranges, as the Holi (Chamba)-Uttrala (Kangra) tunnel project, which would reduce the road distance between Dharamsala and Chamba by almost 200 kms., through the proposed Road tunnel running through the Dhauladhar ranges, the reduced distance would be merely 65 Kms.  However, this project is still on paper stage only, despite being envisaged way back in 2012.
Here is the link to the video for the destination - Holi 

Here is the link to the video of Laake Wali Mata temple

1 comment:

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