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|by Indrajit Bandyopadhyay|
In the October of 2006, during the Puja vacation, my younger brother Ujjal, my colleague Kamal and I went to Har - Ki - Doon trek. The region interests me very much, because I read that it is one of the few places in India where Duryodhana and Karna are worshipped as God. Har-Ki-Doon falls within the Govind Pashu vihar sanctuary. Haridwar to Sankri (6500 ft) is 240 KM. Our trek starts from Sankri. We spend the night at the bungalow of Garhwal Mandal Vikash Nigam. We hire a guide-cum-porter. He is Vikram, a nice looking lad of nineteen. He reads in college and does this job part-time. The present rate of a guide is Rs. 250 per day. Sankri to Taluka is 12 Km Trek. As we near Taluka, these children greet us with ‘namaste’ and ask ‘meethai.’ We oblige them with sweets, and they oblige us with sweet smiles!
These two fairies welcome us as we approach. Another spell of sweet-sweet exchange. We are refreshed. We stay at the Forest Rest house. We do not have any advance booking. The ever-smiling chowkider manages it all.
This view of the Har-ki-doon Ganga is from the lawn of the Forest Rest house. At night we have ‘Khichdi’ and omelet at the local dhaba with local people.
Early morning we start our trek from Taluka. Todays’ destination is Seema at a distance of 14 KM.
We meet these shepherds, the last specimen of our pastoral ancestors. As we mix with them, we find their life is not as idyllic as romantic poets would have us believe.
The Shepherd-Chacha introduces us to the huge dark loyal thing, squirming now in a siesta. Our chatters wake it up. Soon we find the difference between appearance and reality. It is very friendly to us. It wags its tail violently.
The trek from Talukar to Osla is through dense forests of chestnuts, walnuts, willows and chinars. We reach Seema village (9500 ft) after a trek of 6 hrs. Actually it is a halt, not much of a village. The Forest Rest house, GMVN Bungalow and a few ‘Chhotis’ and ‘dhabas’ are all that are there. Seema’s twin sister is Osla on the other side of Har-ki-doon Ganga. It is a village of about 120 families.
This is the famous Duryodhana temple of Osla village. It is a 2 KM trek from Seema. As we approach Osla, our guide, a resident of this village frustrates us. He says it is not Duryodhana but Someshwarji’s temple. We are confused. Vikrama tells us once upon a time it was mistakenly thought to be Duryodhana, but actually it is Someshwar. He also tells us people will feel offended if we insist on calling it Duryodhana, because Duryodhana was a ‘Rakshasa.’ Our interest grows. We decide to speak to some elderly people of Osla to get the actual information. What we gather is indeed unique and merits serious anthropological studies. In 1974 the elderly people of all the 22 villages in this region decided to change the name of their local deity from Duryodhana to Someshwar. A born looser Duryodhana! No doubt. His last kingdom is finally gone.
Duryodhana or Someshwar, here are the real Gods. The children do not care that their elders have relinquished their own culture. Once, the people of this region boasted of carrying Duryodhana’s blood in their veins. As they mixed with plain-land people they became uncomfortable with their past.
Leaving behind Seema, we start our final trek of 12 KM to Har-Ki Doon. The hanging bridge and the Forest Rest house and GMVN Bungalow can be seen down there. There is a steep ascent at the beginning. Then life passes through ups and downs.
As we trek, the mighty Kalanaga peak (6387 m) stands before us. No words. Only some rapt moments! And then only sounds of clicks.
Our guide and some shepherds take rest, have chat and offer prayers to Someshwar. Our tired rucksack takes a nap. We utilise the time gossiping with locals. We get very interesting information. Duryodhana to Someshwar transformation took place in 1974, the year the old temple was renovated. The golden crown of erstwhile Duryodhana was also changed. At present the deity stays at Osla from mid-August to mid-October. The Deity’s tour schedule through the villages in ‘Doli’ is as follows – Osla – Vitari – Kashla – Leowari – Jakul – Paon – Kotgaon – Shankri – Datmer – Gangar – Osla – Dara – Shaonri – Sharturi – Sunkundi – Sirgaon – Jakul – Osla. This has been going on since ages.
A flock of sheep, like an endless stream, flows past us leaping and bouncing along the slopes. The shepherds make peculiar sounds to keep them together, as the watchful shepherd dogs are very busy in their vigilance. They scold the straying sheep. No mischief, be serious!
As our trail turns left, we lose sight of Kalanag peak, only to be compensated with new splendors. So long we have been trekking through terraced mountain fields and lush green grassy land. Farming of Rice and Rajma are most common. Now we enter conifer forests.
This is Ata Peak. We trek along mountain slopes of ridges. The trees are so green and the sky is so blue! We have to pass now through a dense forest.
Finally we reach Har-ki-doon valley after a trek of 6 hrs. The Har-ki-doon Ganga flows on level surface. We are surrounded by peaks. We sit by the river and refresh. No hurry. The Forest Rest house can be seen over there. Just another lazy walk of half a Kilometre.
A view of the northern side (Left Image) of the Har-ki-doon valley. Another shot of the valley and the Ganga (Middle Image) from Forest Rest house. That is the south-west side, (Right Image) through which we have entered the valley.
This is the north view of the place. The Ata Peak is clouded. The red-roofed one at the right is the Forest Rest house, and the sky-blue roof at the mid-left is the GMVN.
We stroll relaxed along the Har-ki-doon Gad. Parts of the Swargarohini range are visible through the trees. The play of cloud and sun with the mighty peaks.
The Yamadwar Glacier or Jaundhar Glacier is over there at a distance of 6 KMs from the valley.
This is Ata Peak with the green-roofed GMVN Bungalow perched on its lap.
This is a view of the Swargarohini Peak and Yamadwar Glacier at its feet.
This is another view of the Yamadwar Glacier and the Yamadwar Gad (river) as viewed from the Rest house lawn.
Today we go to Morinda Tal, a trek of 3 KM. It is a lake from where Morinda Gad originates. At the beginning of our trek, the Ata peak salutes us in its morning splendor.
The trek to Morinda Tal is across rocky terrain. There is no tree around. We are now above tree-line. The Morinda Gad is our constant companion.
We reach the Morinda Tal after one and a half hours trek. Unfortunately for us, there is not much water at this time of the year. Nevertheless, we sit for hours enjoying the celestial sight around. The snow-clad peak far out there calls us for another trek. The trek to Barasu pass is that way.
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