Bijli Mahadev Trek – Kullu Attraction
From my earlier story titled ‘Travel Photographer Meets Serious Trekkers’ you already know how deeply I hate trekking. But during my recent visit to Kullu for its world-famous Dussehra celebrations (more about it in a later post), I was persuaded to do one short (?) trek to Bijli Mahadev. I was told that both, the walk and the view, would be awesome – a 360° panorama that would have Kullu to the Northwest and Manikaran to the Northeast. They promised it was a 40-minute-trek and accorded excellent photo-op.
You know that I am always game to undergo any amount of hardship for a destination that offers an opportunity to capture nice images. Add to that the story of the temple – that it gets struck by lightning every twelve years and its Shivalinga breaks, which is then fixed by sticking it with butter, and we have a deadly persuasion. So, the bottom-line was I yet again got suckered into a torture.
Drive to Chansari Village
After shooting the Day-2 big draw of Kullu Dussehra – Naati (the slow, group folk dance from Himachal), we hurried away from Dhalpur Ground before the event ended to escape the maddening crowd that would lead to an inevitable massive traffic jam.
As we crossed River Beas and drove towards Chansari, we realised the road was hardly tarred, climbed steeply and had just enough space for one vehicle. This drive went on for over an hour. And every time a vehicle would come from the opposite direction, we would be forced to reverse 20-30 metres to find enough space to allow that vehicle to pass.
With every passing minute, steadily escalating sense of foreboding was swelling within. It wasn’t doing any good to my morale. I was getting a strong urge to request my co-travellers that we abort our trip and return. But then, social graces stomped over this feeling and our slow and painful journey continued.
Chansari – The Trek Begins Here
As we rounded a turn, there was a collective whoop in the car as we sighted the Chansari Parking. The parking was a luxurious 20×30 mt. space – it naturally seemed luxurious, as the road throughout was extremely narrow!
The left of the parking had a retaining wall that supported a notoriously brittle cliff (Himachal is infamous for its landslides and these cliffs suddenly giving way). On the right was a sheer drop that seemed to be at least a few hundred feet. The retaining wall had a sign painted on it – ‘Parking not allowed as this space is for the buses to turn around’. Ironically, that area was completely filled with vehicles parked haphazardly.
We got out of our vehicle and crossed the parking. And suddenly figured that we had nowhere to go. That is when our local guide, an Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) jawaan, crossed over a small stone wall and stepped onto a gravelly narrow dirt-path.
The Realisation Dawns
Now we knew we were playing ‘follow the leader’ who, in this case, was our ITBP guide. Given a Hobson’s choice, we too scrambled over the stone wall and started trudging gamely behind him. Within the first hundred metres or so, it became evident the trek was anything but easy. The path was unevenly paved with rocks and boulders – the administration’s magnanimous attempt to provide an easier way for visitors.
In the first couple of hundred metres, we had already climbed a couple of hundred feet – my Fitbit told me so. After every few steps, our guide would gently egg us on. He kept up his refrain that the trek was only 40 minutes.
Every few metres, we would meet the folks returning after their trek. Invariably, we would ask them – “How much more?” And each time, we would get a different answer – “Another 25-30 minutes”; “A couple of kilometres”; “One hour”; Oh, it is quite close now”. We would toil some more and the same story would repeat. Broadly speaking, we remained clueless about the extent of torture that still had to be inflicted on us.
A Welcome Relief
We had not had our lunch. Naturally, we were feeling hungry as breakfast that had been about 6 hours behind us had become ancient history in our memory. After about 40 minutes of a relentless climb, we sighted a café (well, that’s what they call those ram shackled food stalls in hilly areas). Collectively, we parked ourselves there and decided upon gorging on a lavish ‘Maggi Noodles’ meal!
While waiting for food, a dark feeling of self-pity engulfed us as we saw few local women with kids making their way up at a steady pace. They were making good speed. One of them was even carrying a child in her lap! The smoker in me silently cursed.
The meal reinvigorated us and we started moving again at a fair clip (or so we thought till we were rudely jerked back to reality as a couple of locals briskly overtook us). Humbled, we lumbered along.
Mound and More
In a short while, we found ourselves in a thick pine forest with only rising mounds ahead of us. Another 30 minutes of unending undulating terrain, we reached a steep mound. Like in all our previous approaches to such mounds, we couldn’t see what lay beyond.
We continued to make our way forward one weary step after another and soon reached the top of the mound. As soon as the vista beyond was revealed, we realised we could see the meadowy grass top of the ridge that was dotted with some tarpaulin-covered shacks and a hill cottage like structure perched on the top of the ridge.
A warm feeling of achievement stayed with us all through the next 20 minutes of the climb. We were almost there! During these last twenty minutes, we passed by a tiny pond, a few food stalls, and some jaw-dropping scenery.
Bijli Mahadev – Finally, We Were There
The pathway leading up to the temple offered drop-dead landscapes. We could see a huge trident marking a Lord Shiva temple on one side and a grazing horse and some cattle on the other. The path was saddled with the oh-so-common selfie-clicking fixtures.
A few photographs later, we reached the temple entrance. We took off our shoes and entered the holy precincts.
The temple was to our left and some ancient stone idols of Nandi (Shiva’s Bull) to our right. I waited patiently to get some nice photographs here as even this area was filled with selfie-clickers – as always, oblivious to others who may want to make some photographs too.
Inside the temple, seeing the inconsiderate tourists trying to click a selfie with the idol, I realised why most temples ban photography. These folks were posing for their selfies with their back to the idol. Such a thing is considered disrespectful in any religious place – you just can’t turn your back to the god or his manifestation. I couldn’t resist giving them a piece of my mind!
Soaking it in
After paying my respects in the sanctum sanctorum, I stepped out and went to the rear of the temple. The open space had another huge trident towering over the horizon! The place was soaked in bright sunshine; the skies were blue, and the ridge-top, a glorious shade of green. The whole scene was so gorgeous I didn’t mind a bit of distant haze!
We must have spent about 45 minutes there. After which, we decided to make our way back. While we exited the temple complex and were making our way back along the pathway leading out of the temple, the sun suddenly went behind dark clouds and the temperature distinctly dropped a few degrees. But then, these sudden changes in weather are to be expected in the hills!
We started our descent. Suddenly, hit with a sudden realisation, my co-trekkers exclaimed that climbing down is more painful than climbing up! I decided to ignore their plaintive wails and moved ahead – increasing my lead over them with every step.
Seeing that I was walking alone, a handsome, black, hill stray dog decided to give me company. He walked with me for the next half hour. Dutifully, he would lead the way, get ahead and walk for about twenty metres or so, and then wait for me. Overall, the whole experience was that of having a caring companion and it ensured that I did not feel any tiredness during my descent! Check out this short video of my companion.
As I was approaching the shack where we had our lunch, I had decided that I would buy a packet of biscuits and give that to my companion. But alas, before I reached there, he had decided to move on!
After we returned to our place of stay and we reviewed the images, I realised how scenic was the place we had just been to!
A Few Tips – Bijli Mahadev Trek – Kullu Attraction
- Bijli Mahadev is a stunning destination (don’t get influenced by my rant about the trek)
- If you are a city-dweller like me, and any local from a hilly area tells you the trek is just 40 minutes, multiply that time by 3 to get a more relevant and realistic estimate
- If you see any selfie-clicker who turns his back to the idol, do give him/her a piece of your mind