Category Archives: travel

Indrahaar Pass Trek-A detailed travelogue


I have a strange, alluring fascination for the Mountains. Since, I was born in the Kashmir valley, being surrounded by the Mountains gives me a feeling of Nostalgia and the much cherished memories of good old times once again get refreshed. I find excuses to be near them.

When the topic of Trekking to Himalayas popped up between Sunil Raina and me, I was more than willing to organise the Trek. After much deliberation, we decided to undertake the Indrahaar Trek.

Since, we had planned this Trek much in advance, we took the services of An Adventure company-Adventure Nation for this 4 day 3 night Trek. Sunil Raina, Ajay Chauhan and Parvesh Ranga were my trek mates.

We were supposed to report at Shiv Shakti Guesthouse, Dharamkot, Macleondgang by 10 am on 8th Oct 2019.

Ajay and Parvesh-The experienced Trekkers, had reached the Guesthouse early morning. By the time, I and Sunil joined them by around 10 in the morning, They were almost ready.

Since this was an arduous and long Trek, Hence A guide was allotted to us. He was a young lad named Rohit and was supposed to accompany us till the Indrahaar pass. Packed meals were given to us before we left for our first halt- Mana.

There was another young – Students –group, aged 18-19 years, hailing from Kerala . They were six in number, 5 boys and one Girl. They had opted for the Laka Glacier trek. That meant, they too had to follow the same route as ours till Laka Got-The high altitude meadow. This meadow acts like a base camp for both the Laka Glacier as well as the Indrahaar pass.

We left the Guesthouse by around 11 am. All the four of us were carrying Haversacks on our backs as well as foldable walking/Trekking Sticks . Sunil’s Haversack was the lightest and might have weighed around 10 kg. The heaviest bags were those of Ajay and mine. Both weighed above 15kgs.

En route, At Dharamkot market , we had some snacks in a local restaurant . From this place onwards, the actual trek began. We soon reached the BhagsuNag falls. We clicked some pictures there. From this point onwards, the actual ascend started.

Rohit was leading us through the narrow footpath that would lead us to our next destination-Mana. Almost, all the route from Dharamkot till Indrahaar pass is stony. We rested briefly at some unnamed stretches. There was not much communication amongst us, as we were gasping because of the steep climb and the load we were carrying on our Backs.

Every half an hour, we would sip in some water to compensate the water loss due to excessive sweating.

After around 2 hours, we reached a small meadow, that housed few Gaddis-the local shepherds. The whole group , including the four of us and the 6 young students rested at this place for around half an hour. They too had a Guide with them and his name was Sansaar.

At this very small Meadow, we had our packed meals that consisted of some sandwiches , refreshment drinks and a Choclate.

After the small meal,Sunil accosted some of the students out of curiosity!

‘Hi ! how are you? Where do you hail from?’ asked Sunil to one guy from that group.

‘ I am Vishnu. We are all from IIT Dhanbad and our native place is Kerala’, the young boy politely replied. He introduced his group to us as Jefferson, Chandra and the Girl as livia.

Soon,We again resumed our trek.

Occasionally, I would ask Rohit, ‘How far we have to go?’, He would point out his finger to a distant cliff and with a smile, reply, ‘ we have to reach that point Sir.’

It used to be an ambiguous reply, but I would nod my head as if I have understood.

Finally, we reached a cliff after an hour or so. The views from that cliff were stupendous. We put down our heavy haversacks from our shoulders and took some photos with different poses. we had some biscuits too. After spending some 20 minutes at this point, we again resumed our journey.

However, it was a 10-15 minutes descend .

we finally reached Mana- A beautiful hamlet with few Gaddi houses.A small ground/meadow was going to be the place for our first night halt. We had to stay at this place in tents .

Sunil and I stayed in one tent while Ajay and parvesh in another tent. This place is very scenic and the mighty Dauladhars stand tall and gives an impression of an amphitheater.

I took many pictures at this place, whereas, Ajay and parvesh took some videos too.

Goddess Mana-The Shakti incarnate, is the deity of this small hamlet. The temple dedicated to this Goddess was hardly 200 mts from our camp. I and Sunil decided to pay our Obeisance to her.

The temple is situated at the edge of the cliff. From that point, we could see the abrupt twinkling lights somewhere down in the plains.

It was the Dusshera Night .
Those sparkling lights in the distant Horizon were the fireworks associated with The annual celebration of burning Ravana and his Bother.

Soon it was dark.

We switched on our Head-torches and quickly ambled towards our camp . There is no electricity access at this place and Hence ,The camp staff had made an early dinner for us. I , sunil and parvesh had Rice, Daal(lentils) and Mattar-paneer for our dinner while as Ajay had Chicken.

The camp Organisers gave a couple of Blankets to each of us . we soon retired to our tents for the night as nothing much could be done outside. We used our headlights inside the tent for light.

By 9 Pm, all of us must have slept.

The app showed that we had travelled 10.12 kms with 15,526 steps on 8th Oct. The altimeter showed an altitude of 2400 mts.

Next day, Early Morning , Ajay greeted me loudly from outside my tent.
Good morning sandeep ji ! Are you coming out of your tent or not!’
I zipped up the Tent zipper , peeped through the tent, and greeted back, ‘ Good morning Ajay ji! I am just coming out.’

A cool breeze greeted me outside . I could see some clouds too.

In the morning, we were served a Breakfast of puri-aalo.

Since,We had to leave by 8 in the morning hence, We packed our Haversacks quickly and were ready to go for our next destination-Laka Got.

Rohit was again leading us. After some 45 minutes, we halted at a shop en route and each of us had a cup of tea. For Another 1 hour, we gently ascended and finally reached Truind-A beautiful small meadow situated at an altitude of around 2900mts MSL. It offers a majestic view of both the plains as well as the Dauladhar.

We rested there for half an hour and had some light snacks at this point .We also took some photographs and videos .

Just after crossing Truind, the footpaths became more narrow, tortuous and rocky. The clouds had started to besiege the Mountains and soon it started to Drizzle. We stopped at a small temple known as Tiranga mata . we pulled up the rain coat from the Haversacks , wore it quickly, to prevent us from getting wet and resumed our journey.

The student group was not prepared for this sudden change of weather .

Soon, We left them far behind, as we were unaffected by the rains. The rain however, had put breaks on our speed as the path had become wet and slippery.

We passed through a small café by the name- ‘snowline’ . However, we did not stop there. A small pond just adjacent to this café served as a point of another photo -shoot for us. We clicked some more photos at this point. From snowline café, the elevation of the slope was more or less the same. However, the terrain had become more rocky and at some points more slushy.

Another 45 minutes or so, we reached our next destination –Laka Got. This meadow was going to be our halt station for next 2 nights. By the time, we reached Laka, the rain had stopped.
I looked at my watch. It was 5 P.M.

Some tea was served to us on our arrival. However, that did not help me much as I was feeling some side-effects of High altitude. I had a mild Headache and my nose was running. I have experienced these symptoms earlier too; whenever I am at places , that have an altitude of 10000 feet or more. Parvesh too was feeling the same symptoms. Sunil and Ajay too had some symptoms associated with High altitude.

Meanwhile, Rohit and his associates erected tents for us .

The surface at the campsite was uneven. Ajay-who is an Professor of Geography – explained the reason for the uneven surface. He told me that the places where there is a thermo frost, these small uneven patches are formed and it is a natural Phenomenon.

The camp site too looked like a high altitude pass. A deep valley-hardly 15 mts away from our camps-was resounding with chilling winds. Nevertheless, we did click some more pictures at that point too. Strangely, the place, where our tents were erected was bereft of the Chilling winds !

By 6.30 P.M, we were already in our respective tents. Sunil was my tent-mate at Laka too. Since, It was very cold outside, hence ,The Dinner was served to us in our tents .

The dinner consisted of Semi-Cooked rice and Daal. When I asked Rohit, why was the Rice semi-cooked, he replied that the Gas cylinder has been totally exhausted, and they didn’t have a spare one. Hence, they had to make the dinner by burning some twigs and wooden logs!

The Dinner was awful! But there was no alternative and hence we had to eat it.

After Dinner, we again came out of our tents. I asked Ajay casually, ‘what do you think! How will be the weather tomorrow?’
‘if the weather will be clear, then only we will go to Indrahaar, Otherwise, we will explore the places near to our campsite’ He opined.

By 7.30 Pm, I was again in my camp. I was tired because of the long hike. Sunil too was much exhausted and had muscle spasms. It didn’t look as if he was ready for the arduous trek, that we had to undertake the next day.

‘let us go back to Mcleondgang tomorrow’, He pleaded, supinely lying inside his sleeping Bag.

‘if the weather will be hostile, we won’t go to Indrahaar. And if it will be Sunny, and you don’t feel better till morning, you stay put at this camp, while we will go to the pass’, I tried to comfort him.

Soon , we both fell asleep. I woke up in the night as I was feeling nauseatic, However, I did not vomit . I had a sip of water and again pretended to be sleeping. The uneven surface was hurting my back; but still I was able to catch some intermittent sleep.

The app showed that we had walked 21,011 steps and covered a distance of 13.43 kms.The Altmeter was showing a height of 3200 mts aboveMSL.

Next day, 10th Oct,We woke up at 6 in the morning. A bright Sunshine greeted us all.
I asked Sunil, ‘How are you feeling today? Will you come with us?’
‘Oh yes! That is for what I have come here.’ He answered cheerfully.

At around 7.30 am, we had our awful Breakfast of puri-Aalu(again).

It was told to us that from Laka to Indrahaar pass, we would be given an extra Guide apart from Rohit. But that did not happen. Instead, Rohit was attached to the student group, while as their Guide-Sansaar -was given to us.

Anyways,We started at around 8.20 am towards the Indrahaar pass.

After around 45 minutes or so, we reached at Laka Glacier. A small stream flows downwards from beneath the Long Glacier. We filled our water bottles and clicked some photos.
From this Glacier, The ascend started.

‘where is the pass?’, I asked Sansaar. He pointed his finger at the top of the Mountain,
‘ There sir. We have to reach at that top’, he Replied.

It looked like a steep vertical ascend.

We plodded on the rough stony trek. Even at this point, we were feeling some effects of the rough terrain as well as the side effects of High Altitute . I was gasping ,so were my trek mates. From the glacier, it took some more time, before we reached a point known as ‘Lahesh caves’. It is a natural cave and definitely a place to visit. We all halted there briefly. The warmth of the Bright sun was soothing.

Two Gaddi Dogs had followed us throughout the trek from Laka. Whenever, we stopped for a light snacks break, we would give them something to eat too. These Gaddi dogs are extremely friendly and it seemed, they really like the company of men. The dog was Black in color and we named him ‘Kaalu’. The Bitch was named ‘Rani’. She was our constant companion up till the pass and back. It looked as if, they had come to the pass earlier too as they knew the way up to the pass and even led us at some blind curves.

From lahesh caves till the top of the Pass; at many stretches some stairs/steps have been made by the local Gaddis-The shepherds. Building Stairs/steps at this rough terrain and at such an altitude is nothing less than a wonder!

Some Trekkers and Hikers have done a yoeman’s job by placing cairn guidance all along the route; right from Laka Got/ Illaka up to the Indrahaar pass. At many points, They have painted a red arrow mark on the Boulders too, to clearly define the route. These cairn guidance and arrows are of a great help to the new trekkers. And a boon to solo Trekkers.

The path further up was becoming more steeper as well as stony. After 3600 mts above MSL, I again felt nauseated and the intensity of my Headache increased with the increased Altitude. At around 3800 mts above MSL, the snow patches seemed more prominent to the landscape with many white snowy patches. we were now walking on the fresh slippery snow.

At around 4000mts above MSL, Sunil revolted. He wanted to go back . Ajay too wanted to go Back . He was apprehensive and doubted whether we will be able to climb down safely, as we had no ropes and ice-Axes with us. Even though, I and parvesh too were suffering from the high altitude sickness, still we insisted that we should climb up to the summit, Because we had come so far and were so near to it.

Sunil and Ajay had to give in, even though Halfheartedly.

The snow from 4100mts and above was anywhere between 10 cm to one feet.
From 4200mts up to the pass, it is almost a vertical height. There was less trekking and more intermittent Rock climbing involved . We were slowly and cautiously climbing up.

All the drinking water was exhausted. However, We had filled fresh snow in our bottles and sipped it whenever we felt thirsty.

At around 1.45 Pm, we reached the top of the pass.

A sort-of-open-shrine dedicated to lord Indra is made at the top of the Pass by the Gaddis. Many tridents are installed at this small shrine. The local Shepherds-The Gaddis revere this place and this pass is used by them to cross over to Chamba. The height of this pass is around 4300 mts above MSL. Some most beautiful vistas can be seem from this pass.
We clicked some photos and made some quick videos. Sunil even recited the IndrakshiStrotam at the Holy site. We stayed there for hardly 20 minutes. It had started to snow again and we knew, it would be dangerous to stay there.

We started our descend.

It was not easy to Descend. The trial had become very slippery. Sansaar was clearing the path so that we had a safe descend. With some difficulty, we climbed down the initial dangerous descend of 200 mts. After that, even though, it was slippery, but not as dangerous.

The sleet followed us during our first hour of descend. All of us, except parvesh had a fall on this slippery path. The Health condition was getting better as we descended. During the descend, Parvesh was the most active and would run downwards, wait there for us ,and shoot videos.

It was anticipated by Sansaar, that we will reach Laka Got by 6 PM-When still there will be some sunlight. But that did not happen. After laka Glacier, It turned dark but that didn’t affect us in any ways. We were prepared and all of us were carrying Head torches with us. The stretch from the laka glacier onward was covered by us by switching on our Head torches. By 7 or 7.30 Pm, we reached our camp at laka Got. Warm water followed by warm tea was served to us immediately.

By 8.00 Pm, Dinner consisting of dal, aalu, Rice and chappati was served to us.

By 8.30 PM, We all were in our sleeping Bags.
The app showed that we had walked 20,876 steps and covered a distance of 13.35 kms.

Next day, 11th Oct, we woke up at around 6 a.m. After having our Breakfast of Aalu-Paranthas, we started our descend. It was again a bright sunny day and we were feeling refreshed and rejuvenated. The descend to the Truind was rather very fast. We stopped at this place for some time and took a different route to descend(not Bhagsu falls).

The Downward , well defined trek was broader and many Indian and international tourists were trekking up towards Truind.

We reached back to the Shiv-Shakti Guest House by 3 Pm. The bath with the warm water at the Guest house was so refreshing.
At around 4.15 pm, we had a proper tasty lunch after 3 days.

I along with sunil left that palce at 4.45 pm for our respective homes. Ajay and Parvesh had booked a ticket for the Bus to Chandigarh and were supposed to leave by 8 pm.

The app showed that we had walked 29,437 steps and covered a distance of 20.08 Kms.

We are very thankful to Sansaar-our guide. He behaved very politely as well as responsibly throughout the trek. Without him, we could not have made it to the pass as a team.

However, We feel cheated by Adventure Nation, as we did not get , what we were told. They did not even follow , what they had given us in writing.

Anyways,

This trek no doubt, challenges the physical and mental strength. It makes one realize the strength and weaknesses of both Body and mind. And how the willpower pervades both of them. It Highlights the hidden strength within and promotes team spirit and camaraderie.

This is not an easy Trek. I would rather rate it between moderate to difficult. The whole trek is no doubt beautiful, and if time and body permits, the seekers of adventure and trekking must undertake this journey.

I promise, They won’t regret it.

A conversation on Kashmir with an ex-army man…

I and my friends Manish and Sunil were going to Garh-Mukhteshwar for a dip into the holy Ganges. As soon as we reached Garh-Mukhteshwar, we took a boat to go to other side of the river for a swim. The rays of the sun were shimmering in the waters of Ganga , intermittently blinding our eyes. The garland of flowers floating nearby shielded our eyes briefly, thus giving us some respite. That Garland may had embellished an idol of god or it may had been a final gesture of reverence to the dead by a family member. Who knows! Anyway, We reached the other side within minutes. A Panditji was offering prayers for his clients, who were repeating the hymns chanted by the Pandit.

I have always believed that the cool waters of the Ganges rejuvenates my body and mind and Manish could not disagree with me .After the Bath/Swim, we sat on the wooden planks nearby. And Manish started about his favorite topic-Kashmir and Kashmiri Pandits. An elderly Gentleman, who was sitting opposite,just a couple of meters away, on the other wooden plank approached us and asked, ”Are you Kashmiri Pandits?” I said, ”yes we are”. He said,” My name is Singh, I have served armed forces and I was Stationed at Kashmir in the nineties”.

Our conversation started…..

Manish-what is your present assessment of Kashmir?

Singh-It is better than nineties ,but it is still not Normal. When I was there, it was like a guerilla war, we never knew when, where , how and who will attack us. We had to be prepared at all times. Had we been given powers, we would have normalized the situation within a day. It is the politicians, who are doing the macabre dance on the cost of the lives of their soldiers, just to enhance their political career.

Manish- You must have heard the cacophony of pro-jihadi , anti-India, and anti-Hindu slogans, that was voiced from the loudspeakers of the Mosques across the valley?

Singh-Yes, I did and so did my colleagues.

Manish-Did you met Kashmiri Pandits there?

Singh-Only in the early 1990.You fled to jammu and other parts of India as the terrorists were killing you.

Manish-It was all pre-planned. The majority of the Muslims, in the valley, were privy of the plans and intentions of the Terrorists. But they maintained a sinister silence.

Sunil-In 1947, the army of the Maharaja sided with Pakistan and thus helped Pakistani army to annex POK. This all happened on the name of religion. The same happened at the time of Sukh Jiwan Mal, when his army deserted him. Yaqub shah, being a shia muslim was also deserted by his army. History repeated itself in 1989-90 and Kashmiri Pandits were rendered homeless.

Singh- The lack of political will is a deterrent for the return of Kashmiri Pandits. you are not a vote-bank and you did not even raise your armed unit to counter your hostile contemporaries in Kashmir .The political will is a must for the return of Kashmiri Hindus. Kashmiri muslims are being heard because they talk not only diplomatically masquerading peace, but when the need arises ,they restore to violent methods also. They know how to be heard.

Manish-We are a peaceful community. But that does not mean that we are naïve. At the same time, I have to agree with you. Our peaceful nature has become a hindrance. The govt. too knows this fact, that is why they have not been able to make inroads for the kashmiri pundits into Kashmir. Pakistan has a Plan for Kashmir and Kashmiri Muslims. National conference, PDP and congress has plan for Kashmiri Muslims .The plan for Kashmiri Hindus is to appease Kashmiri Muslims by marginalizing KP’s socially, financially, religiously and politically . As you said it is vote-bank politics.

Sunil-The valley-centric political parties are playing dirty politics. They have over years, successfully sown the seeds of hatred against India. The frequent outbursts of Mustafa Kamal against India is not new. The recent obnoxious statements of NC MP Ghulam Nabi Ratanpuri is also not new. Attaullah suhurwardy,a senior NC Leader, the former minister and Deputy speaker had said in a speech in State legislative council that he is first a Muslim then an India and that It is the fundamental duty of a Muslim to strive for conversion ,any muslim who forgets this duty is not a worthy Muslim. The Kashmiri Hindus were proving to be an impediment for the religious zealots and bigoted politicians.
PDP is also no saint. Their patron Mufti mohammed syed instigated riots and violence at Anantnag, which led to migration of many Kashmiri pundits in the mid 1980’s.It is a known fact that when he was the chief Minister of the state, he did not used to salute the National Flag of India on special occasions like 26th jan or 15th August. It was a clear indication to his vote-bank that he does not care about India. These gestures by the valley-based mainstream political over the years have poisoned the minds of majority of Muslim minds. This propaganda has lead a Kashmir Pandit to a point of no-return.

Manish-That is why we demand a separate homeland for Kashmiri Pandits. we have seen seven migrations. Enough is enough .We can not live anymore at the will and whim of Islamist fundamental jehadi mindset politicians, who use us whenever it suits them and discards us when it suits the emotions of their vote-bank.

Singh-The politicians should consider this option. As I said a political will of the government is a must to facilitate the return of Kashmiri Pandits.

Manish –If Govt. is not serious to facilitate our return on our conditions then, let them formally announce us as Refugees. There are many countries who have special laws for refugees. We will also find one such country. At least we-the kashmiri Pandits can live as a community and preserve our ancient heritage and culture.

Singh-Govt. should ponder over this point too. You see, Kashmir matters for me as well!

Sunil-How does it really matter to You or rest of Indians .Majority of Indians are still oblivious to the plight of Kashmiri Pandits. Majority of them still believe that we live in Kashmir even today.

Singh-You may be right! But I too have given my blood for Kashmir. I was hit by the bullet in my right leg. My colleague was killed in the Gun battle with the terrorists, in front of my eyes. I too faced trauma-physically , emotionally as well as mentally.

He folded up his trousers to the thigh. There was a livid Scar above the right side of his right knee. I looked at the face of Singh. It was livid as well. The sweat drops on his forehead made me realize the conspicuousness of his Curled white moustaches that still had some shades of black. Just like his personality.
Calmness descended on his face as he curled down his trousers.. He was again composed .Manish was looking at him intensely.

Manish-Singh Saab, I appreciate your patriotism. You are also one of our many unsung heroes, who gave their blood for Kashmir.

Sunil-I agree with Manish. Where will you go from here singhji?

Singh-I live in Gajraula. I will reach there within half an hour .Where are you going?

Manish-Lucky you. You have a place to be called as Home. My home is illegally occupied by some Muslim men in Kashmir. By the way, we are going to NOIDA.

We exchanged our mobile numbers, with this hope that we will remain in touch with each other and share some more information and incidents on Kashmir. Before he left he said, ”you should ask Govt. for a place of your own in Kashmir”

Singh fared good bye to us. We watched his back as he walked with a limp towards the Boat. His family was already in the Boat. A man grabbed his hand and pulled him into the Boat. The boatman paddled the Boat away from us. we waved with our hands at Singh. He waved back. He alighted from the Boat, ascended the stairs , looked back at us and again waved. we waved back.
Singh Saab was gone but there are thousands of singh saab’s who have fought for Kashmir. Kashmiri Pandit’s fight for the restoration of their rights and justice is long, arduous with little support from the Government machinery. For some, it may look impossible to restore our basic fundamental rights in Kashmir. At times, it feels that a Kashmiri pandit is fighting a lone battle. But then we meet some people like singh, for whom Kashmir still matters. And hope floats. Just like that garland that floated in the Ganges and shielded our eyes from the blinding reflections of the Sun…..

trip to mahadev at 11000feet above sea level

It was year August 1989.I along with my friends Sanjay Bharti and Naveen raina decided to have some adventure. Being a native of Kashmir,It was natural for me to have love for mountains and hence I loved trekking and hiking nearby mountains like Zabarvan, Amarnath, Dhyaneshwar(Bandipura). Zabarvan was my all time favourite, since it was the closest to my home in Rainawari. Apart from trekking, swimming also used to give me an adrenaline rush.

Raksha Bandhan, A sacred festival among Hindus of Kashmir used to be celebrated with lot of enthusiasm, KP devotees used to pay their obeisance to their deities by visiting various holy places, especially places connecting to Lord Shiva, Like Amarnathji,Harsher,Sersher,Dhanshewar,Shankarayacharya temple etc.

I  along with my two friends had decided to go to Mahadev. My elders had warned me that Journey to Mahadev is strenuous , Tougher than Amarnathji. We had decided to meet on Aug 16 at the lal chowk bus stand .We all met at the desired place at around 1.00p.m.

We boarded a bus to a village known as Dara. Village  Dara is very near to haarvan,  and famous Dachigaam national park. We took some snacks along with us…some biscuits and bread and started our ascend. I was wearing a brown baggie pant and a brown and white check shirt which our family tailor Gulzaar had made and whose shop was at jogi lankar bridge. I was also wearing a liberty sports shoe(white with orange stripes).

We started our ascend at around 2.00p.m and were ascending through the narrow gorge which accompanied us right up to our next base camp at lidwaas. After one hour’s ascend,we were already feeling hungry and satiated our hunger with whatever was left with us. We were ascending at a leisurely pace and occasionally stopping at some places and resting on boulders. We could not see a single person in our first 3 hours of ascend. After  3 hours or so, We met some people. My Muslim neighbor was also among them. His name was “Arif” I asked him “what are you doing here!”, He said” I had been to tarsar and marsar and I am in these mountains from last 4-5 days” (Tarsar and Marsar are high altitude mountain lakes). They were a group of around 4-5 boys and they were fully equipped with tents, haversacks, carry mats etc.(After some years after this incident came to know that ”Arif” had become a militant and  mentally co-related our last meeting ).

.

we were enjoying our trekking, it took us almost six hours before we reached a place known as “leedwas”.This place is a small meadow with some 10-20 houses, at around 10,000 feet above sea level, belonging to nomads known in kashmir as” Gujjars”. For these gujjars their lives revolve around their livestock. By the time we reached leedwas, it was around 7.30-8.00p.m. We met some other Kashmiri pundits(KP) also . Total number of devotees were around 8-10 people. We were told normally every year at least couple of  hundred  devotees  come to Mahadev, But that year situation was somewhat different.(It was an early stage of Militancy in Kashmir).As carefree teenagers, we could not understand politics neither had any inclination.

We had thought that we will be able to find something to eat once we reach leeedwas,

but to our disappointment, there was nothing that we had hoped for. However, another group of KP devotees, had before hand seen coming events and had brought a stove, utensils and enough rice and raw bottle gourd with them to feed at least a dozen mouths. In the late evening all of us (8-10 people) contributed   some way or the other in making our dinner which consisted of cooked rice , bottle gourd and pickle. We were already hungry as wolves and guzzled our dinner in no time. Next thing that was forcing me and my friends to get worried was to find a place to stay put for night. That worry was also taken care of by other KP’s, as they had arranged 2  Gurjar Kotha’s for all of us. We were   given a place to sleep in a Gurjar Kotha  by the  local Gurjars at a very nominal cost. We  three friends were the youngest among all the devotees, and we were well guided  and looked after by other KP’s.

Gujjar “kotha” or gujjar house is a rectangular shaped single room and single storey house, may be 15 yards long and 10 yards wide, made of mud. Inside the Kotha, there is a  low horizontal partition whose height will be approximately 2-3 feet. Front side of the partition is used as living, dining and bedroom by The Gurjar’s and the back side is used by  their livestock. This means both gujjars and their livestock share that one room or kotha. It was a bit uncomfortable sleeping in that kotha as there was hardly any decent flooring. We used deodar twigs covered by a blanket as  Mattress. We spread one Blanket on the flooring and one to cover our bodies. I remember vividly the eyes of goats and Sheep’s, looking directly to me over my head.their eyes were shining like fireflies in the night. That night, I slept like a log…

We were woken by our fellow KP’s at 4.00 a.m. For our next and final stretch, an experienced and elderly person of around 55 years took the charge of leading the way further up to Mahadev shrine.  It was a Full moon night and we were all walking in a line, ambling and climbing the mountain very cautiously. We were following literally each other’s footsteps. Our leader and other KP’s had constantly captivated our minds by their interesting anecdotes. “I had seen many a times a Hangul here in my previous journeys, maybe we will see a Hangul today also” said the Leader who was also acting as a guide.Another one said,”look at these lights twinkling below in the plains,that is chandpur,my village”.Another Gentleman took his monocular to look a the the village below that was described as “chandpur”.

After some 3 hours we reached a place, where we saw a huge boulder. That boulder must have been at least two story tall and standing at the edge of a precipice. We were told that we have to climb this rock as Mahadevji is on the other side of Rock. Our little ascend on that rock boulder was bare footed. The rock was very rough and I could feel the rough edges piercing my foot soles. That rock was right on the ridge of the mountain, just above the famous dachigaam national park. Finally, I had the darshan of Mahadevji. It was a image of shivlingam naturally carved on the rough rock and looks quite distinct than its surroundings. It was like a smooth black/grayish marble carved on that rough rock, just above the ridge. It must be around 4 feet tall and two and half feet wide .At any given time, maximum, two to three persons can stand in front of  Mahadev as that place is cramped.The danger of falling down the precipice is very high there. It was an early morning by the time we reached there , everything looked so beautiful, scenic and divine…

After having darshan, we immediately started our journey back to leedwas. We reached leedwas in less than 2 hours. I remember from Leedwas, we could see a bus, which was moving down somewhere in valley. From that height it looked like an ant. It was already 10.00a.m, I was worried as I was given a deadline to reach home back by 10.00a.m…

From leedwas, I with my friends Sanjay and navin hurriedly descended back. we were actually running and It took us another two and half hours to reach back to Village Dara.We could not find any transportation back to the Srinagar Bus Stand as a “Harta” was called by the Muslim fundamentals in memory of  Pakistan Military Dictator Zia-ul-hak’s first death anniversary. Instead of waiting we started walking and running back to Srinagar and after 2 hours we got a lift from the truck driver. That truck dropped me midway at Nishat. From Nishat, I knew there was a short cut via the famous bundh to reach Rainawari.It was another 4-5 Kms ,before I could reach my home. Alone, walking through the bundh, my only accomplice was a big water pipe which comes from haarvan and quenches the thirst of many in Rainawari and adjoining areas. It was a hot day, My only consolation was that pipe which was icy cold and water was oozing out at some joints, those weak joints acted as my thirst quenchers. I crossed the famous 7 bridges before I reached back to my home in Rainawari. I was exhausted and tired by the time I reached my home at 5.00p.m. I don’t need to write how I faced the fiery stares of my Parents. ..

Today, my friend Sanjay Bharti is working in Mumbai and Naveen Raina in Delhi, Occasionally in touch through a phone call or e-mail .Mahadev episode pops up each time we meet as That  trip was our last in Kashmir and thus remains  one of  our most cherished trips……