Deoriatal and Chopta Chandrashila Trek

Sometime in February; when the winter sun was blazing down in Bangalore; I was yearning for the mountains. I toyed between a quick drive to the Nilgiris, a couple of hours away or make way to the Himalayas for a week. I finally zeroed in on Chopta Chandrashila Trek after comparing numerous short treks like Kuari Pass; Brahmatal etc. This trek also includes a camping night by the Deoriatal and a stop at Tungnath the highest Shiva Temple. This is a far easier trek than what I have done in the past but this time around all I wanted was to spend a few days in the lap of Himalayas and not do anything touristy.Chopta Chandrashila Trek

  • Duration:5 Days ; Location: Starts in Rishikesh/Haridwar and ends at the same location
  • Highest Altitude: 13100 feet. ; Difficulty Level – Low
  • Views: Deoria Tal; Tungnath the highest Shiva Temple; 360 degree view of the mountain range of which Mt Chaukhamba is the centre point.
  • Best Time:
    • Dec-Feb: Typical Winter Trek with lots of snow
    • March-May – Spring Summer Blooms specially Rhododendrons and very pleasant weather though afternoons can be very warm
    • Sep-Nov- Autumnal Clear Sky; cool weather and clear views of the mountain ranges
  • Travel Tip: This trek can be done in shorter time like 3-4 days if you choose to drive most part of it.
  • Health Tip: Though this is an easy trek but would strongly recommend to plan your physical schedule a month in advance climbing steps; running or other cardio exercise for 30 minutes and strengthening exercise for the legs -3 days a week. The last stretch of the peak climb can be a challenge and the view from Chandrashila is spectacular. AMS can strike anyone so keep drinking water and munching pop corn to remain healthy
  • Trek Guide: I joined a group trek with Trek The Himalayas
5 days of Bliss on the Chopta Chandrashila Trek

Day 1: Driving to Sari at 6600 Feet

Drive from Rishikesh to Sari Village; distance of 200 kms covered in about 8-9 hours with generous breaks for breakfast and lunch. Until Rudraprayag; the road winds upwards along the Ganga and then Alaknanda. The view of the river winding through the mountain ranges is a breathtaking sight; something that I could watch all day and let the world go by.

Day 2 : Trekking to Deoriatal at 7800 Feet

Sari is a pretty village and the terraced cultivation fields in different shades of green make it even prettier. The steps leading to Deoriatal are right in the middle of Sari Village and a few houses have been converted to home stays for trekkers and travelers who want to experience the beauty of the mountains. After gorging on spongy Aloo Parathas we set out for Deoriatal. Though it is just about 2 kms away; but the climb is steep and may take about 1 to 2 hours. We camped by the lake in the afternoon and strolled around at sunset soaking in the sudden splash of showers.

Chopta Chandrashila Trek

Mythology: While some believe this lake is Indra Sarovar as referred in the Puranas where divine beings came to take a dip while others believe that the Pandavas passed this way and Bhim dug this lake to quench his thirst.

Day 3: Deoriatal to Chopta via Rohini Bugyal at 7800 feet

I walked along the lake in the morning in the hope of spotting Himalayan birds but all I experienced was blissful chirping. The reflection of the Chaukhamba Peak in the still waters of the lake is a picture perfect moment.Chopta Chandrashila Trek

It is the longest day of the trek in terms of distance (16kms) but this trudge through mountain sides and meadows was a relatively easy trail.Soon after breakfast we walked along the left bank of the lake towards the mountains. Within minutes of crossing the lake the entire vista opens up on either side. On the right there were different hues of green along terraced fields dotted with specks of color from the local houses and on the left snow covered Mount Chaukhamba along with a range of peaks was resplendent under the morning sun.Chopta Chandrashila Trek

Chopta Chandrashila TrekI took a short break to admire the beauty of nature and chatted up with local women who climbed up through steep tracks from nearby villages including Sari to gather firewood. Its almost a daily chore for them to keep the home fires burning, their immense capacity for hard work and physical endurance comes from the zest to overcome all difficulties. I watched in awe as they gently tip toed through the bushes wearing flat soled slippers, climbing trees in a jiffy with sarees tied tightly around their waist chopping dead leaves and branches. For the next 2 hours we walked with the views of mountains(Nanda Devi, Trishul, Nandaghunti, Kamet, Dronagiri, Chaukhamba, Kedar dome, Thalaysagar, Gangotri ranges, Jahanukut etc.) on the left.Chopta Chandrashila Trek

Around 1 pm we reached Rohini Bugyal, a vast open meadow surrounded by brightly colored rhododendron trees. The blooming season had just started in March and it was already a bright splash of colors. After rolling on the grass for a while, we slowly trudged towards our campsite which was on a meadow at the base of the mountains.

Day 4: Chopta to Tungnath-Chandrashila and back at 13000 feet

The camp site is beautiful; but sleeping on a slope is never so easy. After a night of tossing and turning; I looked forward to day break to trek up to Tungnath and Chandrashila. Tungnath is also known as Tritiya Kedar ; one of the revered Pancha Kedars and attracts many devotees during season due to its easy accessibility. The paved pathway upwards began with a gentle ascent and soon turned a bit steep. There was snow on either side and at one point I felt I was trudging through a snow field.Chopta Chandrashila TrekChopta Chandrashila Trek

After an hour; I could see the spire of the temple and it seemed to be within reach. There is something about the human mind which instantly gets energized with a destination in sight. The temple was closed but the courtyard was accessible. This is one of the temples believed to have been originally built by the Pandavas in obeisance to Lord Shiva to atone their sins of killing their kith and kin in the Kurukshetra war. We spent some time sitting around before making the climb to Chandrashila.Chopta Chandrashila TrekChopta Chandrashila Trek Deoriatal

The climb to Chandrashila (Moon Rock) is short, steep and arduous. It was about 45 mins of rigorous cardio exercise negotiating through melting snow, rocks and slush. The 360 degree panoramic views from the top are mesmerising to say the least.Chopta Chandrashila Trek

I walked along the ridge with the wind on my face and then settled myself on a rock for a few moments of quiet contemplation.  There was something ethereal about the place and am sure sunrise would have been an excellent experience though I could make it there at noon.Chopta Chandrashila Trek

Descent was easy but I took my time, measuring each step to prevent tripping and slipping. A Monal appeared on the way and disappeared as quickly before I could get to focus my camera.Chopta Chandrashila Trek

Day 5: Chopta to Rishikesh

The return journey to the plains is always one of mixed emotions. The bus ride through mountain terrains through tiny hamlets and small towns is yet another aspect of multi cultural India. Young children on their way to school waved by holding small flags and palanquins decorated with Rhododendrons (Buransh). They were celebrating the arrival of spring in the hills as the mountain sides turned a blazing riot of colors with rhododendron blooms. We made a customary stop at Dev Prayag watching over the quiet Alaknanda and the effervescent Bhagirathi merging to form the Ganga. Every time I am there, the sight of the formation of Ganga stirs a vortex of emotions as she winds down through the mountains towards the plains, flowing over rocks, stones, sand and mud to sustain life !!Chopta Chandrashila Trek

Alternative Routes for this Trek 
  1. Option 1: Combine it with trip to Kedarnath and drive up to the base of Tungnath. Trek up to Chandrashila and Tungnath in a day
  2. Option 2: Public Transport/Shared Vehicle/ Private Car
    1. Drive up to Sari; stay overnight in a hotel/homestay
    2. Trek up to Deoriatal for sunrise and descend by lunch. Drive to Chopta and stay in a hotel/homestay
    3. Trek to Tungnath/Chandrashila

 

For Other Himalayan Treks

 

 

10 Must Do’s on a Rishikesh Trip

I first visited Rishikesh as a 6 year old and have vague memories of playing by a river throwing stones and crossing a narrow hanging bridge in measured steps. Whenever I browsed through those black and white photographs in the family album I wished to go back someday to relive a part of my childhood. The days I am in a pensive mood, these sepia toned memories bubble up in my mind’s eye urging me fill in some color, extend those moments and bring them to the now. Recently, while planning a Trek to Valley of Flowers; I specifically included a Rishikesh Trip to relive the memories.Rishikesh

Travel Tips for Rishikesh Trip 

Reaching Rishikesh

Rishikesh is connected by Road, Rail and Air.

  • Fly into Jolly Grant Airport better known as Dehradun Airport. Rishikesh is about 20 kms and 30 minutes away. Pre Paid Taxi from Airport is about Rs 1200/-
  • The connections to Rishikesh are infrequent so taking a train to Haridwar about 20 kms away is a better option. There are shared autos, taxis and buses that ply between Haridwar and Rishikesh
  • Rishikesh is well connected by bus. The 242 kms from Delhi is done in about 7 hours by bus or about 5 hours by car
Stay Options in Rishikesh Trip

There is a place for every budget in Rishikesh.

  • If you are on a back packing trip or on a Trip to learn Yoga then you have plethora of options from homestays and hotels and hostels in the Tapovan area. This is close to the Yoga Classes and adventure activities
  • If you are on a Religious Trip then small hotels in Muni Ki Reti and the Ashrams in the Swargashram area or lodges near Triveni Ghat are the best option.
  • If you are looking for some quiet and luxury by the river then either staying outside Rishikesh in the hills or going beyond towards Dehradun/Haridwar is an option. Elbee Ganga View; Ganga Kinare; GMVN Ganga Resort; Yoga Resort are a few.

Local Travel in Rishikesh

  • The easiest way is to hop into a shared auto for Rs 10 per head from point to point or when the distance is longer it is Rs 20/-. Alternatively hire the complete auto by paying up for all the seats.
  • I would suggest not to hire a taxi or even drive around in Rishikesh since finding a place to park is quite a hassle and round about routes.
  • There is parking in the Swargashram side near Ram Jhula and then you can go around by foot.
  • It is worth hiring a vehicle while going out of town towards Dehradun, Neelkanth etc. Hire from the Taxi Unions in the Taxi Stands near Ram Jhula/Lakshman Jhula or in the Market/Bus Stand/Railway Station. The rates are fixed and clearly stated.

Different Flavors of Rishikesh

 

  • Watch the Ganga Aarti

The Ganga Aarti in Rishikesh was a beautiful experience. It is held in 2 locations every morning and evening ( Parmarth Niketan and Triveni Ghat). The timings change during summer and winter based on sunrise and sunset. However it is best to confirm with the locals.

Photo Story of my experience of the Ganga Aarti

  • Take a Dip in the Ganges

A dip in flowing water is refreshing. While the saying goes that a dip in the Ganges washes away the sins; I do not necessarily believe in that 🙂 much to the chagrin of ritualists. Most of the Ghats are clean in Rishikesh and have chains tied to iron poles near the steps. It is advised that people hold on to the chains since the water flows in high speed. I found Triveni Ghat and the Parmarth Ashram Ghat to be ideal for a dip. 

Long period of standing in waist deep water clears negative energy clearing the flow and absorption of positive energy in the body. The sins that we accumulate is nothing but negativity which gets neutralized. The 7 holy dips is allowing flowing water to pass over the Crown Chakra or the crucial energy centre in our body activating the rest of the Chakras ( We have 7 chakras in our body).

  • Spend some me time in the Ashrams & Join a Yoga Class

While walking along the Ganga mindfully, that one question that will cross your mind is “What is in the air of Rishikesh that attracted people from time immemorial to come and find their calling by the river here?” Almost all the Himalayan Yogis I read about had a deep connection with Rishikesh. The spiritual energy of this town seemed to have promised a path towards Nirvana for people from all walks of life.There are several ashrams that you could visit which are located in and around Rishikesh. During my short stay of 2 days; I could manage only a few. Most of them provide accommodation which cannot be booked online but can be arranged once you arrive there or in the age old way of calling/writing in. All of them have huge gardens, washrooms and free drinking water facility in case you want to catch your breath while wandering the streets of Rishikesh.

  • Sivananda Ashram: Located in Muni Ki Reti on the Main Road that leads to Ram Jhula connecting to Swargashram Area. A doctor turned sage he famously believed that Himalayas was his father and River Ganga was his mother.
  • Swargashram: The area is named after this ashram which was started by Swami Vishudanand or Kali Kambli Wala Baba (The saint with a black blanket)
  • Gita Bhavan: The Lakshmi Narayan Temple is calm and peaceful. I sat under the giant banyan tree for a while slipping into meditative sleep woken up by the footsteps of a large group who trooped in. Then stopped by the famed Gita Press near the gate browsing through their large collection of spiritual books.
  • Parmarth Niketan: Prior to the floods of 2013; Parmarth Niketan was known for the giant Shiva statue that faced the ashram on the banks of Ganga. Every evening Ganga Aarti and the devotional singing is held here.
  • Beatles Ashram: Located inside Rajaji National Park has lost its glory after the death of Mahesh Yogi; the proponent of Transcedental Meditation. The Beatles had spent considerable time in the ashram in late 1960’s. Now the ashram has a few collectibles and photos of yester years.

Yoga Classes in Rishikesh which has evolved as the Yoga Capital of the World. Most of the ashrams hold yoga classes and teaching courses. While walking down the road towards Lakshman Jhula, I found yoga classes and ayurvedic centres mushrooming all over. There were hourly Hatha Yoga classes for beginners to get a flavor of yoga as well as extended duration classes. Join a few experimental classes before deciding on which class to continue. There are different forms of yoga and go with the one that you feel comfortable and aligned with.

  • Walk along the Ghats, Cross the Jhulas and and just be

I loved the walk along Ashtapath which is a paved walk along the Ganga starting somewhere near Ganga Kinare hotel until Triveni Ghat. There are numerous benches and view point areas on the way as well as old houses and small temples. The densely forested Rajaji National Park can be seen on the other side of the river.

Ram Jhula and Lakshman Jhula are 2 suspension bridges built across the River. These are named after the mythical Ram and Lakshman to build a Ramayana Connection. It is quite an art to cross these narrow Jhulas with people, 2 wheelers, cows, horses, dogs and donkeys jostling for space. The monkeys keep jumping across 🙂 trying to prey on the unsuspecting ones visibly carrying food items. Much of the activity in Rishikesh is in and around these Jhulas which are the landmark of the town.

  • Lakshman Jhula is believed to have been installed where Lakshman had once crossed the river using jute ropes many mythical centuries ago. The current bridge was opened to public in 1930 and has been donated by the Tulshan-Jhunjhunwala familes.
  • Ram Jhula built in 1986 connecting Sivananda Ashram and Swarg Ashram is comparatively wider than Lakshman Jhula. There is an auto, taxi stand and a bustling market just near its entrance

The 2 km walk from Ram Jhula to Lakshman Jhula is mostly along the Ganga and then meets the Jonk Road near the Police Station. I walked along the river often stopping to take a look at a flowing river. There were series of buildings belonging to Swarg Ashram on the right including the small kutir where Swami Sivananda spent his early days meditating.

  • Temples around town

The story of Rishikesh is the story of Bharat Temple located very close to Triveni Ghat. This ancient temple is dedicated to Lord Vishnu and the idol was installed by Adi Shankaracharya in 8 century AD. Buddhist influence can be noticed in the temple which is true for several temples in the hills. I would definitely recommend visiting this temple.

Rishikesh Skyline is dominated by the 13 storey bright orange Tryambakeshwar Temple near Lakshman Jhula. There are numerous idols on each floor for the devout.

There are many other temples around Rishikesh and for the first time I visited Temples dedicated to Lakshman ( near Lakshman Jhula on the Tapovan side) and Shatrughan (near Ram Jhula) the brothers from another mother of Lord Ram in the mythology Ramayana. Both the temples were calm and peaceful devoid of the usual humdrum. The Hemkunt Gurudwara, Balaji Temple and the Iskcon Temple are all in a line on the main road.

  • Enjoy gorgeous views from the Cafes

The cafes in and around Lakshman Jhula on either side of the Ganga offer gorgeous views. The food is not particularly fascinating but all that can be excused for those soothing sounds of the gurgling river or watching it meander down to the plains. The best part is no one forces you to order, nor do they ask you to clear out as soon as you are done. All of them provide free wi-fi and trust me, the day will just zip by munching into a bowl of salad with a book in hand, some chatter from the neighboring tables and cups of coffee

I loved the view from Ganga Beach Cafe, Little Buddha Cafe, Ganga View Restaurant and German Bakery; 60’s Cafe Delmar or Beatles Cafe on the other side. The walk down the narrow alley in search of Beatles Cafe is worth it for the ambiance and the view of Ganga.

  • Indulge in some local food

The food in Rishikesh is no different from Haridwar or other North Indian towns; however there is a Saatvik quality in the vegetarian preparations. The street side fare is mostly lemon shikanji, fruits, chaats and kulcha chola. Most of these eateries are located in the Ram Jhula. Swarg Ashram or the Bazaar area unlike the cafes which are dominant in Laxman Jhula. The Chotiwala Restaurant in Ram Jhula offers great views of Ganga including the Ganga Aarti in Parmarth Ashram. The Thalis and other regular Indian meals are good in Chotiwala specially the Garhwali Thali and the Ras Malai.  For an upmarket exerience visit Elbee Ganga View Rooftop.

  • Take a Short Hike into the Mountains towards Nilkanth, Kunjapuri 

Nilkanth Temple dedicated to Shiva and Kunjapuri Temple dedicated to Parvati are a short day hike away. These temples can also be accessed by road.

The trek to Nilkanth Mahadev is about 11 kms. The trek route passes by the ghats along the ashrams, then moves uphill through Rajaji National Park. Alternatively, take a shared ride at Rs 130-Rs 150 to the temple through a different route. This includes to and fro as well as 2 hour waiting at the temple. The temple gets its name from Samudramanthan when Lord Shiva consumed the poison churned from the sea during the war between Devas and Asuras and his throat turned blue. The Shikhara of the temple has carvings related to Samudra Manthan. Devotees bathe in the spring before entering this revered shrine.

I could not make it to Kunjapuri but I have marked it for my subsequent visit to Rishikesh. This is the best place for gorgeous views of the mountains (Swargarohini, Chaukhamba, Gangotri) as well as a birds eye view of Rishikesh and Doon Valley. This is best visited at sunrise and ideally reach by vehicle and trek down the 10 kms until Lakshman Jhula. Shared vehicles leave for Hindola Khal village on the way to Gangotri from the Yatra Bus Stand.

  • Trip to Rajaji National Park

Rajaji National Park is spread over 800 square kms and is on the fringes of Rishikesh. It is named after renowned freedom fighter C Rajagopalachari. Though it is classified as a Tiger Reserve it is better known for the Asiatic Elephants. Infact, the elephants can be seen across the river drinking water and taking a dip in the Ganga in the summer months. It is also a bird watchers paradise in winter. The National Park is closed between 15th June and 15th November

Entry and Ticket Details 

  • Adventure Activity

Rishikesh is famous for adventure activity specially Rafting. I was there is monsoon which is off season for rafting and most adventure sports so was happy reading all the sign boards related to it. The best season for all kinds of adventure sports in Rishikesh is between March and June in the sites in Brahmapuri. Shivpuri, Kaudiyala etc. Ziplining, Bungee Jumping, Cliff Jumping etc. I found a lot of agencies in the Tapovan- Lakshman Jhula area who were offering packages for these activities.

Related Posts

Journey to Badrinath along Alaknanda River and the Pancha Prayag

The journey from Haridwar to Badrinath and Mana is one of the best mountain drives in India. This 320 kms stretch of winding mountain road which is NH58 traces the journey of Alaknanda River for nearly 200 kms until its confluence with Bhagirathi to emerge as Ganga. Several small and large mountain towns and villages show up on the way; quaint, calm and peaceful. The river is at times calm, sometimes fiery and sometimes mostly gurgling down playfully like a passionate youth wanting to conquer the world. It was hard to believe that Alaknanda or the flawless, faultless one had actually revolted in anger on that fateful day in June 2013 and swept away villages and people along the way. Pancha Prayag or the 5 confluences of Alaknanda River show up on the wayAlaknanda River

Travel Options:

It is a long journey and be positive that all will be well. It is a treacherous route in certain pockets which may lead to delays.

  • The government bus leaves around 4.30am in the morning and takes about 12-13 hours on a good day with no road blocks. Ticket about Rs 250/-
  • There are shared cabs available from 4am in the morning from Haridwar Railway Station. These go all the way up to Badrinath or sometimes until Rudraprayag/Joshimath and then avail another shared cab. Rs 500- Rs 800/-
  • Hiring a Vehicle one way can cost between Rs 7000 to Rs 10000 depending on the make and capacity and can take about 10 to 12 hours. Our driver Santosh Joshi who drives his own Bolero is highly recommended 7060841309

Haridwar: Gateway to Badrinath 

After a brief stop over in Haridwar; we set out the next day towards Valley of Flowers and Badrinath. Haridwar was crowded, chaotic and sultry but walking along the Ganga watching life unfold in myriad forms was calming in a certain way.

10 Pictures that will Inspire a Haridwar Trip

Alaknanda River-Haridwar

Rishikesh: Gateway to Himalayas

Rishikesh is about 20 kms away from Haridwar along the Ganga. Over the years; Rishikesh has attracted seekers and yogis many of whom chose to continue their yogic sadhana (practice) by establishing ashrams. Parmarth Niketan, Swargashram, Gita Ashram and Sivananda Ashram are some of the notable ashrams. The Ganga Aarti on the Ghats of the River Ganga at dawn and dusk is an experience to cherish

Photo Story of Ganga Aarti in Triveni Ghat, RishikeshAlaknanda River-Rishikesh
5 Prayags on Alaknanda River until Badrinath

Prayag means confluence. In our ancient texts; prayag is referred to as the holy confluence of rivers. The River Alaknanda merges with 6 different rivers from its origin in Alkapuri near Satopanth Glacier until Dev Prayag where it assumes the form of Ganga. Of the 6 Prayags; 5 of them are between Haridwar and Badrinath which are also known as Pancha Prayag. The 6th Prayag is a little beyond Badrinath in Mana Village.

  • DevPrayag: Alaknanda merges with Bhagirathi to become Ganga

The 94 kms from Haridwar to Dev Prayag took about 3.5 hours including a short break fast break at a road side outlet. The roads were smooth and wide and followed the course of Alaknanda through the journey. The dense green tree cover and the early morning cool breeze was refreshing. The holy confluence of the two rivers Alaknanda and Bhagirathi to form the Ganga is visible from the road above.  Bhagirathi emerges from Gaumukh and flows eastward; is often turbulent during its course until it merges with the relatively calm Alaknanda and flows down to the plain as the gushing Ganga. There is a temple down below which can be accessed by a series of steep steps.Alaknanda River-DevPrayag

  • Dhari Devi: Kali Temple in Alaknanda

The 40 km drive from Dev Prayag to Srinagar was uneventful. Srinagar (not the capital of Kashmir) is a district headquarter and is comparatively a large Himalayan settlement with the usual hustle and bustle. I was just about drifting into sleep when the driver informed us that we were approaching Dhari Devi which is about 15 kms from Srinagar. Dhari Devi is known to be the patron deity of Uttarakhand and the protector of the 4 Dhams (Kedarnath, Badrinath, Gangotri and Yamunotri). Alaknanda River-DhariDevi

It is locally believed that the Kedarnath flood and subsequent devastation occurred soon after her idol was removed from the original place to make way for a Hydro Electric Power Project. They also recount a similar situation in 1882 when a local king attempted to do the same. The temple is about 1 km down into the river basin from the highway. The upper part of an idol which is known to transform from a girl into a woman and old lady as the day progresses is housed here. The lower part is worshiped as Goddess Kali in Kalimath which is located on the way to Kedarnath.

  • Rudraprayag: Alaknanda merges with Mandakini 

Rudra Prayag is further 20 kms upstream from Dhari Devi where the Mandakini originating in Chorabari Glacier near Kedarnath merges into the Alaknanda. Though the name Mandakini signifies calm the river turns turbulent and unpredictable during monsoon washing away the adjoining roads and villages. There are quite a few landslide prone areas in this zone. Work is being carried out to cement the fragile mountain side or in certain areas contain them within metal nets but it is a project that will take decades due to the landscape. At Rudra Prayag Lord Shiva is worshiped as the Lord of Music since he imparted music lessons to Narada. We followed the bypass route so no luck seeing the actual river confluence.

  • Karnaprayag: Alaknanda merges with Pindar

Karna Prayag is about 30 kms ahead of Rudra Prayag. The road was smooth and wide. The Pindar river flows westward from Pindari Glacier near Bageshwar to merge into Alaknanda here. It appeared to be a small Himalayan town where we stopped to buy a few fruits. As the name suggests; Karna sat in deep meditation here and also worshiped Sun which bestowed him with the invincible shield that made him fearless and undefeatable in the battle field. The ancient Uma Devi Temple is located here.Alaknanda River-Karnaprayag

  • Nandprayag: Alaknanda merges with Nandakini

To be honest I had never heard of the river Nandakini until this trip. Nandakini originating from Nanda Devi also flows west ward to merge into the mighty Alaknanda at Nandprayag about 20 kms ahead of Karnaprayag. Centuries ago Raja Nanda of Yadu kingdom performed penance here and hence the name. This town was the smallest in the entire stretch along the Alaknanda on NH 58.

  • Joshimath: Home to Ancient Narasimha Temple

The 60 km stretch between Nandprayag and Joshimath passes through Gopeshwar the district head quarters of the mountainous Chamoli district. The roads were surprisingly smooth and there was swift progress building boundaries around the mountains and Alaknanda. Adi Shankara designated Joshimath as the Northern Cardinal Centre after his visit. The ancient Narasimha Temple is the winter abode for the idol of Badrinath Temple. The complete entourage of priests (Rawals) move here and spend 6 months of the year in worship at this location.

  • Vishnuprayag: Alaknanda merges with Dhauli Ganga

About 15 kms ahead of Joshimath, Dhauli Ganga river flowing down from Niti Pass merges into Alaknanda River. There is a small temple at this confluence built by Rani Ahilyabai of Indore. Mythologically Sage Narada sat in deep meditation here until Vishnu appeared and hence the name Vishnu Prayag.

  • Govindghat: Gateway to Valley of Flowers & Hemkund Sahib

About 20 kms beyond Joshimath just after Vishnu Prayag the road winds upwards towards Govindghat; the starting point for the Trek towards Valley of Flowers an UNESCO World Heritage Site and Hemkund Sahib a Sikh Pilgrimage.Alaknanda River-Govindghat

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  • Pandukeshwar: Winter Home of Kuber and Udhava

About 3 kms ahead of Govindghat is Pandukeshwar which is a small village with a dozen homes and hotels. The Yogadhyan Badri Temple is the winter home of Lord Kuber and Udhava (utsava murti of Lord Badrinarayan). The bronze idol of Lord Vishnu is in yogic meditation ( Yoga Dhyan) and is believed to have been installed by King Pandu the father of the 5 Pandava brothers in Mahabharata. Alaknanda RiverA little after Pandukeshwar towards Badrinath there is a long land slide zone. Often the road to Badrinath is closed due to slush stones and mud in this area. A road repair team is stationed in the area and are very responsive but the area is so tricky that they are at their wits end. We were lucky that the road had opened up after 2 days of bad weather.

Badrinath ~ The abode of Lord Vishnu

The drive to Badrinath was a breeze after the landslide zone. It was like a 4 lane highway in some parts thanks to the JayPee Group having a large Hydel Power Project on the Alaknanda in the vicinity. The weather was warm and dry and Badrinath was welcoming with snow white clouds descending in the form of blessings. Badrinath is one of the 4 Dhams or pilgrimages for HindusAlaknanda River=Badrinath

Mana ~ Last Village of India

Mana Village is located about 4 kms beyond Badrinath and the drive through the valley is extremely scenic. Mana is named after Mana Pass at the border of China which was the passage for sages to travel to Mount Kailash. There is a deep Mahabharata connection surrounding Mana Village. Alaknanda River descends from its source in Alkapuri near Satopanth Glacier and Lake about 25 kms beyond Mana

  • Keshavprayag ~ Confluence of Alaknanda and Saraswati

This is the first confluence of Alaknanda River with the thunderous Saraswati at Mana Village. Though Keshavprayag is not counted within the famed Pancha Prayags it is an important point in Alaknanda River’s 190 km journey through the Himalayas until Dev Prayag.Alaknanda River-Mana

Ecology Concerns

Every time, I looked outside ; I saw boards of a Hydel Power Project on the Alaknanda River. There are several ongoing and completed projects on this river basin. Power is important for us as a nation to progress as long as it is not overdone and flora, fauna, local lives are taken care of. During the devastating floods of 2013, villages and lives were flattened and washed away by the rivers and fingers pointed towards these hydel dams who released water at a go without taking cognizance of surroundings. As infrastructure improves, tourism foot falls increase leading to better income and livelihood for the locals. This is a fragile land, let not greed take over our love for nature. I hope to preserve this beautiful land for years to come; so that the future generations can experience the pulsating energy of this Dev Bhoomi in the Himalayas. I sincerely hope that the successive governments take a balanced approach for protecting our treasure.

What this journey meant to Me?

This journey had a special connection with me at different levels. I first read about all these places in the autobiographical account of Sri M in “Apprenticed to a Himalayan Master” . I was fascinated by his wanderings in the Himalayas as a seeker and search for a guru for the ultimate truth. As the car meandered along the river and large and small Himalayan towns zipped by; I had a sense of familiarity in remembrance of what I had read. Also in recent times; the Himalayan Floods of 2013 left me deeply affected since I had attempted to make this journey that year and abandoned my plans counting my blessings.

As the car rolled through the different Prayags, I wondered in my mind whether the 5 Prayags were symbolic of our 5 senses that had to be purified through the arduous journey to receive the blessings of divine Badrinath and the 6th Prayag in Mana was an added blessing for wisdom. This area in the Himalayas is called Dev Bhoomi and has attracted seers, sages and seekers over the years for its positive energy. I am blessed to have traversed the land where the great masters walked and that tiny negligible shift somewhere within is just the beginning….Alaknanda River

Food, Water and Amenities

There are dhabas all along the way for a local meal which would cost anywhere between Rs 60 to Rs 80. The towns have grocery and general stores to buy food or other knick knacks like juice and chips etc. The price charged in most cases is on MRP. I found Samrat Resort closer to Rudraprayag to be a upscale property in case you are particular about where to have food. If you tend to have mountain sickness with bouts of throwing up then eat light during the journey and keep medicine handy.Most of the dhabas have washrooms which are a flight of steps away. There are tented dry toilets too some of which may not be clean.

There are himalayan streams turned waterfalls on the way. I had my fill of Himalayan Spring water on the journey from these places. If you are particular, bottled mineral water is available but request you to bring back the bottles to the plains.

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Photo Story of Ganga Aarti in Rishikesh

After about a week of traveling in the Himalayas we reached Rishikesh. We had missed the Ganga Aarti in Haridwar on our way up and we wanted to witness the Ganga Aarti in Rishikesh. In Rishikesh it is conducted in 2 places ;

  • Triveni Ghat which is closer to the market @ 7.30pm in Summer. The timings change during winter so enquire with the hotel before visiting.
  • Parmarth Niketan Ashram that is in the Swargashram area near RamJhula @ 6.30pm in Summer. he timings change during winter so enquire with the hotel before visiting.

It is not possible to attend both on the same day since they are performed for 45 mins including hymns and it will take 20-30mins to commute from one place to anotherGanga Aarti in Rishikesh - Triveni Ghat

Significance of Ganga Aarti

If you delve deep into the rituals performed by Hindus, you will discover that most of them were originally defined in praise and gratitude for nature but transformed into blind faith over time. Any form of Arati is the process of invoking the 5 elements of nature; seeking their blessings and expressing gratitude for this life. The river Ganga is treated as a mother for it sustains life along its course from the Himalayas to the Bay of Bengal. The Ganga Aarti performed daily at dawn and dusk with ghee soaked wicks lit up as lamps accompanied by melodious bhajans is an experience to remember.Ganga Aarti in Rishikesh - Triveni Ghat

5 Elements of Nature converge during Ganga Aarti

The 5 elements of nature are invoked during any Aarti and during Ganga Aarti it is a little special

  • Water ~ Jal represented by River Ganga
  • Earth ~ Bhumi represented by the soil on which we stand; the Flowers that are offered
  • Fire   ~ Agni represented by the flames of the lamp
  • Air    ~ Vayu represented by the air around us
  • Space ~ Aakash – The Sky above; the ambiance createdGanga Aarti in Rishikesh - Triveni Ghat
Ganga Aarti at Triveni Ghat

We reached Triveni Ghat at around 7pm and all the seats along the steps were taken. However, we were lucky to find comfortable standing positions. The lamps were prepared with wicks laden with ghee (clarified butter) waiting to be lit during the ceremony.Ganga Aarti in Rishikesh - Triveni Ghat

Men in maroon kurtas and crisp white dhotis were slowly taking their position behind the stools to perform the arati. They looked pleased and honored to do this task but spoke in humble tones. Some devotees were floating lamps in the river and the small girl did it with excitement assuring her mother that she was old enough to do it independently.Ganga Aarti in Rishikesh - Triveni Ghat

The river was invoked with a prayer followed by offering the lamp in all directions accompanied by soulful renditions in praise of the River Ganga and the divine. It was a magical moment to stand by the eternally flowing river and lend my voice to the hymns in gratitude for nature.

Ganga Aarti in Rishikesh - Triveni GhatGanga Aarti in Rishikesh - Triveni GhatGanga Aarti in Rishikesh - Triveni GhatGanga Aarti in Rishikesh - Triveni Ghat Ganga Aarti in Rishikesh - Triveni Ghat Ganga Aarti in Rishikesh - Triveni Ghat Ganga Aarti in Rishikesh - Triveni GhatAt the end of the Aarti; the burning ember is passed around for everyone to take in the warmth. Some devotees sway to the bhajans and swinging in ecstasy and devotion is common in Bhakti Yoga.

Keeping Ganga Clean ; A small suggestion:

If we refer to Ganga as our mother then we definitely want her to be in good health and not choke with all the offerings, plastics and other items. At the end of the Aarti; to calls of Pushpam Samarpayami; everyone lined up to offer flowers to the flowing river. I could not; something held me back; I did not want to play my part to pollute and choke Ganga. I saw scores of people floating lamps, flowers and incense sticks just before and after the Ganga Aarti. There is a thriving economy around these flowers and lamps near the ghat; it is a mode of income for several people who eke out a living selling these. I have a few simple suggestions that would keep faith, devotion and the livelihood of the people intact as well as keep Ganga clean.

  • At the end of every worship offering of flowers to the divine as per the Sanskrit Mantra as extolled in Yajur Veda is common practice. However at the end of the aarti; it can be collected in baskets and offered symbolically instead of individuals putting it in the river
  • The lamps can be lit and left at a designated place in the ghats after a symbolic offering to the River. The Ghats can look pretty with all the lamps.
  • Have a OM designed on the ghats which can be filled with flowers and lamps every evening with all the flowers and lamps from devotees and tourists. This will make the job of the cleaning team easy.
  • The flowers can then be handed over for processing into oils and incense; the metal, terracotta and wood of the incense sticks and lamps disposed appropriately

Let us keep the Ganga; our rivers and the areas around clean and do our bit towards preserving nature and Swachh Bharat !!

Rishikesh Stay:

There are places of every budget in Rishikesh starting from Dharamshala, Ashrams to Hotels and Homestays that suit different budget

If you are looking for a secluded and comfortable place to stay then Ganga Kinare ~ Boutique Resort is recommended. It is about 20 mins walk along the Ganga Ashtapath to Triveni Ghat

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10 Pictures that will Inspire a Haridwar Trip

There is much more to Haridwar or Hardwar beyond the ancient holy religious city. It is one of the 7 holy cities for Hindus as mentioned in the ancient Puranic texts. I had a brief stop over on the way to Valley of Flowers and tried to explore as much as possible. Haridwar is also referred as Gangadwar since River Ganga touches the plains for the first time in Haridwar and flows east to merge into the Bay of Bengal. I always thought Hardwar was a colloquial form of pronouncing Haridwar choosing to use the name based on whether I was speaking in Hindi or English. This Haridwar Trip trashed that belief and gave me a whole new perspective.Haridwar Trip-Clock Tower

Haridwar or Hardwar : What’s in the Name 

Haridwar is Hari+Dwar as in the Gateway to Vishnu since Hari is another name of Vishnu. The 300 km uphill journey to Badrinath through the Himalayas starts from Haridwar.On the other hand Hardwar is Har+Dwar as in the Gateway to Shiva where Har is another name of Shiva. The 240 km uphill journey to Kedarnath through the Himalayas starts from Hardwar. Whether it is Hari or Har this city is the gateway to experience the divine Himalayas and spend blissful time in the lap of nature. Haridwar Trip-Ganga Temple

Things to Do in Haridwar:

The first image of Haridwar seems to be of a crowded religious city with narrow lanes where people are jostling for space. Partly true but there is much more for anyone wanting to experience the city through the pulsating life along the many Ganga Ghats, the superlative vegetarian food and of course watching the convergence of nature at dawn and dusk.

Ropeway Ride to Mansa Devi and Chandi Devi

These are the 2 Temples located above the nearby hills that overlook Haridwar. Leaving aside the religious sentiments the ropeway ride to atleast one of the temples is rewarded with a fantastic aerial view of the winding Ganga and Haridwar. There is an option to buy a single ticket or a combination ticket for the shrines. The combination ticket includes ropeway rides as well as a bus ride between the 2 shrines. I loved the Ropeway (Udan Khatola) ride for my date with the Devi’s who like always blessed me for a blissful journey into the Himalayas.Haridwar Trip-Mansa Devi

Walk along the Ghats 

There is a network of bridges connecting the ghats and enabling crossing the river in multiple places. There are shrines under the trees; seekers lost in their search, ascetics in trance, devout engrossed in prayer and some like me aimlessly wandering to soak in the ambiance.Haridwar Trip

There is a pulsating energy about the place that is pretty addictive that makes you want to sit by the eternally flowing river and just be. I was particularly attracted by the Ganesha painting comprising of the different names of Ganesha.Haridwar Trip

Har Pi Pauri named after Lord Shiva’s Feet is considered to be the holiest ghat where the Ganga Temple having a line in all Indian languages on its body is located. The clock tower on Malviya Dweep (Island) opposite Har Ki Pauri Ghat is a notable landmark and is synonymous with Haridwar. This set of brightly painted structures is Bholanath Ashram and stands out between the green tree cover while walking along the ghats.Haridwar Trip-Bholanath Sevashram

Sit by the Ghat and watch the 5 elements of nature converge at Dusk

The evening arati or the worship of the river Ganga is performed in “Har Ki Pauri” Ghat at around 7pm to 7.30pm. Actually, the time is not fixed and is based on when dusk sets in. I sadly missed it it since it started way too early that day given it is was cloudy. Would advise reaching early and taking a comfortable position on the bridge to see the worship.Haridwar Trip

It is an unique moment standing on earth by the river, holding the camphor lit fire in hand, breathing mindfully under the sky. We sat on the steps post the prayer as the crowds dispersed; soaking in the moment. Ganga was fast and furious that evening. The lamps ensconced in leaves were thrown off the waves in a jiffy and everyone was wary of stepping in her way. One brave man was trying to fill her in a bottle to take it home somewhere. Ganga is our eternal life force cannot be contained in a tiny bottle 🙂 What we get in a bottle is a glimpse, a feeling, a part of her choosing to remain still for ever. Haridwar Trip

Indulge in some local Kachoris, Parathas and Sweets

Dont expect some fancy restaurant in Haridwar; the food in the street side or humble outlets is simply divine; the taste lingering on the tongue for a long time. If you are okay to sit by a fan to indulge your gastronomic senses then walk down the Upper Ghat Road from Har Ki Pauri Ghat. Sample some hot pooris and Samosas from Mohanji Poori Wale or walk a little ahead to find the legendary Hoshiyarpuri opposite the Gorakhpur Mutt.Haridwar Trip - Hoshiyarpuri

The food from the 80 year old Hoshiyarpuri is deliciously Punjabi and worth the wait at peak times. The creamy lassi with an added dollop of cream is not to be missed. A few metres ahead Mathurawale is also a great option for local food. Take the steps down to the narrow lower ghat road where there are quite a few Dugdh Bhandars selling fresh sweets. I was rooted to the spot in front of one and the owner kindly allowed me to taste some in exchange of his photograph. The chilled layered Rabri was creamy sweet and was a steal for Rs 30/-Haridwar Trip - Sweets

Where to Stay:

There is a place to suit every budget in Haridwar right from Dharamshalas to upmarket hotels. I would recommend a place close to the central ghats.

An ideal one day stop over for the journey into upper Himalayas. It is hot and humid during summer and monsoon and cold during the winter months.

How to Reach:

  • Haridwar is easily accessible from Delhi and other parts of North India by bus.
  • It is also well connected by rail to different parts of India.
  • The nearest airport is Jolly Grant Airport commonly known as Dehradun Airport is about 35 kms away roughly an hours drive. It takes about Rs 1200 by taxi.
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