Considered to be one of the most difficult pilgrimages of India the Shrikhand Mahadev trek corroborates all such claims associated to it. The Shrikhand Mahadev is one of the most splendid natural edifices. It stands defiantly tall at a breathtaking altitude of approximately 5230 meters. Each year in the months of June & July, thousands of devotees visit this place.
It is considered to be a very holy place because of its association with the Hindu Lord – Shiva. Lord Shiva was considered as the greatest ascetic to have ever lived. There are myriads of stories surrounding his travels and sojourns at such treacherous, unexplored places. Shrikhand Mahadev is one such place and it is said that Lord Shiva meditated here for years. Yes his sojourns were gauged in years! He lived here along with his wife Parvati. Along the trekking route there are numerous spots that credit their existence to Goddess Parvati.
This place is also significant for its mention in the Mahabharata. It is believed that the Pandavas spent a part of their exile at Shrikhand Mahadev and the surrounding mountains. Few spots are named even after the Pandavas and have stories behind them. The rock as shown in the picture above had many inscriptions in an alien language, said to be many ‘Yugas'( ages) old.
Reaching Shrikhand Mahadev:
In order to reach Shrikhand Mahadev, one has to set base in a village called Jaun or Singhaad. These villages lie in the remotest areas of the Kullu district in Himachal Pradesh. The most prominent place nearest to Jaun is Shimla (160 kms). One can either directly hire a personal cab from Shimla to the village or switch at least three in between.
Shimla > Rampur
Rampur > Nirmand
Nirmand > Jaun
Keep in mind that the last bus from Nirmand leaves Jaun at 4:30. After that you have to hitchhike or hike. The latter can be tormenting as you have to be prepared for the bigger more significant trek.
One should not expect any luxurious facilities on this trip. The best place you could get to spend a night at will be a rest house. The people and the signboard suggest otherwise though, they deem it to be a hotel. So you can easily find a room for 300 – 400 bucks a night. The other facilities of accommodation are the tents set up by the devotees and government bodies. These tents can be found at Singaadh, which is the start point of the trek.
The Real Journey
So just to give you guys a prerequisite; we were two friends who had specially come to accomplish the trek. I had come all the way from Bangalore and my friend had come from Delhi. Throughout our bus journey from Shimla to Nirmand, we came across many curious locals. When they found out about our plans, their curiosity steeply changed into the deepest of concerns. Their talks could literally strike paranoia in us. We had been on quite a few treks before and knew that this one was a tad bit difficult. The locals exaggerated it in their own sweet ways though. Probably they were actually worried.
On reaching Jaun, we discovered to our horror that the trek was shut down because of the deaths of few devotees and inclement weather. The local police and the forest officials had barricaded the base and were not letting anyone go beyond. We were shattered by the news and had lost all hope and enthusiasm. We tried talking to officials and policemen but failed. Later, while ambling the village street in the evening we bumped into many people who empathized with us. We tried our luck and asked each one of them “Kuch ho sakta hai kya?” (Is there a way around). No one was positive except one pothead or bhangi (hashish smoker) as they call them in this part of the world.
The Roller Coaster Trek:
That guy was one of the most optimistic guy we ever met in our lives. The only issue was he was all stoned in his glory to talk about his master plan. He suggested we take an alternate route and skip the barricade. Anyways the police was supposed to leave the place in 2 days. We didn’t have time though, our flights were all booked. So we bought all the talks and plans of the ‘Bhangi.’ On initially seeing our reluctance he said that he’ll escort us to the top.
The next morning, the same guy, now in all his sobriety was waiting outside our room. Me and my friend looked at each other as if seeking each other’s approval. The smile stated that it was a yes from both ends. We packed our rucksacks and started the fugacious trek.
The trek was worth taking the risk. Though there were times when we felt like fugitives, but for most of the time we abdicated all our thoughts on seeing the marvelous scenery and on the others we were watching our steps to avoid falling in the thousands of feet deep gorges.
Although we took a different route, we merged with the main trail in a couple of hours. The stonehead turned out to be a really efficient guy as he had many known people who further had their own tents pitched at both the bases. If not for him, we would have been stranded in the village, cursing our decision to come for the pilgrimage. The last group of devotees including few senior citizens were still there and were scheduled to return the next day.
So we started our trek from the west side of Singhaad and joined the main route to reach Thachru.
The weather fluctuated throughout the trek and at times it rained precariously. There were moments when we felt the sudden chill in the air and the lack of oxygen. Although our vision was obscured by the occasional fog and mist, the views otherwise were completely out of the world and the entire experience was evocative and exhilarating.
All in all the trek to Shrikhand Mahadev is a difficult trek requiring prior experience and physical fitness. The best seasons to complete the trek is June and July though the weather is highly predictable . It is highly advisable to be thoroughly prepared for the trek and have prior information about the place during a specific time from the locals or authorities. All the adventure and risk is worthwhile nonetheless.