Retracing the Foot Steps of Pandavas
Though I had heard about this divine lake upteen times the opportunity to visit it just came suddenly as a blessing in disguise during one of my visit to Badrinath. As soon as I heard I was keenly looking forward to trek to divine lake.
Devotee takes a holy dip at Satopanth Lake.Satopanth 7005 m peak RHS in the background.
Satopanth Taal is a high altitude lake situated at an altitude of 15,100 ft below Satopanth Peak in Uttarakhand state of India popularly known as Dev Bhoomi. The lake is considered to be of religious significance to the Hindus. Holy scriptures from epics say that Pandavas after the Mahabaratha war and after paying obeisance to lord Shiva visited Badrinath – The Abode of Lord Vishnu. Later decided to attain swarga after visiting to Satopanth taal. During their Journey the Pandava brothers Left behind their souls at various places. It was the elder brother Yudhistira who attained swarga after answering Yakshas queries. It is said that Chariot sent by Indra came from Swarga to receive the Pandava brother. It is said that during Yogini Ekadashi day all three Trimurthi’s visit the Lake to take dip in the pristine and holy water of lake.
Satopanth lake is triangular a lake of serene water has a perimeter of about half a kilometer. It is about 25 Kms. from Badrinath. At 6 A.M. our jeep driver came to our hotel at Badrinath and we started for Mana. Our guide Balwant was waiting for us. After having tea at his house we started our trek.The route till Mana – The last village on Uttaranchal Border was full of Pilgrims.
Day 01 : Mana to Bandhar. Dist 13 kms.Dur 06 hrs.
After crossing river Alakananda over a metal bridge we reached Mata Mandir on left bank. We asked Mataji's blessings and moved forward. The trail was really very narrow but was not dangerous. After reaching Chamtoli we had our packed lunch that was brought from Mana.
On the Alakapuri Glacier with Nar and Narayan Peaks in the background.
The place was full of greenery and trekking was enjoyable. We could see the Vasudhara falls on the other side of Alakananda. After crossing Laxmivan we moved forward to Bandhar. Our night halt was at Bandhar which is 12 kms from Mana. Balwant cooked for us. Our porters Naveen and Kiran pitched tent for us. We enjoyed the hot dinner in the chilled weather.
Day 02 : Bandhar - Satopanth Tal 12 kms. 06 hrs.
At dawn we started from Bandhar. Our destination was Satopanth Tal. Our guide Balwant told us that it would be long and tough trek through out the day. We understood that during the day. The trail was through bolder zones. We crossed the Sahastra Dhara and the Neelkanth peak Base Camp on our way. Specifically, there was no trail, we just followed Balwant as moved forward. We saw the Alakapuri glacier, which is the source of Alakananda river. Some parts of the trekking route was so steep that we had to sit and rest for a while. We felt how tough it was for the Pandavas to cover this region. This boosted our energy to move further.
We had our lunch at Chakrateerth. Many trekkers camp here before reaching Satopanth. But we had to reach Satopanth so, we just took a lunch break here. After Chakrateerth, the trail was really dangerous. It was not only steep but also full of boulders. We had to cross a glacier covered with moraines. These parts are really risky without an experienced guide. Otherwise, one may lost his way and may get into the crevasses. After a tough trek we reached Satopanth Tal in the evening. Our porters reached before us and they made all the arrangements at Satopanth Tal. They welcomed us with hot tea which really made our tiredness vanish instantly.
Day 3 : Satopanth Taal – Swargarohini Base – Satopanth Taal.
Last night it was raining throughout the night. But we were lucky enough because clear sky and the gigantic peaks greeted us in the morning. After breakfast we started for our day trek towards Swargarohini. It was the toughest part of the whole trek. Most of the trekkers return from Satopanth Tal and very few mover forward towards the Swargarohini Ice Fall. The road was very narrow and can be compared with an edge of a sword. We reached Surya Kund without much trouble. But the most dangerous part of our trek was crossing the moraine. It was full of crevasses. Somehow we managed to reach Som-Kund. From Som-Kund we could see the Swargarohini Ice Fall more clear. We were lucky enough to get a nice view of it for a while but the weather started to deteriorate. It was getting worse and we had no provisions for night stay on the way with us. Our plan was to visit Vishnu Kund and return back to Satopanth on the same day. At that moment we had to decide whether to move forward or return. Ultimately, we decided to return as it was wise to return rather get ourselves in trouble.
Later we understood that it was a wise decision. On our way back, it started raining. We somehow, walked slowly over the moraines and then through the narrow trail. At last we returned back to Satopanth Tal which we made as our base camp for Swargarohini. It was then raining heavily. We had to confine ourselves in the tents and enjoy the rain with hot Khichri, pappad and hot tea.
Day 04 : Reserve day at Satopanth Taal.
Our Hindu mythology has a belief that Ekadashi is the most auspicious day at Satopanth Tal because the three Gods, Lord Bhramha, Lord Vishnu and Lord Shiva comes here to take a dip in the lake. It is also believed that if a person take holy dips in this lake he or she will never reborn and return to this world. We chose this day to take a holy dip in the Satopanth Tal. It was really challenging for me to take dips in the chilled water of Satopanth Tal at an altitude of 15,100 feets. But with Gods' grace I didn't have any problem. My Dada performed a whole puja on the banks of the Lake. We spent the whole day at Satopanth Tal and I enjoyed the scenic beauty over there. Tibetan crows are found here in a large number. It is also believed that if anything falls in the lake, these birds pick up those things with their beaks to keep the lake clean. It was really an amazing fact though I didn't experienced anything like that. The day at Satopanth Tal was really a life time experience. At evening it again started raining and the weather really got worst.
Day 05 : Satopanth Taal – Chamatoli. Dist 12 km Dur 06 hrs.
After three nights at Satopanth Tal, the moment arrived when we had to leave the holy lake and get back to our normal life. We realized that
it was most disappointing moment. The road felt more rough to us.
Next came the most challenging moment of our trek. The night before rained very badly and we discovered that the streams en-route were roaring with the flow of rain water. We somehow managed to trek over the terrain. As we were near to Sahashra Dhara, it started to rain. We covered ourselves in rain-coats and walked like a tired mule. We just followed our guide and porters. Visibility was too low. We kept short distance between ourselves so that we don't lose the trail. At last we reached Chamtoli Bugiyal. As per plan we camped here. Team member Sameer took the job of cook and prepared a delicious "Khichri" meal for all of us. It was our last camping of this trek. The next day we would reach Mana if everything goes right.
Day 06 : Chamotoli to Mana.
It was our last day of the trek. We were really feeling great as our trek was a grand success. All of us were safe and healthy. But our soul was still missing the ambience of Satopanth Tal and Swargarohini. A short drive brought us to Badrinath in no while we had darshan of Badri Narayan.
Vishwanath R Dugganahalli