Goddess of Bliss: Nanda Devi

     In addition to the paradise She shares with Siva on Kailas, Parvati has her abode on a number of other mountains. As Nanda Devi, the "Goddess of Bliss," She dwells in beauty on the lovely peak of that name in the Himalayas. The highest mountain in India outside the principality of Sikkim. Nanda Devi soars in alluring curves of rock and ice to culminate in a delicate summit, poised at 25,645 feet above a ring of snow peaks that form a sanctuary protecting the Goddess from all but Her most determined admirers. The only break in their otherwise impregnable wall of rock and snow is the terrifying gorge of the Rishi Ganga, one of the sources of the sacred Ganga, named after seven sages of Hindu stories, who fled the oppression of demons to seek refuge with the Goddess before departing this world to become enshrined as seven stars in the constellation of Ursa Major. Shepherds and porters from nearby villages who venture into the area believe that they can sometimes hear the sounds of these sages--drums beating, the blare of trumpets and the eerie barking of dogs. The few foreign mountaineers who manage to penetrate the gorge, inching their way along the sides of sheer cliffs that plunge thousands of feet into the river roaring below, find themselves in a paradise of gentle meadows filled with flowers at the foot of the sacred peak, which stands like a temple in the middle of the sanctuary itself.
     Nanda Devi lies in Uttarakhand, the principal area of pilgrimage in the Indian Himalayas. Nanda Devi is a two-peaked massif, forming a 2 kilometres long high ridge, oriented east-west. The west summit is higher, and the eastern summit is called Nanda Devi East. Together the peaks are referred to as the twin peaks of the goddess Nanda. The main summit stands guarded by a barrier ring comprising some of the highest mountains in the Indian Himalayas (one of which is Nanda Devi East).The eastern summit earlier called Nanda Devi East is now also referred to as Sunanda Devi.
     This region ranks second only to Kailash and Manasarovar in the degree of its sanctity for Hindus. Closer to the lowlands and much more accessible, it is visited by many more pilgrims, who come by the tens of thousands to bathe at Gomukh, the glacial source of the Ganga, and to worship at Kedarnath and Badrinath, lofty temples of Siva and Vishnu sequestered in narrow valleys beneath the icy thrones of the Gods themselves. The region is also the favorite haunt of holy men and wandering yogis, who come to follow the example of Siva and meditate in the sharp clear air of the heights, within sight of the peaks that lead to heaven and the goal they seek.
     As the Goddess who resides on the highest mountain in the region, Nanda Devi has many shrines and temples dedicated to Her. One of the better-known ones is in the hill station of Almora, which affords one of the best views of the peak itself and the mountains that surround it. Although primarily a benevolent deity, Nanda can take on the form of Durga, the wrathful Goddess. The people of the region also view Nanda Devi as a benevolent source of life and renewal. According to ancient Hindu tales, a flood once covered the entire world. A sage named Manu was warned of the impending disaster and built a boat in which he survived. Vishnu incarnated himself as a fish and towed the craft to safety on a mountain peak. As the waters receded, Manu together with his family and the remnants of all living creatures went down the slope to repopulate the Earth. The people of Uttarakhand identify the mountain of the flood as Nanda Devi, and one local group, the Rajis, still regard the peak as the abode of their ancestors. According to one legend, the seven sages accompanied Manu and remained behind to dwell in the company of the Goddess.

Dayara Bugyal

Dayara Bugyal

Overview

     Dayara Bugyal is considered as the most beautiful high land meadow in India. Bugyal in the local language means “High Altitude Meadow”. Dayara Bugyal is situated at an elevation ranging from 10,000-12500 ft. This vast meadow is second to none in natural beauty in Uttaranchal. During winter it provides excellent & one of the best ski slopes in India spread over an area of 28 sq kms.

     The view of Himalayas from here is breathtaking. There is a small lake (Barnala Tal) in the area, and to camp by its side is a memorable event.

     The road to Dayara Bugyal branches off near Bhatwari on the Uttarkashi-Gangaotri road about 28kms from Uttarkashi. Vehicles can go up to the village of Barsu from where one has to trek a distance of about 8kms to reach Dayara. The other route is via the Raithal village which is 10kms from Bhatwari and one has to trek about 6kms to reach Dayara Bugyal from here.


Roopkund

Himalayan Mystery Lake

Overview

   

"Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature's peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop off like autumn leaves."   -John Muir

The word ‘Roopkund’ illustrates images of a beautiful frozen lake amidst snow clad mountains and rock-strewn glaciers of Himalayas. With a perfectly stunning setting of dense virgin forests, lovely campsites, endless rippling meadows, crooning brooks, pretty lakes and views of ice and snow found among the rich folklore, Roopkund is a pulsating destination for tourists and adventure enthusiasts. This high altitude glacial lake in the state of Uttarakhand is truly a natural wonder. Imagine what it would be like to climb about 5,000 metres of a snow-bathed mountain and experience the chilling shiver of your adrenaline. Adventure trekkers breathe to find a location and setting as mind-numbing as this and the location cannot get any better for beginner trekkers. 

The lake is approximately two metres deep and is frozen during most months of the year. It is during summers that the sun melts the lake and invites trekkers and pilgrims from all around the globe to the revered beauty of Himalayas. The sacred festivity of Nanda Devi Raj Jat takes place once every yearto worship the divine Goddess Nanda and throughout this stretch, pilgrims visit the region in a massive number.TheYatra is held during the months of August and September and itbegins from thevillage of Nauti near Karnaprayag and continues from Roopkund to Homkund. If you plan your trek well, you might get to participate in this traditional festival. 

Roopkund is locally called as ‘Mystery Lake’and ‘Skeletal Lake’ because of human skeletons found at the bottom of the lake. When the ice melts, the skulls from these skeletons are easily visible creating an invincible mystery in the minds of the by-standers. What is it that is so gorgeous yet so mysterious about this lake? In the year 1942, a ranger from Nanda Devi game reserve H K Madhwal, was the first person to discover these skeletons.  But the mystery of who are the people buried and why were they found in this gorgeous yet cursed lake still remains unravelled. Along with the skeletons many objects like rings, wooden artifacts, iron spearheads and leather slippers were found in this lake. There are numerable theories about these skeletons,most of them dating from to 9th Century A.D. to 19th Century A.D. 

A visit from the team of NGC led to a series of investigation from scientists across the world. The mystery continued until it was discovered that the skeletons belonged to a group of unfortunate pilgrims who were trapped in a hailstorm. Since there were no physical damage or injuries relevantly found in these skeletons, the injuries on the skulls pointed fingers at hailstones as big as cricket balls subsiding on the shelter-less pilgrims. 

This trip to Roopkund begins on your arrival to Kathgodam which is a small town in the district of Nainital. The enchanting trek that starts from Lohajhung paves way towards the River Neel Ganga or Neel Dhara that flows with tranquillity through the valleys of Kulling. The wildlife and flora of this place is immensely beautiful. MonalPheshant or MonalTragopanare the state bird of Uttarkhand and are quite commonly found in this region. Mountains goats or Bharals are also a frequent sight.  The trails of the endless dense forests of Rhododenderons, oaks and pines are covered with brown leaves welcoming trekkers to this royal Lake. 

The ageless green meadows that last for miles greet your way before gracefully merging with mountain sides. The small and big streams in the Bugyal region is a refreshing sight and you can fill your water bottles and take a relaxing bath here. Lush oak forests provide a golden pathway bewitching you to the very core. The weather changes as you gain new heights and ascent towards thin air often causing breathlessness and fatigue in trekkers. It is very necessary to slow down in such times and give enough time to get adjusted to these changes in the weather. You will soon see patches of snow coming your way close to the Lake. Towards the end of the trek, hard and slippery snow can be very consuming. During adverse conditions, you will need to carry ice-axes to cut steps in the snow especially if you are travelling with a smaller crowd. 

The enriching experience of trekking in the serenity of Himalayas will heal your senses for a very long time making it the trip of your lifetime. You will see nature’s generosity at a whole new level and appreciate every ounce of it. 

  

Summiters in Khabar Magazine

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