Tag Archives: bedini bugyal

Roopkund : Mystery under the watery grave!

It is one of the greatest mysteries of our times. It has been chronicled so much by historians, sociologists and scientists, alike that one can find internet abuzz with the different stories and theories. Hence makes not point for me to try to tell the history, at least not more than this that lake is usually called the ‘Mystery Lake’, since centuries old human skeletons and remains of horses are found here. By most accounts, these skeletons are almost 1200 years old. But besides this, Roopkund is also one of the most fascinating treks in Uttarakhand Himalayas, so much so that it always ranks among the top 10 treks in Indian himalayas. Hence it was always in my wish list for years, that ultimately got fulfilled.

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Roopkund in this reference also becomes a mythological place and it indeed has quite religious importance for the region. This lake is located at an altitude of 5029 metres (16,499 feet) making it an high altitude himalayan lake. But lake is not big though. This area is uninhabited, surrounded by rock-strewn glaciers and snow clad mountains, making it a very popular trekking destination for both summer as well as winter treks. Area remains covered under snow for most part of the year from November to April. Even in summers, we can find glacial snow around the lake.

Trek to Roopkund might be popular but is not easy though owing to altitude as well as rough weather and tough route. Roopkund is situated in Chamoli district of Garhwal, in the lap of Trishul massif. Deep virgin forests, gurgling rivulets, breath-taking campsites and miles of surging meadows gratify the soul of adventurers. The region is dominated by Mount Trishul (7120m) and makes for another pilgrim for the faithful Lord Shiva devotees, on the walk up to the lake we camp at the Himalayan meadows of Bedni Bugyal & Ali Bugyal and cross the Roop Kund ridge which is a an extension of one between Sutol and Wan and forms the divide between the catchments of the Badni Ganga and the Nandakini River. Nanda Rajjat Yatra that takes place once every 12 years also goes to Roopkund.

Roopkund can be trekked from many routes. You can take Lohajung- Didna Village- Ali Bugyal- Ghora Lotani-Bhagwabasa-Roopkund-Bedni Bugyal-Lohajung route. Lohajung can be accessed by road easily. But its a challenging but very enjoyable trek.

Owing to its mythological and religious importance, many locals come here to pay homage to their deceased elders as well.

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The highlight of the lake are the skeletons indeed. We can find bones strewn around. Though these bones are of historical and archeological importance, but being at such a tough place, there is no way to regulate how people coming here treat these bones. The popularity over the years have drawn many adventure tourists from around the world to this place. But once here, these bones become things to play for them. In these times of selfies, many tourists pick the bones and put them at convenient place to take photographs. Weird and spooky, but that’s how it is.

But at the end, a place worth a visit for every body who loves trekking. Overlooking the Roopkund is Jura Gali pass, a high altitude pass to crossover to the other side towards the Homkund or the base of the Nanda Ghunti and Trishul peaks. Many trekkers will cross this pass after Roopkund on the lines of Rajjaat Yatra.

Ali Bugyal – Most beautiful but might be least visited meadow!

Bugyals are the meadows in the lower himalayan region- lush green, out of nowhere on the top of the mountain or on its edges, surrounded by heavy forest of pines and deodars. All of sudden tree-line ends and meadow begins. Uttarakhand has many of them in its higher reaches. Many of them are very popular and few quite obscure & less visited. Ali Bugyal perhaps lies in the later category.

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Ali Bugyal is near Didina village in Chamoli district of Uttarakhand. Said to be arguably the largest meadow in India, Ali has often remained forgotten to its nearest cousin the Bedini Bugyal, which is perhaps among the most popular meadows in India.

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Locals also say term Ali is one of the most beautiful meadows in India and having seen it, I don’t doubt this claim. It is indeed very beautiful and charming.

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Ali is very close to Bedini Bugyal. Bedini Bugyal is most popular and visited as it falls on one of the most challenging treks of Uttarakhand to Roopkund (the world famous mysterious skeleton lake). Ali is almost three kilometres from Bedini, very close indeed.

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The only drawback Ali had over Bedini is that it is off route and secondly, it doesn’t have a natural source of water as Bedini has- a big pond right on the top. There are a few streams but quite downhill.

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Ali Bugyal is said to be a skier’s paradise with vast and descent slopes. A potential yet to be explored here.

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A view of various other hitherto unexplored bugyals nearby.

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There goes another story related to fate of the Ali Bugyal. It is been said that actually all the facilities that Auli (near Joshimath) was handed over as a Ski resort were actually meant for Ali. But as both places are pronounced similarly, just a typo led everything to Auli instead of Ali. Hence Auli got developed as world famous resort and and Ali went into oblivion.

Some other images of the Ali Bugyal, its fascinating slopes and the bugyali horses-

On a clear day, Ali Bugyal, located at an altitude of about 13,000 feet gives some fascinating panoramic views of the nearby ranges and many far off places. But on any day, the view here is magical. See for yourself-

Traditional dance of Garhwal- Jhora at Waan

Jhora at WaanTraditional folk dance at Waan during Nanda Devi Rajjaat Yatra 2014. Last inhabitated village on Rajjaat route towards Bedini Bugyal, Waan is famous for its Latu temple. Latu is considered to be brother of Goddess Nanda Devi. Here onwards Latu leads the Yatra till Homkund.

The video here is of traditional ‘Jhora’ in Nanda Devi’s praise by men & women in traditional attire. Most special are women ornaments,  these ornaments also reflect their social status. Sung in local dialect, group of men first recite a couplet, which is repeated by the women folk. This can go on for hours, the flow of words and rhythm (steps as well) of dance keep on changing, but tempo remains the same.

Normally it is a slow paced dance. People keep on joining or moving out of the sequence as per their convenience. Men and women dance and move in a same circle formation but as two different groups. Men will never hold hands of women during the dance. Such ‘Jhoras’ are now a rarity, seen only in times of Yatra or big religious festivals.

Photo of the day – Peek A Boo

Nanda Ghunti peak (6309 mts) peeking from clouds as seen from Bedni Bugyal (3354 mts), a Himalayan alpine meadow in Chamoli district of Uttarakhand. Bedni Bugyal  makes the  base for trek to mysterious lake of Roopkund. From Bedni sight of Trishul peak is equally amazing!

Nanda Ghunti

Photo of the Day – The Mighty Trishul

The mighty Trishul (trident) peak (alt: 7120 mts) as seen from Bedini Bugyal (alt: 13K ft) in Uttarakhand. Trek to Roopkund and further to Shila Samudra & Homkund from here takes you right in the base of this peak. Left to Trishul is Nanda Ghunti (not seen in this picture). It is one of favorite treks in this region and challenging one too!

Trishul Peak

Photo of the day- Amazing double rainbow at 13k ft

A double rainbow as seen from Aali Bugyal at an altitude of more than 13 thousand feet in himalayan region of Uttarakhand. Aali Bugyal is just 3 kms from all popular Bedini Bugyal in Nanda Devi region of Uttarakhand Himalayas. Aali is a beautiful bugyal with a lot of yet to be explored skiing opportunities in winter. View of Nanda Ghunti and Trishul peaks from here on a clear morning is just amazing. Bedini bugyal is just 13 kms trek from nearest road head at Waan. Aali is further 3 km on the ridge. A must see place.

Double rainbow

Thousands accompany Nanda Devi on its mythical journey

Rajjaat concludes amidst enthusiasm braving tough weather

A chantoli near Roop Kund at almost 14500 ft
A chantoli near Roop Kund at almost 14500 ft

Thousands of people gave an emotional send-off to their mythical daughter Nanda Devi at Homkund at an altitude of almost 16 thousand feet right at the base of Nanda Ghunti peak (in Uttarakhand in Himalayan India), bringing to close a much awaited Nanda Devi Rajjaat Yatra which takes place in not less than 12 years. Called as Himalayan Kumbh and longest religious procession in Asia, this 290 km Yatra started from Nauti near Karnprayag in Uttarakhand on 18th August and ended at same place on morning of 7th September after customary rituals. Nanda was bid adieu at Homkund on 3rd September. Comparing to last two occasions in 1987 and 2000, number of pilgrims as well as the Chantolis (canopies) representing various goddesses in Kumaon and Garhwal region saw a manifold increase. Extending the tradition there were many more Chantolis and flags this time, including many first timers such as one from as far as Martoli region of Pithoragarh.

Nanda Devi Rajjaat Yatra 2014 at Bedini Bugyal
Nanda Devi Rajjaat Yatra 2014 at Bedini Bugyal

Whether or not to let the numbers increase in this highly sensitive zone of Himalayas is a matter to be debated and will be debated a lot in coming days owing to last year’s catastrophe in Kedarnath region and this year’s floods in Kashmir, but enthusiasm among people was something not to be missed. Yatra had many other hits and misses. New traditions were made and old ones were broken. Much was left to desire of many. Weather and rough terrain put up a stiff challenge to those who were less prepared. Indeed any trip with a strenuous trek at above 13K ft for five days on trot can’t be easy one for even regular trekkers like me. I could safely say that it was the most challenging trek I ever did in last more than 20 years.

Rough terrain and tough trek

Pilgrims queued up to go to Homkund to send off Nanda Devi towards Kailash
Pilgrims queued up to go to Homkund to send off Nanda Devi towards Kailash

Yatra had many milestones after starting from Nauti and Kansuwa. Important among them were Nandkesari where all mini Yatras coming from other parts of state converge into the main one. Next one was Waan, a village famous for its potatoes and a very important cultural centre, from where actually the Yatra moves into the high altitude zone. Then was Bedini Bugyal, said to be one of the most pristine bugyals of this part of Himalayas where people pay ritualistic homage to their ancestors at Bedini Kund. Then was the mysterious lake of Roopkund strewn around with human skeletons dating at least five centuries back. Jyura Gali (street of death) pass at the altitude of 15580 ft was the highest point of the whole trip. Across the pass, Shila Samundar was literally a sea of rocks, surrounded by snow clad peaks. That was the last camp before sending Nanda Devi to Homkund. Back down, Sutol was the again the road head and also a place known for its Pandav dance.

Nanda Devi Rajjaat Yatra festivities begin

ChowsinghaWith rains relenting a bit on Saturday (16th August 2014), the festivities of Nanda Devi Rajjaat Yatra took off with a religious fervor when mythical four-horned sheep and the Raj Chantoli (a small palanquin with Nanda Devi’s small decorated idol) of Nanda Devi reached Kansuwa village near Nauti in Uttarakhand. Kansuwa is village of descendants of erstwhile royal family (raj kunwars) who have been traditionally organizing the Nanda Devi Rajjaat. Earlier both the sheep and the Chantoli were brought to the Adi Badri temple where they were received by the Kunwars of Kansuwa represented by Dr. Rakesh Kunwar who is also the president of Nanda Devi Rajjaat Yatra organizing committee. After traditional rituals and offerings, they were taken to Nauti.

NandaDevi1Traditionally the four horned sheep leads the Yatra followed by Raj Chantoli till Homkund, where it is released towards the Kailash Mountain mythically considered to be abode of Lord Shiva. Homkund is reached after passing through Bedini Bugyal, mysterious Roopkund and a very tough Jyura Gali pass (termed as street of death). Its also believed that this sheep is borned after special prayers by Kansuwa family. Its birth anywhere in the region is considered to be the permission to hold Yatra.

 

Four horned sheep and Raj Chantoli reach Kansuwa

The Raj Chantoli is built by Rudis of Chimta village near Kansuwa.  It is brought to Adi Badri by the Rajrudia and handed over to Kunwars of Kansuwa. They take it to their village Kansuwa. On the way at a place called Madho Ghat the sheep encounters Raj Chantoli and then they go together to Kansuwa.  A gold idol of Nanda Devi is kept in the palanquin (Raj Chantoli). After being decorated whole day on Sunday, the sheep and the Raj Chantoli will be reaching Nauti on Sunday night from where Yatra will finally leave for Homkund on Monday morning at 10.45 am with hundreds of followers in tow. As per information of now, Governor of Uttarakhand Dr. Aziz Kureshi will be inaugurating the Nanda Devi Rajjaat on Monday. He will be flying to Gauchar airstrip from Dehradun and after an overnight stay will travel to Nauti by road.

AdiBadriAdi Badri is one of the Panch (five) Badris of Uttarakhand. Located 17 kms from Karnprayag on the Karnprayag-Ranikhet highway, this is actually a cluster of 16 temples believed to be built during the Guptas period.

The 20 days, 290 kms Nanda Devi Rajjaat Yatra will culminate at Nauti on 7th Septembter. This year a day as been added in the Yatra for an extrra stay at Bedini Bugyal. (Nanda Devi Rajjaat Yatra from 18th).

 

Nanda Devi Rajjat yatra from 18th August

Procession of Gods
Procession of Gods

After two years of postponement the eagerly awaited Nanda Devi Rajjat Yatra will finally take place from 18th August to 6th September this year. The Nanda Raj Jat takes place once every twelve years – the journey starts from Nauti village (Karnaprayag district of Uttarakhand state in India) accompanying a mythical four-horned sheep and Doli and all sorts of gifts for Nanda Devi, who is treated as a daughter revisiting her mother. Last Yatra happened in 2000. Hence it was originally scheduled in 2012 but was postponed due to Malmaas (one inauspicious month) in that year. Hence rescheduled to happen in 2013, again last year it was postponed due to natural catastrophe (flash floods) in Kedarnath area, which created widespread destruction and huge loss of life and property across Himalayan region. Now, if everything goes as per plan, then Yatra will bring cheers to the many.

Raj Jaat Yatra at Roopkund
Raj Jaat Yatra at Roopkund

Nanda devi – the daughter of Kings of mountains, and the consort of Lord Shiva – is the supreme spiritual goddess of the locals of Garhwal and Kumaon region. She visits her maternal dwelling in these Himalayan heights in the Bhadrapad (months of August – September) – and this festive break is celebrated by the natives. The 280 kilometres and 19 days trek starts from Nauti Village and reaches Homkund via the amazingly picturesque Bedini Bugyal, Roopkund (4501 m) and the very difficult Jyura Gali pass (4620 m), on Nandashtmi. The trek passes through some of the most beautiful and some very tricky landscapes in the area. It is said that four-horned ram is born once every twelve years, and this very ram leads the procession. People do not go beyond Homkund, from where the ram takes the gifts and disappears in the glaciers. Once the ram is released, no one looks in its direction and the procession immediately heads back home.

Yatra on the route, File Photo
Yatra on the route, File Photo

One can attend the ceremony at Nauti village and then proceed to other places of interest before joining the procession again via Wan. It is at Wan that some 300 idols and decorated chhantolis (umbrellas) are assembled and the journey continuous all the way to Homkund.

Besides, Nanda Devi (7816 mts) is also the second heighest peak in India, located in Chamoli District of Uttarakhand. The route of Yatra passes through beautiful and mysterious lakes of Roopkund & Homkund and slopes of Bedini Bugyal. Besides Yatra, this route is also considered to a trekker’s paradise for its mesmerizing natural beauty, but it is also tough and challenging. Trekkers around the world dream of going to this area. The Nanda Raj Jat passes through places, that don’t find mention in most tourist maps and well-hidden inlands. This religious trek is meant strictly for the die-hard trekkers. Simultaneously this trek presents one the prospect of exploring a real Uttarakhand – its culture, traditions, people and authentic cuisine.