Tag Archives: Bhagirathi

Exploring the unexplored : Sat taal near Harsil in Gangotri valley


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Himalayas are filled with glacial lakes, actually a lot of them at various altitudes and in different sizes. All of them have their own distinct beauty. Their are many lakes which are single and many others attached to a single system. Many are mystical and a lot mythical as well. So having seen most majestic high altitude lakes in Indian Himalayas from Kashmir to Sikkim, it wasn’t a surprise at all to have heard about seven lakes known as Sat taal (सात ताल) in Gangotri valley of Uttarakhand, just above the village of Dharali. But what kept my interest was the fact that these lakes have been largely unexplored. Hence, despite very limited time to squeeze out of the hectic schedule of our Bloggers Bus trip organised by Uttarakhand Tourism Development Board (UTDB), we were off to the lakes.

Starting the trek from Dharali village on main Gangotri road

Trek was’t tough, somewhere in scale between easy to moderate. Lakes would not have been too majestic but were very interesting. Trek starts from Dharali village which is just three kilometres from Harsil on the road to Gangotri. Let’s do a photo journey to the trek.

Climbing through the Dharali village. You can see a now abandoned old house in the image below-

A view of Bandarpunch massif amidst the cloud cover as seen while trekking towards the lakes (below)

A closer look of Bandarpunch or Bandarpoonch (बंदर पूंछ) literally meaning tail of a monkey for its shape. Mythologically this reference is to Hanuman. This massif actually has three peaks- Bandarpunch-I (6316 mts) in the centre, Bandarpunch-II (6102 mts) towards west and Kalanag (6387 metres) towards north east.

Some huge rocks on the way to lakes (below). Presumably such rocks would have been used as shelter from rough weather. Tourism department now plans to develop such rocks as attractionLeaving the village behind and moving towards lakes through the forest trail (below)

Right opposite on the hills across the river Bhagirathi we can see the Mukhba village and the Ganga temple (below). This is the village, where Goddess Ganga is worshipped in the winters when the temple is Gangotri is closed.

Ganga temple at Mukhba

While right above the hill that we are climbing, we can now see snow  peaks above the tree line (below)

…and a closer look!And finally we reach the first of the lakes after almost one and half hours of trekking (below)

This is Mridunga taal (मृदंग ताल) also called locally as Madunga taal (below). It is at an altitude of 9600 ft. It is called so perhaps because the trees around the lake make a sound similar to ‘mridunga’. Though not big, but this is the most beautiful of the lakes.

The trail from first lake to the next one is slightly steep, but not tough one.

After trekking for another 15 minutes, we reach the second of the lakes. Actually, here we have two lakes close to each other. One of them has been now covered with stones and boulders rolling down from the mountains during rains and slides. This second lake is called as Dabria taal. Dabria refereed to here as stones. But the third lake is very interesting. Area wise, this is the biggest of all the lakes. But it is a lake in disguise. On the first lake, you will wonder where is the lake! As you won’t see a pool of water anywhere. What we see is a big meadow surrounded by deodar trees around. This setting will remind you of Khajjiar in Himachal Pradesh. But actually, this whole meadow rests on the lake bed. There is water beneath this green carpet (below) and as soon as you put a foot on this meadow (more towards the centre of it) you will feel the ground shaking (you can see the fellow trekkers jumping on this meadow to get that feeling of ground going up and down in the video linked at the end of the post)

This is called as Chadkia Taal and it it is at an altitude of 9918 ft. This name comes locally from this grassland based on lake water.

Looks like Khajjiar! Isn’t it!

Another two lakes are close by. Next one is the Rikh taal at an altitude of 9962 ft (below). The name Rikh comes from hindi name Reech (रीछ) for sloth bears. Presumably this area might be having a good number of sloth bears around.

The fifth lake is called as Bakria taal (below) and it is located at an altitude of 10,034 ft. It might have got its name as one of the favourite locations for cattle to graze.

These are the only lakes that can be seen. But that makes only five. We were told that other two lakes still remain unexplored and they are bit higher in the mountains. Still, legends say that there are seven lakes and hence they are called as Sat Taal. Most importantly all these seven lakes are perhaps fed with a single system. Since they are at different heights, water from the highest lake flows down to the next one and that continues. Water from the lowest one the Mridunga taal flows down to Bhagirathi river near Dharali (below). But changing weather and less snowfall has reduced these lakes into  small ponds.

Besides enjoying these lakes, this place is beautiful for trekking, hiking and may be camping. You have carpet of flowers at various places like the ones below-

You will largely see rhododendrons in red or orange colours in this region. But here you can even find rhododendron flowers in a mix of purple and while colours, like the one below-

As you go up, view keep getting better and better. This particular area is just behind the Srikanth and Draupadi Ka Danda peaks. On a clear day you can have a very clear view of these ranges while going up. But even on a cloudy day, you can have views like this to mesmerise you-

More from Bloggers Bus 1.0!

Read: Why Travelling to Yamunotri is just not a pilgrimage

Also Read: Faith sees no fear at Yamunotri 

Quick Bits: Dharali is just three kilometres from Harsil. So, though Dharali has a few hotels and guest houses, you can make Harsil as a base for the trip to the region. Trek from Dharali to Sat taal is a moderate one. A round trip will take at least three hours, depending on pit (photo) stops. You can even think of camping up in the mountains. Few operators at Dharali will arrange a camping and hiking trip for you. You can get in touch with Tourist Officer at Uttarkashi (GMVN rest house, Uttarkashi) or Sanjay Singh Pawar at Dharali (Mobile no 9410521508) for any help in this regard.

You can watch a video of all of these lakes and the trekking to them on my YouTube channel by clicking on the link below

Have you ever explored such new areas on a trek in Himalayas? Share your experiences with us in the comments section below.

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A History under a watery grave

What is now a huge reservoir for Tehri Dam in Uttarakhand In India, there not so long ago used to be Tehri town at the confluence of Bhagirathi and Bhilangana rivers. A town with hundreds of years of living history was given a watery grave for a mega hydro-electric project despite all hue and cry by activists & environmentalists. This himalayan belt is already a high-seismic activity area. A strong local movement notwithstanding against brute state power driven by strong urge to have development at any cost, Tehri town alongwith more than hundred odd villages was finally submerged in 2005. Today only history remains…

Overlooking Submerged HistoryAn account from Sursingh Dhar

http://swamiupendra.wordpress.com/2013/06/14/overlooking-submerged-history/

Overlooking submerged history

Mountains bask in glory of a fresh snowfall.
Mountains bask in glory of a fresh snowfall.

If you don’t like to be alone and secluded in hills, still would like to have some great views than Sursingdhar (close to Chamba in Garhwal region of Uttarakhand in India) is the right place to be. Dense pine forests around will still keep you away from the hustle and bustle of city life. It is a delight for your eyes. Sprawling on the hill towards the left is New Tehri town. After dusk the lights of this young town along with Bhagirathipuram (‘B Puram’ as locals call it) will give you a perfect feel of star gazing. Down further, you can see the Bhagirathi River, more as a mammoth reservoir for the Tehri Dam. Up north-east, you can have splendid view of Chaukhamba and Nanda Devi peaks. Down south you can see hills hiding Devprayag and holy shrine of Chandrabadani. And this all can be experienced just as you step out of your room in the lodge. At an altitude of 1900 metres, Sursingdhar is cool and comfortable. At the peak of winter, it might also experience some mild snowfall. Whatever the weather may be, with a view so pristine, it is an ideal place for spending some lazy afternoons, doing nothings.
Things to see and do

Sunlight finds its way through the cloud cover. A beautiful view of the valley.
Sunlight finds its way through the cloud cover. A beautiful view of the valley.

Sunrise from behind the Chaukhamba peaks is sight not to miss. White peaks turn into pink, orange and then golden yellow, worth every minute of an early morning.
Six km from the campsite is New Tehri town, fairly young and organized. It overlooks the place in the Tehri Dam reservoir where Old Tehri town was completely submerged in 2003. A history was put to rest for ever. Talk about it and you can still feel the sorrow in the eyes of those who cherished it. Memories of that fateful day are still fresh in their minds. New Tehri town has been constructed to replicate the Old historical town- the mosque, the clock tower and all, but can probably never compensate what has been lost. You can drive further 16 km to Tehri Dam via Bhagirathi Puram. Where once used to be Old Tehri town is now the spot of confluence of Bhagirathi and Bhilangna rivers. If interested one can take a prior permission from the dam and district administration authorities at New Tehri and even have a look at the functioning of the mighty dam. Otherwise just being at the side of emerald green waters of Bhagirathi is a truly refreshing. Have a walk around the lake. Cycling from the resort to the dam would be another adventure. Sooner enough there may be a chance of some water sports activity in this reservoir.

Bhagirathi Puram is a whole new township constructed to cater the needs of Tehri Dam work
Bhagirathi Puram is a whole new township constructed to cater the needs of Tehri Dam work

Just a km and a half away (back towards Tehri) from the campsite is the Sursingdhar village, just a hamlet of sort. Located there is Sursingh Temple which gives the area its name. He is a local deity. Stories say that he was a shepherd who died in his sleep while grazing his cattle at the same place. Later he appeared in dreams of his village people and started solving their problems. He was quickly turned to god and a temple was built. Temple has hundreds of bells hanging around. You can even try a 25 minute trek to the temple from the campsite.

Bells at temple of a local deity at Sursingh Dhar
Bells at temple of a local deity at Sursingh Dhar

Just on the hill back of the campsite, amidst deodar trees is Suri Devi temple. It is among the many temples in Uttarakhand which are believed to be local shaktipeeths. Temple is not big but there is place on the top which hosts some local functions and festivals. A 15 minute trek to the top is refreshing.
The campsite itself is surrounded by Kanda village. One can also enjoy walk through village and interact with them to have a hands down experience of mountain village life. There are numerous other one to three days trek available close by. Explore them with the help of local staff and villagers.

Clouds hovering over the mighty river below in the valley.
Clouds hovering over the mighty river below in the valley.

SursingDhar facts
Getting here is easy. Located at an altitude of 1900 mt, SursingDhar is 10 km from Chamba town and 6 Km from New Tehri. While coming from Chamba, take the Tehri road. Eight Km later leave the Tehri road and take a right turn. Sursingdhar is two Km from that point. Camp houses BSNL tower in its premises.
When to go: Anytime of the year. Monsoon months can be avoided as it might be very damp and will limit your activities. Even view might not be so great.
Transportation: Getting buses to Chamba from either Rishikesh or Dehradun and onwards to Tehri is quite easy. But you will need to arrange some transportation up till Sursingdhar.

Hailstorm looks as good as a snowfall
Hailstorm looks as good as a snowfall

Where to stay and eat
Himalayan Eco Lodges & Camps, SursingDhar. It has twelve rooms. Half a dozen more are due to be completed soon. There is also ample space for camping and various group activities. Besides, camp organizes various outdoor adventure activities as well, like trekking, rock-climbing, rappelling and river rafting.
Few more upcoming resorts and camps in offing.

Towering Pine trees
Towering Pine trees

 

A History under a watery grave: A photo account of the Tehri town- http://swamiupendra.wordpress.com/2013/06/15/a-history-under-a-watery-grave/