Trekkers’ delight

Churdhar holds attraction for the adventurous as well as the religious, writes Dinesh Guleria

The trek to Churdhar is challenging
The trek to Churdhar is challenging

Situated in Sirmour district of Himachal Pradesh is Chooddhar, once known as Chood-chandni, which holds attraction for its picturesque locales as well as its association with mythology. Legend has it that Bhima’s grandson Barbareek witnessed the Mahabharata war from this summit which rests at 12,000 feet above the sea level.

Being a difficult track to tread, the scenery en route turns out to be a paradise for trekkers. After a two-hour drive from Solan, one reaches Rajgarh, midpoint of the journey, famous for its terraced fields and orchards.

The next stop is Nauharadhar, the base camp for the summit of Churdhar. Small villages, terraced fields and thin streams dot the route. If luck has it that the sky is clear, the peaks of Churdhar can be sighted from here. Nauharadhar is a small hamlet with nearly 60 shops catering to the requirements of tourists.

Shiva’s idol on the summit of Churdhar
Shiva’s idol on the summit of Churdhar

It is here that the trekking tracks begin. After the steep climb during the first one-km stretch, the trek eases out into a track amid the hills. Wading through the greenery in the terraced fields, one reaches Jau ka baag, which is the last village en route to Churdhar.

Ascending the trek, one enters green forests. The forest with its scenic beauty, the chirping of the birds and cool, fresh air enlivens one with energy and enthusiasm.

After a walk of an hour and a half, one reaches Jamnalata, a lush green level ground. Engulfed by forests, the land is a gujjar settlement. The gujjars, along with their cattle, settle here in summer and move to the plains in winter.

From here, one enters a forest of deodar trees and encounters another gujjar settlement called Teesri at a height of almost 10,000 feet. The trek from Nauharadhar to Teesri takes around three-and-a-half hours.

The road hereafter is tedious and strewn with rocks. After 40 minutes of arduous trek, one reaches Bhimkhanda. The summit of Churdhar is clearly visible from here. This place also has a natural water source.

The route ahead Bhimkhanda is very rocky. Trees are scarce and the path has been carved out through huge boulders. Walking up ahead for an hour, a temple appears in sight. This temple is accessible only from May to November each year. Heavy snowfall during the remaining part of the year forces the closure of this temple.

From December to March, a layer of 20-foot snow engulfs the area hiding the temple from sight. The tea and refreshment stalls set up to cater to the tourists have to be built afresh each year.

From here, the tourists start for the Churdhar summit which is a further one-and-a-half km from there. This is accomplished only after a steep climb on a hill face. The summit is capped with a temple dedicated to Lord Shiva. In the inner precincts, there is an idol of Lord Shiva while on the outside, a Shivalinga has been installed. While being a tough trek making it a pleasure for trekkers, Churdhar’s mythological importance too holds attraction for the religious ones.

It is said that during the Mahabharata, the head of Bhima’s grandson, Barbareek, considered mighty beyond most warriors and granted a boon of invincibility from Shiva, was put by Krishna on the summit.

The legend has it that Barbareek had promised his mother that he would fight the war on the side that was weaker.

Unable to grasp the full meaning of his vow, he reached the Pandava camp in Kurukshetra. Only Krishna read between the words and understood the faux pas Barbareek had committed.

By his word, he would start fighting on the weaker side till it became more powerful than the other. Then, he would have to switch sides till that side became stronger.

Sensing Barbareek’s word and power as a threat to the Pandava camp also, Krishna in the guise of a Brahman asked for the sacrifice of his head. As the last request, Barbareek asked Krishna to show him his universal form and make his beheaded head witness the war. Thereafter, Krishna kept the head on the summit of Churdhar and granted him a boon that he would be worshipped in Kaliyuga.

A unique combination of faith and adventure, Churdhar has the potential to emerge as an important location on the tourism map.