India has one of the most intriguing ancient epics that is not only popular but revered to a level of godliness. Indeed, part of the epic is the story of Lord Krishna, the avataar of Lord Vishnu, gods that are worshiped by the majority of the country’s inhabitants defining themselves as Hindus. India is culturally tied to its religions very strongly and aspects of religion are intricately woven with the daily life of its masses.
The epic being the Mahabharata talks about the life of a family and of a genealogy, of rights and wrong, of morality and lack of it, and is the longest known story in the entire world. It is longer than the two classics of Homer put together, the Odyssey and the Illiad, and written in poetic form. Within the threads of the Mahabharat is also the story of the Pandavas and their ascent to the heavens. Pandav Kholi, the subject of this article and the location of our latest trek, is the area from which the Pandavas supposedly ascended to their journey to the heavens.
Read more about The Mahabharata here.
As you would have seen the trend of me picking up on trekking journeys during the rainy season, this was no different. It was August and the midst of the rainy season. Green as the eye could see and spread as far as the horizon, one lovely day we decided to visit Pandav Kholi.
We took the route to Dunagiri temple which is around 71 km away from Almora. It takes three hours to reach there by taxi. Dunagiriis famous for temple of Durga Devi on top of a hill were people come from all over the country to pay their respects and tie bell on fulfillment of their wish. Dunagiri also has its own share of enchanting stories since ancient times as early as the Vedic period and it is understood that many sages in the ancient meditated in the caves around the peaks. Dunagiri also means “twin peaks” sharing two peaks that are similar, standing at the height of just over 8000 feet. Dunagiri is one of the mountains that seems to be hidden in clouds most of the year and specially so in the monsoons.
But as we were going to visit Pandav Kholi we passed ahead after spending a few minutes. We reached kukuchhina, the last place where you can take your vehicle. From Kukuchhina you have to trek to Pandav Kholi, a short trek of 3 kms.
After climbing for about two hours through the dense jungle and catching speckled views of great Himalayas we suddenly found ourselves in a big open space of land with green grass.
A place which is an alpine hayfield, called a “bugyal” in the local language. When we laid our eyes for the first time, I cannot express my feelings through words except “Wow”. These bugyals are beautiful stretches of land and when you see one especially with the backdrop of the high mountains and the Himalayas, the experience is always one of strong enchantment.
At the bugyal, there is an ashram being maintained by a caretaker, who was kind enough to us a meal. The ashram was made by a spiritual person in the memory of Mahant Balwantgiri Maharaj, a saintly sage who lived here for some of his life.
After spending some time there, we descended down from the top to look for a place I have read of. Supposedly located at the base of the hill there is a cave which finds its description in the famous book, “Autobiography of a Yogi” by swami Yogananda.
However when we reached there it was closed by the Yogda society, who manage the cave now as an heritage and we needed to get permission first to enter that cave.
Disappointed we decided it was time to make our way back home and set on our return journey.