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Hemkund Sahib A travelogue by Manu Batra

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     Finally my final professionals were over. I took a great sigh of relief .   This time I had thought of going to Hemkund Sahib as I had heard a lot about.  I like to travel alone as it gives me more opportunity to interact with the people and to know their culture .

 

     Hemkund is a Sanskrit name derived from two meanings 'Hem' - Himalayas & "Kund", Bowl so by Hindu mythology it means a Bowl in Himalayas, where Lord Lakshman did his penance. Guru Gobind Singh in  his autobiographical poem has described it as a place deep in the Himalayas with a glacial lake and surrounded by seven peaks where in a previous incarnation he meditated and united with the master. In 1930, a Sikh soldier  Sohan Singh found Hemkund as he was trekking through this region. He connected it with the place from Guru Gobind Singh's writings.

 

     I started my journey from Rishikesh, from where Govindghat the starting point for the journey is 275 km. It was a long journey but the mesmerizing scenic beauty was awesome. On the way  we crossed several towns Srinagar , Rudraprayag, Karnaprayag, Nandprayag , Joshimath & Vishnuprayag.  As you drive deeper into the Himalayas you will follow the gorges and valleys of the mighty Ganges and its tributaries. The tributaries of the Ganges merge along the way and the towns at the confluences carry the suffix "Prayag" Sanskrit for "confluence.

 

    At around 6 in the  evening we were at Gobindghat, after a run of almost 15hours . The 13 km trek from here is along a reasonably well maintained path to the village of Gobind Dham or Ghangaria. There is another Gurudwara where pilgrims can spend the night. In addition there are a few hotels and a well-maintained campground with tents and mattresses.


    Next day early morning I started the real trek. . Horses and Pithu were there for who can not trek. It was a steep ascent and journey was grueling.   On the way there were snack shops for refreshment. The way was full of ups and downs, Ganga flowing along the hills.

 

    After a 4 hour trek we  reached Gobind Dham. After this a 5,000 ft (1,500 m) climb in 6 km of stone paved path reaches Hemkund. There are no sleeping arrangements at Hemkund and one is advised to leave by 2PM to make it back to Gobinddham by nightfall.  About 3 km from Gobinddham is the 5 km long Valley of Flowers. The Indian Government has declared this valley as a national area and all activities are now carefully regulated to preserve this valley in its pristine shape. The best months are July and August, during the monsoons. Note that during these same months, the Valley can be closed to visitors if the weather is totally inclement.

    

      Next day I trekked the remaining 6 kms, the path was really steep, the altitude was taking toll on me. The beauty was at best to smoothen and lessen my pain. Himalayan rhododendrons bloomed all around . The flowers bloom all summer long and the varieties vary as you climb.  The whole way , all through the trek one meets cooperative people. The downstream pilgrims constantly encouraged the upcoming ones and offered sweets and glucose. The gain in elevation elevated  our  soul too, no doubt! 

 

     The Hemkund peak was our constant companion playing hide and seek with us. Finally it revealed in all its glory as I reached my destination after an arduous trek of four hours. Our weirdness was gone in a whiff when we saw holy lake surrounded by seven huge snow clapped mountains, collectively known as Hemkund Mountains. the lake was fed by streams from Hathiparvat and Saptrishi peaks.


    There was grand star shaped structure of stone and masonry at edge of lake. it was the famous holy Hemkund Sahibji Gurudwara. Behind Gurdwara, in north there were snow capped peaks of Tibet.


     After having bath in the waters of chilled lake, I visited the shrine, there were thousand of pilgrims busy in there prayers and wishes. I also made certain wishes as usual, spent some time listening the Ardaaas, holy prayer.
The return trail was less tiring  especially after getting enlightened by visiting such a holy place. After getting back to Gobindghat , I made a halt, relaxed and got ready for the return journey to Rishikesh. On returning I was  tired but still had a feeling of satisfaction and enlighten of soul .


 

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