Tuesday, June 28, 2022

Madmaheshwar Trek

 In October 2021, when I trekked to Rudranath, the trek of Madhya Maheshwar (or Madmaheshwar) was in my mind. So I was eagerly waiting for temple to be open. The temple got opened after winters on 19th May 2022 and so we planned to have a visit to this sacred abode of Shiva and booked tickets for 27th May.

Madhyamaheshwar is situated at an elevation of about 3500 meters from sea level and is one of the Panch Kedar pilgrimage circuit, comprising five Shiva temples in the Garhwal region. The other temples in the circuit include: Kedarnath, Tungnath and Rudranath to be visited before Madhyamaheshwar and Kalpeshwar to be visited after Madhyamaheshwar. The middle (madhya) or belly part or navel (nabhi) of Shiva, is worshipped at this temple, believed to be built by the Pandava brothers.

The trek to Madmaheshwar starts from village Agtoli Dhar, which is about 26 KMs from Ukhimath. Earlier the trek used to be from Ransi vilage. Now the road has reached from Ransi till Agtoli Dhar so a trek distance of about 2 KMs got reduced. 

From Agtoli Dhar the trek is about 15 KMs one side to Madmaheshwar. Budha Madmaheshwar is on the right side of Madmaheshwar with a moderate ascend of about 2 KMs and at an elevation of about 3700 meters.

Madhmaheshwar is flanked by the snow-capped Himalayas on the right side, lush green alpine meadows on the left side and dense forest behind.

Our train to Rishikesh was late for over 4 hours and so we missed the bus to Ukhimath. We got down at Haridwar instead as better taxi options are available there. There was no bus to Ukhimath was available and hence we were at the mercy on Taxiwalas. It was heavy rush for Uttarakhand char dham and hence hotels and Taxi rates were sky rocketing.

After lot of negotiations, we got a Sumo for Ukhimath drop only at about double the cost of what we had booked in October.

In my view September and October are the best time to Visit Himalayan region. The weather is good, Sunshine is abundant, mist is at minimum level and so distance snow covered peaks are brilliantly visible.

Anyways, at around 9 AM, we were on the way to Ukhimath.

As always, we stopped briefly at Beasi, to take breakfast.

At two places police was checking the permit to visit char dham yatra. Though we were not going there but still we had to be in queue, with some difficulty we were able to explain the policemen about our travel plan and moved further.

Government had made rules that for char dham of Yamunotri, Gangotri, Kedarnath and Badrinath, the pilgrims have to take online regstration and based on allocated date only they have to travel. This rule is for Hemkund sahib as well.

This is to regulate traffic. 

The distant Himalayan shrines are very small towns with not much food and lodging facilities, hence its required to monitor the traffic.

By evening we reached a small town of Bhiri. It started raining heavily and to add to the woes, our driver announced that wiper blade, don't work and also one of the headlamps was not functioning properly. I was a bit furious and scolded him, why vehicle was not in good condition. We had to accept the situation. It was not advisable to move further in dark and rain with only one headlamp and without wiper. So we took a decent hotel at Bhiri and stayed there for night.

Sunday early morning, we took the raod and staright drove to Ransi beyond Ukhimath. At Ransi, I realized that road is there till Agtoli Dhar so we moved further. This is about one KM from Ransi. At Ransi, local people were insisting to stay there, but we moved ahead to Agtoli Dhar.

There is only one settlement at Agtoli Dhar. One small shop and the owner has arrangement to stay also. It was about 10 AM. We took Maggi as breakfast and organized our luggage to carry. Something that was no needed was left there.

So the trek to Madmaheshwar begins....

It was my fourth Kedar. Kedarnath in 2012, Tungnath in 2018, Rudranath in 2021 and now Madmaheshwar....

I was quite excited to be in holy lap of Lord Madmaheshwar.

There are a few villages on the way. The first three, Goundar, Lower Bantoli and Upper Bantoli are little bigger settlements. Further Kadara Khal, Nanu and Koon Chatti are just a few huts.

The road route is Rishikesh (Haridwar) - Rudraprayag - Ukhimath - Ransi - Agtoli Dhar. 

The trek route is Agtoli Dhar - Gaundar - Lower Bantoli - Upper Bantoi- Khadara Khal - Nanu - Koon Chatti - Madmaheshwar.

From Agtoli Dhar its about 15 KMs to Madmaheshwar and then 2 KMs to Budha Madmaheshwar.

From Agtoli Dhar till Gaundar for about 4 KMs, the trek is not that difficult. It goes up and down. I hate going down while going onwards as it means that while returning, we need to ascend again!

The route is very scenic with greenery and waterfalls. River Madhuganga, coming next from Madmaheshwar is consistently with us. Its a tributary to Mandakini.

It was bright Sunny and so things were going well. We reached Gaundar in about 2 hours and took some rest with Maggi and Buransh Juice.

Gaundar is Confluence of Madhuganga and Morkhanda rivers. Morkhanda comes from Chaukhamba mountain.

We crossed the bridge at confluence. Its a breath taking sight.

Now we were at Lower Bantoli village about a KM from Goundar. Many trekkers enroute were taking lunch here but we continued. Idea was to cover as much distance as possible till it becomes dark.

From here the steep ascend starts. Lower Bantoli to upper Bantoli, the distance is about a KM or so, but it is steep as compared to distance we covered so far. Taking intermittent rest, we pressed ourselves to the trek. From lower Bantoli till about half KM before Temple town of Madmaheshwar is continuous ascend. 

Around 3 PM we were at Khadara Khal and decided to take lunch over there and some rest as well.

Weather was taking an unpleasant turn as dark clouds were overpowering the skies. I checked my rain gear and bag cover.

Next settlement was Nanu, There was some thought to stay there, but as there was still some day left, we continued.

On the way further, I saw one snake, perhaps warming itself to Sun. There are many chameleons also throughout the route, who comes out to warm themselves in Sunlight.

As soon as I approached closer, the snake hurriedly disappeared into the stones.

A little drizzle started, I took my rain poncho and secured camera in good polythene bag. Around 6 PM, we were at Koon Chatti, which is last settlement before Madmaheshwar. The temple was still about 2.5 KMs away, darkness was descending fast and it was raining as well, so with some discussions, we decided to stay there for night.

We started the trek at around 1030 AM. If we would have started trek early; say around 7 AM or so, then by 5 PM we should have been at Temple.

One small room could best accommodate 6 people. There was no toilet and it started raining heavily.

We took our dinner there and retired for night.

Monday early morning welcomed us with bright Sun illuminating the world from east. We quickly got readied. As there was no toilet so need to get fresh in open only.

The route from here till temple is again steep ascend till about half KM before temple. The route is very beautiful with thick vegetation and forest.

Slowly we ascended the route and in about 2 hours, we were there....

With folded hands, I prayed to the lord of universe at the first glimpse of temple. The merciful lord had paved the way for us to his holy abode.

There are a few rooms available there and are taken on round robin basis. There is no choice as such. All are similar and there is no "luxury stay". Good thing is that rooms have toilet facility.

I asked the caretaker to prepare a bucket of hot water and with a good bath, I proceeded to temple nearby.

Pooja was in progress and I got blessed to be in holy presence of Lord Supreme.

There are two other smaller shrines, one for Shiva's consort Parvati and the other dedicated to Ardhanarishwara, a half-Shiva half-Parvati image. To the right of the main temple there is a small temple where the image of Saraswati, the Hindu goddess of learning, made of marble is installed in the sanctum. 

Just behind the shivalinga, there is shrine of Mother Annapurna.

I sat there inside temple for some time and then did came out to click some photographs. Then I went back to room and took a plate of maggi for my brunch.

Next to temple is a natural source of water called Gaumukh. The water from here is considered so highly sacred that even a few drops are stated to be adequate for ablution.

It was noon and temple was about to be closed. I came to know that shringar pooja was happening. I again went to temple. Only the chief priest was there doing Shringar pooja. I sat there and saw the Vigraha of Lord.

As the noon proceeded, the sky got filled with dark clouds and soon it started raining heavily. I rushed to room and stayed there till rain subsides. In evening again we took a walk around to capture moments in camera and memory.

There is also a shrine in the form of black stone dedicated to Shani Dev. Its infront of temple.

We made plan to visit Budha Nadmaheshwar next morning. Though later I realized that visiting there is better  in afternoon as the Sun in that position faces the Chaukhambha mountain and it looks heavenly. In morning the Sun is behind Chaukhambha and so views are not that good. For us because it rained in evening so ascending to Budha Madmaheshwar was possible only in morning provided, weather is good.

Budha Madmaheshwar temple is a tiny blackened shrine on the ridge, which looks straight up at the Chaukhamba Mountain peaks. It is a 2 KMs steep trek to reach there. There is also a small lake, where a full Panoramic range of Himalayas consisting of the peaks, Chaukhamba, Kedarnath etc. can be seen.

Evening aarti is amazing and not be missed. It starts at around 715 PM and continues for about 30 minutes. It was drizzling, when we reached there but found some place inside temple to be part of divine experience.

Then we took dinner and took to bed for early morning expedition to Budha Madmaheshwar.

Morning we got up at around 4 AM and quickly got ready for trek to Budha Madmaheshwar. Idea was to be there by sunrise.

Its about 2 KMs difficult ascend that took almost 2 hours for us to be there.

It was quite a flat meadow there. First I visited the shrine and worshipped the Lord, then I went to the small lake and clicked some photographs.

We were there for about a couple of hours. It was very nice and soothing experience. Sun was rising, though we could not get good view of snow clad peaks as the Sunlight was from behind. On a good weather day, evenings will provide better view here. I feel coming to Himalayas should be in Sep-Oct as weather is good nd distant peaks are clearly visible. Slowly we descended and took breakfast.

As the ascend and descend to Budha Madmaheshwar is very steep, one has to be very careful.

It was time to descend to Agtoli Dhar, 15 KMs away.

I bowed down to Lord and then we started back. Nitin was having an injury in his right feet, so he decided to take a pony, rest of us started on foot. We halted briefly at Koon chatti, where we stayed the previous night and took Buransh juice there. During winter months, the Kedarnath and Madhyamaheshwar idols are worshipped at the Omkareshwar Temple in Ukhimath. Priests at this temple, as in many other temples in the state, are from South India and at this particular temple they are called Jangamas of the Lingayat caste who hail from Karnataka. It took us almost whole day to reach Agtoli dhar. Gaundar to Agtoli Dhar was particularly quite tiresome. At Gaundar we took some rest and took Maggi and Burnash Juice. On the way, one big stone fell just a few feet infront of me on the way, courtesy some monkeys. Though with grace of Mahadev no injury happened. It was about 6 PM as we reached Agtoli Dhar. Badly tired, we took some rest and then maggi and buransh juice. Taxi rates were sky rocketing, but we had to return to Ukhimath. We had to compromise on cost as there was no option. Hotel at Ukhimath was decent and diner was good. Morning after breakfast we purchased Buransh Juice for home and took taxi for Rishikesh. Here also cost was a big factor and no negotiation happened. We had to do compromise with situation. Governments must step in to check the prices of hotels and taxi. We had booked the bus also but from Kund to Ukhimath direct road was under repair and so Buses were not coming there. I had to cancel the tickets. We took our lunch at Beasi and by around 330 PM or so, we were at Rishikesh Railway station. Train was at around 9 PM and morning we were at home, sweet home, loaded with stories and memories!


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