Since the Covid restrictions in Maharashtra was relaxed a bit, we 4 families together planned to take up a trip together to some place where we are safe from Covid and will get a change from the regular work from home routine. I did my little research and suggested to go to Pachmarhi which everyone agreed without a blink and that’s where it all began. We 4 families with 13 members went to Pachmarhi in second week of August which is not much preferred season to visit this hill station amidst the Satpura range in the state of madhya Pradesh. But still if you think is there any particular season that is not good to visit a hillstation…I cannot believe if there is any and we never thought this place would be so much special and beautiful than the way its mentioned in all the travel blogs that I have read on it till date. So I could not resist giving a standalone mention to one of Pachmarhi’s most daunting attractions – the Chauragarh Temple through this blog.
Located on top of the Chauragarh Peak,at an altitude of 1,330 m, the temple can be accessed after a 3.6 km ling trek. Just when you are thinking that the three-and-a-half odd kms is not really a big deal, let me just tell you that the last kilometer is basically 1,380 steps cut on the sheer rock face. So by this you can guess what we all had signed up for. We heard from people we know who had been there before about the difficulty level of the trek but these warning or stories I don’t know why gives you a solid reason to go ahead, explore and check it out for yourself if it’s really that hard to reach the Chauragarh Peak or its kind of an excuse of people who were not fit enough to reach the top. So we took this up as a challenge and all of us were ready and determined to reach the top and see for ourselves how the trek actually is. Another amazing thing I would like to mention here is that many of the members of our group were senior citizens and by God looking at them bubbling with energy determined to reach the Chauragarh Peak motivated us youngsters to not give up at all and ofcourse never to underestimate the stamina and strength of these senior citizens. Looking at them it really seemed like for them age is just a number and so it cannot define their boundaries.
You can take your car upto the Mahadeo Temple, 9 kms from Pachmarhi town. From there begins the trek to Chauragarh. For the first kilometre, you climb up and down a number of small hills till you come to the base of the main hill. See, the thing is, I daily walk around 4 km as exercise routine and I used to consider myself be a fit person as whenever given a chance to sit home and rest or go for an exhausting trek I’llalways choose the later one. We carried our own bags having the mask, sanitizer and cameras while we had asked our gypsy driver to help us carry the eatables and water for everyone since everyone of us were observing shravan somavaar ka upvas which is a kind of fast that we strictly follow to present our devotion to lord Shiva and again coincidentally Chauragarh Peak is said to be Shiva’s peak and people usually climb these four mountains and reach Chauragarh Peak to go visit the Shiva temple situated at the peak. So it was kind of amazing how the plan fell in to place such that we were able to visit the Shiva temple while we were observing the fast for lord Shiva itself. For people planning to go there, please carry your own water as there are no vendors on the way. A few tribals set up shop here and there selling gutkhas, cigarettes, chaas(buttermilk) and nimboo paani (these tribal people do stay in the valley that we can see while trekking. I am still amazed and appreciate how they climb and descend these mountains daily just to earn a livelihood).
Mid way of the trek is quite easy and not so steep and makes you believe easily that whatever mention that you’ve heard of this trek is breathtaking and difficult must be from people who are not so fit to even endure such a normal trek path but soon you’ll realize that you’ve said this all too soon…
This is when the track finally starts winding upwards. On one side of the road was an unrestricted view of the Satpura valley, most of which was covered in clouds and fog which definitely made it less scary while peeping in the valley by at the same time it was feeling as if we were there walking amidst the clouds…As you trudge on higher and higher, the scenenery begins to unfold under you. At this point of time, you begin to wonder if this view looks stunning, what would the view from top be like.
After two third of the climb was completed we came to a point where the steps had become narrow and steep making it more difficult to hold a grip and walk properly due to sudden rain and wind. As also due to the height it was becoming difficult to breath and to make it even more difficult during this COVID pandemic times we were trekking with the masks on as there were many country people crowd out there who were going to visit the chauragadh mahadev temple on the first shravan somavar of the year which is an auspicious day to worship Shiva according to Hindu mythology and coincidentally we choose the same day to go for this trek(well that was not a good idea since it made us keep the mask on and eventually made our breathing difficult as we were ascending towards the Chauragarh peak).
Due to the difficulty of the climb, not many people attempt the trek. Also since we went there on 9th August which is a peak monsoon time in India we were blessed to witness all the season in the trek duration of 4hrs as we were ascending the chauragadh peak. We were able to see a pleasant cloudy weather when we were at the base, then midway down the trek it started raining heavily which made us all drenched and the wind gushing through the ranges made us experience the winter chills and ofcourse it was followed by fog which made it difficult to see the base of the valley. As it stopped raining suddenly we could feel the warmth of the sun helping us get dried up but again due to the cloudy weather we were drenched in our own sweat( which is definitely gross but who would care about the sweat and the rain when you are enjoying the challenging trek and trying to climb 4 mountains to reach the peak of Chauragadh).
We were told that it’s quiet up there and we would only be able to hear birds chirping and panting of our own breath in the mountains as not many people visiting Pachmarhi choose to trek at this spot, taking into consideration the difficulty of the trek. But to our surprise and due to the day we choose the trek route was literally crowded with villagers and tribal people around Pachmarhi who worship Shiva and yes I could only find greedy red faced monkeys around who try to snatch your bags if you are not attentive while trekking and yes there I couldn’t hear or see any bird chirping around.
After what seemed like an endless climb, we finally reached a terrace kind of stairs which is at the neck of the hill, with one final flight of moderately high stairs (for a change) to the top. I ringing of bells were like music to our eyes making us realize that we are almost there amidst the panting and breathlessness.
The temple courtyard is stacked with thousands of trishuls, some weighing over three tons and standing nearly 5 m tall. On the occasion of Nagpanchmi and Mahashivaratri, devotees come here in droves, lugging up these heavy tridents or trishuls as offerings. These are then stuck in the ground around the temple creating a forest of trishuls. It is generally believed that the wishes of anyone who offers a trident here will be fulflled. It’s difficult by itself to motivate ourselves to complete the trek and I can’t even imagine how much dedication do these people put in to trust and believe that taking these heavy trishul up the Chauragadh peak on their feet will fulfill their wishes as blessings from lord Shiva as reward for their perseverance, dedication and worship.
There is a Shiva temple located near the tree where all the trishuls are placed as token of the people’s mannat for fulfillment of which they bring the trishul up to this peak as a token of their devotion.
It nearly took us around 2 hrs to descend back to the base where there is a cave having a Shiva linga which is kind of hidden in the cave so it is named as ‘Gupt mahadev’ (Gupt in Hindi means hidden and Mahadev is the title that has been bestowed to lord Shiva).
The overall trek took us around 5-6 hrs to complete which I think would have been even faster if it wasn’t raining so heavily at the top out there and if it had not been so crowded. It was indeed an exhaustive trek altogether but it was an amazing and overwhelming and memorable experience trekking those four mountains and reach the peak of Chauragarh… No matter how much our legs were paining due to this trek the next day given a chance to go climb this peak again for sure I’ll never hesitate to say YES… Also what I learnt while coming down that how important it is for you to keep yourself physically fit amidst the mental stress caused due to this pandemic and 24/7 kind of work from home culture.
PS: Please do let me know how you liked this blog so that it will help me to write about other wonderful place I had been to in Pachmarhi…