For anyone living in Delhi and melting in the summer heat, this series of posts is meant especially for you.
I have been married for 6 months now, and this is my third time in Uttarakhand. I haven’t covered the entire state yet, but I am so lucky to have managed to cover most of the good parts the state has to offer. For the longest time my folks were planning this trip. Why?
Hanol, as it happens is a religious place where the entire north comes to seek blessings from Lord Mahasu (Shiva). You can say that the temple is as important as the Golden Temple in Amritsar, Lord Ganpati to all Maharashtrians or Durga Ma for Bengalis. I had heard a lot about this place from everyone and I was so excited to finally get to see the place. Usually I am not a religious person as such, but there were facts about this temple that dated back to the Pandavas with actual proof. (I am a complete Indian mythology buff, this is like a dream come true)
ROAD TO HANOL
So the plan was set. The distance from Delhi to Hanol is around 425km which lets face it is hard to cover in one day. So we decided to do a break journey…We started off on Friday morning sharp at 6am, and travelled directly to Haja, Uttarakhand which is approx 320km. There are two ways to reach the place. Either through Delhi to Dehradun highway or take the bypass through Rohini from the National Forest Reserve.
The road from Delhi to Dehradun is a longer one which easily takes around 7 hours + additional 4 hours to travel up north, so we decided to go via the Rohini route. Its a faster route with less traffic and lush green forests on the way. If you are a history person, then you will love this road trip as you cross Panipat, Kurukshetra on the way. All along we heard history about these places with one particular bit that stuck in my mind – when the driver said that the popular myth around Kurukshetra is that even now, on the battle ground where the Mahabharat yudh had taken place, if you dig into the earth, one still sees traces of blood from that era. Spooky isn’t it !
We stayed the night at Haja and started the next morning for Hanol which is approx 4 hours distance from Haja. In order to reach our destination, we crossed 3 state borders. First Haryana, then Himachal Pradesh and then finally Uttarakhand. We made a grave mistake to go via Himachal, as the road is not good at all ! We traveled uphill about 20 kms at a speed of 5 km an hour. The road was that bad. Dusty, with big stones and broken road all along, it took us close to 3 hours just to cover that bad patch. So the alternate way is to go via Chakrata which is under army surveillance, and hence nothing ever goes wrong here.
Once we were out of Himachal, the scenery all around was nothing short of paradise. Its a less explored destination even now, so most of the nature is still intact. The only good stop in between in Tiuni – which in itself is a weekend destination. Its a town at the bottom of the valley surrounded by huge mountains all around and has the famous Tons river flowing next to it. This river is special because the water comes straight from the Himalayas making it chill cold along with a terrific current.
I saw adventure seekers getting ready with rafting boats. If you have done rafting in Rishikesh, then this should be your next destination. The river is the largest tributary of the Yamuna, and interestingly carries more water than the Yamuna itself !
We stopped here for lunch. There isn’t much really, in terms to options with food, and most of the ‘restaurants’ look rather shabby but we did manage to find this one place which is easy to miss..the restaurant is on the first floor…I forgot the name, sorry…but it has an amazing view and decently good food.
I so badly wanted to go down and splash some water on my face….I could see kids jumping around and having a total awesome time by the river…but we had to get going…From here on, the entire route towards Hanol is by the river. Its trully a breathtaking view all along, lush green forests and the river by the side.
HISTORY OF HANOL
According to Hindu Mythology, Mandarth a demon used to reside in this village Hanol and gobbled one person every day. As the villagers were troubled, A devotee of Lord Shiva then asked for help and prayed to the Lord. Lord Shiva then asked Deolari Devi, a resident of the same village and a devotee of Lord Shiva to send all her four sons to Mandarth. A fierce battle happened between them which lasted a couple of days and at last, the four brothers were able to kill the demon. After a couple of years, a villager while ploughing his field found four shivlingas which were then named after the four brave sons named Botha, Pavasik, Vasik and Chalda. Since then, the villagers started worshiping Lord Shiva as Mahasu Devta here.
The temple of Botha Mahasu is the main shrine that is located in Hanol.
INTRIGUING FACTS ABOUT HANOL
–The whole area is swarming with Hanol Devta’s goats. Nobody is allowed to touch them, let alone harm them. They are free to move anywhere they like and from time to time, the devta asks devotees to donate more goats to the village in good faith.
There is something magical about them, because the last time my in laws were visiting Hanol, they somehow forgot to visit one of the four brothers temples which was on the way, and all of a sudden from nowhere a lamb appeared on the road. It blocked the way and did not allow the car to pass through. Even after continuous attempts to push him on the side, the lamb apparently held on to my MIL’s salwar and kept pulling her towards the devta’s temple. Eventually they had to turn back seek blessings, and only then could they visit the main Hanol temple. *true story*
–The temple has certain ‘gifted’ souls called Malis who get the devta in them. They talk to you about anything that you wish to ask them, about future, any problems anything. It is popularly believed that the devta himself comes into this persons soul and talks to you.
I witnessed it myself this time when the Mali started pointing out facts that were impossible for him to know of. Automatically you tend to forget science and logic and get drawn to this incredible superpower.
–An interesting thing in the temple ground is a pair of spherical rocks about one foot in diameter, which are supposed to be used by Bhim for exercise. They are really very heavy and part of fun here is to try and lift them to your shoulder and throw them back. Tradition has it that only the pure hearted can lift them up!
-A pair of giant feet are believed to be Bhims. Its believed that they spent a majority of their exile time in and around this area.
-Unlike other temples, Hanol temple is not corrupt. Period. Nobody here asks for absurd amounts of dakshina, and if at all you have sinned which will be told to you by the Mali, all you need to do is give a one rupee coin and seek blessings and accept your mistake.
STAY IN HANOL
There are two options. Either you spend the night in the temple premises or there is a guest house right outside the temple which is decent. By the time we reached Hanol, we decided we had to spend the night. My father in law had already booked the guest house, but honestly living in the temple premises is also not that bad. The last aarti in the temple happens around 10 pm and I saw close to 100-150 people, tourists who were spending the night under the clear sky.
The temple authorities have provisions for blankets for everyone, so you don’t need to worry about that as well. The only awesome thing about this is you never know which devta lamb might decide to sleep next to you. They are the most lovable, adorable little beings I met. They follow you everywhere and are so easy with humans. If you’re an animal lover, you will fall in love with the place.
The guest house honestly was shabbily kept, but the view from the place more than makes up for it. Our balcony opened up to gorgeous pine trees, beautiful hills, and a massive river flowing right below. The river was so noisy, that even with pin drop silence in the middle of the night, there was a roaring noise coming from outside.
The minute it gets dark, its pitch dark…like black…as black as it can get, and so, my husband and I decided to keep the bathroom light on. Little did we know that early morning when we would open that door we would have so many guests waiting for us there. There was a little window that was missed, and all the insects possible were crawling all over. It was quite comic as much as it was horrific when I found a big bee swimming in the toilet….but I guess that’s one of the ‘perks’ of living close to nature right? 😀
HOW TO SPEND YOUR EVENING IN HANOL
We reached Hanol around 4 pm on Saturday…and post the afternoon aarti, we had the whole evening to ourselves. We decided to explore the area. Since the river Tons flows right below the temple, a good idea is to walk down and have a good time by the river. Mind you, the force of the current is too much…so mostly people avoid going, but if you’re careful you might as well can.
By the time we started off exploring it was close to 5:30 pm and it was slowly getting dark. So we instead decided to go for a walk alongside the river and have a look around. A fun fact is that while Hanol lies on the border of Uttarakhand, one can easily cross the bridege and move over to Himachal Pradesh. On the other side of the river, is the temple of Pavasik Maharaj.
The walk is amazing. Its lush green undisturbed forests all along, and is like a portrait picture from every angle. For all you nature lovers, there is plenty of distance to cover by foot. You will see exotic birds chirping all across, colorful fruits you might have never seen before and crisp air.
WHAT WORRIED ME IN HANOL
On our way to the temple, we saw a couple of kids not more than 10-12 purposely lighting fire all along the road side. The temperature here was in early 30s, and the forest was dry, it had dry leaves and twigs all along. You all must be aware of the recent Uttarakhand fire. It seems that timber mafia is a very real thing in the area.
Even though we passed them, I wish we had stopped and put some sense into these kids. Later in the night when we went for the 10 pm aarti, at the same spot on the hill, we saw forest fire. This was the first time I ever saw something like this. It wasn’t much, but it broke my heart to see nature being destroyed purposely by humans. We sat there for an hour hoping the fire would douse but it continued all night long. The next morning when we passed the same stretch on our way back, we saw huge trees burnt to the ground, broken and the entire patch had nothing left.
I felt so guilty as that one step to stop those kids would have prevented this from happening.
Overall our day was fantastic. I felt so much at peace with myself not just because of the temple, but because of the surroundings. I think its amazing to go back close to nature from time to time. So in case any of you wish to explore an unexplored destination, Hanol can well be on your bucket list.