Saturday, 13 December 2014

Kamlah Fort of Mandi

The Temple of Baba Kamlahia inside the fort
In India, the historical and ancient fort of Kamlah in Sarkaghat tehsil of Mandi District in Himachal pradesh, is unique in the sense that it has never been conquered. It is about 30 Km from Sarkaghat and is at an altitude of 6000 feet above sea level. The journey to the fort begins from river bed of Chhuighat, a steep hike of 6 Km. Another route from Dharampur is motorable. The road via Kandapattan and Marhi is also motorable.
Large Flour Grinder in the Kamlah fort
The fort was built by Hari Sen, the king of erstwhile Mandi State in 1630 AD. It was later fortified by his descendent Suraj Sen. 
The historians are of the view that Kamlah fort is a coalescence of 6 fortresses with vertical cliffs on three sides. The six forts with which Kamlah comprised were, Kamlah, Chauki, Chabra, Padampur, Shamsherpur, and Narsingpur. These forts provided defence for each other. The only vulnerable side was east, with the fortress of Padampur occupying the strategic outermost position. There was a manned outpost which always kept constant vigil. The crumbling walls of the chamber still bear the testimony to the ancient and the glorious days of the kings and the battles fought. Two large millstones of a discarded flour mill are still lying in the fort complex.
Way to Kamlah Fort
Towards the right of the fort there is a dark cave which was used as a refuge for the Queen, in times of danger. The cave is supported be a huge pillar. During an emergency the entrance of the cave was used to be blocked by boulders. To the left of the fort were the water ponds, which are now choked with thick undergrowth and the debris.

At the top of the fort there used to be a big canon to fire shells at invaders. Today there are two derelict canons lying in the fort premises. Man Singh the ruler if the nearby state called Guler, attacked the fort twice and is said to have taken it. The troops of Maharaja Ranjit Singh also fought to capture it. Raja Sansar Chand of kangra too attacked the fort number of times, but failed again and again. Since the Kamlah fort was the treasury of erstwhile state of mandi, so even the British provided help to Ranjit Singh in his bid to annex the fort.

At present there is a small temple of Baba Kamalahia, at the top of the fort. Though the fort is a protected monument, registered with the Archaeological Survey of India, there seems to be little efforts to preserve its grandeur.

The place is serene and offers a panoramic view of the beautiful mountain ranges. From the top of the fort one can see upto miles around. The view of the snow- covered Dhauladhar ranges is breathtaking.

Call of the wild- Trekking from Narkanda to Kullu

Forest Rest House at Narkanda
There are two trekking routes to Kullu from Narkanda which is 64 Km from Shimla on the Hindustan- Tibet Road. One lies in the inner Seraj valley after crossing the Jalori Pass via Luri Ani route. But the more adventurous trekkers proceed to Rampur Bushahr to negotiate the unconventional route via Bushahr pass in the outer Seraj valley.

The first lag of the trek from Rampur Bushahr to Sarahan via Arsu is a distance of 25 Km through beautiful scenery which enthralls the onlooker. Even the tortuous path up to Arsu is carpeted with lovely flowers. During the months of May and June, the carcass and scarlet clusters of sumach are ablaze among the fields. The tall pines, lofty furs and mighty deodars kiss the sky. In the fruit orchards the cherry, apricot, peach and plum blossoms are splashed against mountain slopes as if by some merry artist.

Sarahan is a spot of unalloyed natural charm cradled by enormous emerald meadows and singing streams, which give it an exotic appearance. A night’s rest at civil rest house rejuvenates the weary limbs.

This Sarahan at the outer Seraj valley of Kullu district is not to be confused with the Sarahan in Mahasu district on the upper link of the Hindustan-Tibet Road and another Sarahan on Shimla-Nahan Road in Sirmour district of Himachal Pradesh. 

This Sarahan is ensconced in the mountains of outer Seraj area of Kullu. It is not a tourist spot. One has to travel from Shimla along the Hindustan Tibet Road to the town of Rampur Bushahr and then across the raging Satluj to the Kullu district. The last lag of the journey is the large village of Nirmand up to Bagi Pul. From here the trek begins with a steady climb along a small stream.

The scenery of Sarahan casts a seductive spell on lovers of nature. It is a quite alluring place far from the maddening crowd.

A similar experience awaits the trekker beyond Sarahan en’route to the 12000 feet high Bashleo pass. A 12 Km descent takes one to Bathal, another spot of great scenic beauty. The slopes along the route are lined with fresh green foliage and the grazing grounds used by the Gujjars who tend their cattle. The sight is a tapestry of colors and gaiety against the rich background of lush green forests.

The entire route is dotted natural work of rock outcrops with multi-colored flowers peeping out along with clumps of rhododendrons. The trekkers exhilarate in negotiating hairpin bends. Crossing the Bashleo pass from the outer to inner Seraj valley is a unique experience, and its top provides a panaromic view of Pir Panjal range.

The descent of Bathad on the steep mule track is treacherous.  But the masses of blue purple, iris splashed over the hill sides, buttercups, daisies, sorrel, wild rose and a host of other flowering plants make the trek a rare pleasure. A cold bath in the Bathad rivulet is indeed refreshing.

The people of the area who seem to have few needs and therefore few worries lead a simple life. They are god- fearing, credulous and superstitious. But they are contented with their lot and are lively, good- tempered, truthful and honest. Their weather beaten faces proclaim poverty and the deplorable socio- economic state of the region.

Since food is scarce and the arable land limited, the people ward off  the danger of over- population by practicing the law of primogeniture. Hence polyandry is a social and economic necessity and the parents are reluctant to educate their children and make them work in the fields instead.

The path followed from Rampur virtually cuts one off from all that is known to be sophisticated, and it is only at Banjar at a distance of 16 Km that one finds the signs of civilization. The road becomes jeep-able and the melodious sound of the running brook and the soothing verdure provides an unforgettable sight.

Banjar is a beautiful spot nestled in the interlocked ranges of high hills. It is a good market town that caters to the needs of the sub-urban hilly area.

The visitors like to linger on here and this is what seems to happen with the weary trekkers when the grey half light of the morning flirts with them through the blinds of the cosy civil rest house. The last trek to Lrji and Aut is of 22 Km.

The Banjar-Larji is a verdant valley with Tirthen, the tributary of Beas, flowing through it. Mangalore and Bali are the flourishing villages on the way. Aut is the gateway to the Kullu valley and at every step the Beas river reveals the changing beauty of this heavenly region.

Bajaura and Bhuntar are the places of special interest between Aut and Kullu. Some 32 Km from Bhuntar, the hot springs of Manikaran are an important tourist attraction. A jeep-able road along the Parbati river leads from Bhuin forest rest house to Kasol, a place which is known as mini Isreal as number of  tourists are always found nestling there. The distance of Manikaran from Kasol is about 5 Km. Kasol is an oasis of beauty in wooded wilderness of the Parbati valley. It is a quite and a charming place ideal for those in search of tranquility. The nearby Pin Parbati range provides a delightful backdrop. For the tourists wishing to get away from the monotony of routine chores, veritable it is a veritable paradise.

The turbulent Parbati River inspires awe and only Byron is needed to capture and recapitulate its might and beauty in the words of sublime poetry. The waters of the hot springs spurt out under pressure. The rice placed in a muslin bag can be cooked in less than 20 minutes. The water which contains not sulphur or iron is famous for its healing powers.

The contour of Kullu Manali is pleasantly broken by a number of transverse ridges and mountain streams. Manali is a tourist dream. The thick log cabins piercing the sky right from the banks of Beas river and the lovely wooded walks up the Hadimba Devi temple, Vashist Kund and Jagat Sukh attract the visitors from far and wide. The soft pine scented air, lingering shadows, a thousand hues sprinkles over fluffy clouds by the setting sun can rejuvenate the sagging spirits.

The visit to Manali is incomplete without a visit to Rohtang Pass, the gateway to Lahaul and Spiti. On the way the trekkers come across undulating terrain and tiny hills. The hills are stern and their sides are furrowed with precipitous water courses. The pyramidal masses of granite rocks look formidable. From Rohalla onward the ascent is tough and perilous. But the effort is compensated by a close view of the snowy ranges which conjure up visions of the fairies smiling coyly at the viewer.

What lends special charm to Rohtang Pass is the sight of snow covered peaks towards North, vast exposures of the plains in the South and the majestic meandering Beas coning out of the Bead Kund.

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Kareri Lake- Trekking in Dharamahala

Kareri lake
The Dhauladhar Ranges of Himachal Pradesh in India, possess abundant beauty, waterfalls, lakes and thick virgin forests. The higher Ranges of Dhuladhar are mainly inhabited by the tribes known as Gaddis, or shepherds, who graze their flocks in the summer and come down to the plains in winter, when the peaks get covered with snow. The paths used by them come as handy for the trekkers, who come to explore the magic of wonderful mountains. 
The Kareri is little known lake in Dhauladhars. It is also called the Kumarwah Lake. Situated at a high altitude of 10,000 feet above sea level this shallow, fresh water lake is a trekker’s paradise in the Dhauladhar ranges. The base of the lake is visible in sahllow and clear waters as the snow feeds the waters of the lake which flows out in a small rivulet called Nyund along which the track leads to the lake.
The lake is a base camp for further trekking into the Dhauladhar ranges up to Chamba and Bharmour through the Minkiani Pass at 13944 feet and Baleni Pass at 12172 feet.

Kareri Lake is not connected by a road. It lies at a distance of about 14 Km from the Kareri village of the Gaddis from which the name of the lake has been derived. The village has an approach road from Satobri. The Satobri village is connected by a road from Forsythgang about 6 Km from Dharamsala. About 7 Km from Satobri lies a place called Gehra, from where a steep climb for 3 hours is encountered by the trekkers. The track passes through thick forests, before one reaches Kareri. There is a forest rest house which was built in 1922 by the British.

After spending a night at the village, one sets out for the lake. There is a shorter route also which cuts straight across the mountain. It is a hard climb and is a little dangerous too. The preferred longer route is easy and more enjoyable. One can see the small houses interspersed with the small stair like fields.

Half way to lake is a Lieund nullah, which could be crossed through Rope Bridge. The journey is extremely tiring and it is advisable to carry the eatables. 
The lake appears like a bowl, to be bound on three sides by high cliffs. It is surrounded by lush green meadows and has small huts in its vicinity. The lake has been reduced in size, though the water is deep at several places. The lake remains frozen from December to April in winter and the surrounding areas get covered by a thick mantle of snow.
There are small huts of the shepherds or the gaddis called Kothis on one side of the lake. They graze their flock in the adjoining pasture. On a small hillock overlooking the lake is a temple dedicated to Lord Shiva and Shakti. The trekkers have an option to bring the tents, or stay either in the temple complex or in the Kothis of the gaddis.
This lake once rivaled Khajjiar and Rewalsar in Himachal Pradesh, in beauty and picturesque surroundings, but is now lying neglected. Barring a few trekking expeditions organised by the Mountaineering Institute, there are very few visitors. The lake could be restored to its original size by removing the silt and debris from the lake.

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