Dehradun seems passe, Mussourrie crowded; Welcome aboard to a serene hamlet of Dhanaulti.
02.09.2011 12 °C
Situated just 66 kms from Dehradun, at a height of 2286 meters, Dhanaulti is fast emerging as a leisure destination for those seeking a quiet weekend away from the maddening crowds of Mussourie. Set within lush alpine forests of Pine, Deodar, Rhododendron and Oak we felt totally relaxed at Dhanaulti's peaceful laid-back environment.
Alighting at the Dehradun Railway early morning we haggled our way through the fleecing cab drivers, to finally make our way towards Dhanaulti. Monsoon was slowly setting in and the cool breeze brushing across our faces was very welcoming as we winded uphill towards Mussourie. We could see from way below, Mussourie, as if afloat amidst the clouds.
A look down gave us a bird eye's view of the vast expanses of the Dehradun plains.
Gradually, we passed by Mussourie and could instantly feel the rich heritage as was drove past many historic buildings soaked in its colonial glory. As it was early, we hardly faced the usual traffic snares around the narrow alleyways of Landour Cantonment and glided through comfortable.
Thereafter, we followed a steep serpentine single-lane Chamba-Tehri road passing by many sleepy villages. Clouds rose from the deep valleys below and it kept getting thicker as we scaled upwards. At one stretch near a place named Buranjkhand, we could not see beyond a few feet as we drove by in a total white-out state.
Finally, in a chilled-out state we entered scenic Dhanaulti flanked by thick deodars on both sides of the foggy road. As it was cloudy, we could not view the panoramic Himalayan range, which we were told was a sight to behold.
Stopping by in front of the eco-resort, Bamboo Huts situated amidst a forest, and maintained by the Forest Department, we approached the stand-alone reception-cum-dinning hall. The caretaker was still in slumbers as we waited through sipping a hot cup of tea. We had done prior booking at Bamboo Huts, over the phone, through the Deputy Ranger, but we were totally appalled when the caretaker finally came to inform us that as some ministers and other VIPs were coming, our booking stood cancelled.
However, at our persistent requests, the Deputy Ranger arranged our accommodation at another good hotel nearby. We realized this is how government-run resorts function or rather fails to function. Bureaucratic interference is what makes us common layman suffer unnecessarily and this is why it is best avoided.
Settling ourselves at Crown Plaza Hotel we just lazed through the day. Late afternoon, we walked to Dhanaulti's main attraction, the Eco Park set within a lush forest. There are many well-marked trails through this park providing a unique experience to the visitors.
Many large bill-boards show-casing the varied bird life around the Garhwal Himalays is very informative. Also inside the park is a stall of selling traditional woolens and other takeaway souvenirs.
Halt a While
Soaking ourselves a couple of hours inside the quiet park, we walked back to our hotel as the weather too started turning gloomy. Soon, it started pouring hard and continued all through the night.
Next morning, packing our breakfast, we made our way towards the revered Surkhanda Temple, situated about 8 kms ahead of Dhanaulti on the Chamba-Tehri Road. Our hotel vehicle dropped us at Kuddukhal, the base of the mountain from where we had to trek vertically upwards for one-and-half kilometers.
Situated at a height of 9,500 feet, it surely was a steep climb through a paved path with lots and lots of steps but was well worth all its effort, as we were mesmerized at the views from the top. As it was cloudy we could not however get to see the Himalayan peaks, but range upon range of lush mountains were a treat to our eyes.
Legend has it that Sati, wife of Lord Shiva, gave up her life due to an argument with her father Prajapati Daksha who was not ready to accept Lord Shiva as his son-in-law. Prajapati Daksha started defying Lord Shiva openly, and thereby the defying of her dear husband made Sati give up her life leaving her body. It is known how Lord Shiva danced furiously with the Sati’s dead body, and how by the Lord Krishna's Sudarshan Chakra the body was cut into various parts. It is believed that Sati’s head (Sur meaning Head in Hindi/Sanskrit) fell at the spot where the shakti-peeth of Surkhanda Devi stands today.
Drummer & his Beats
As we were approaching the final climb towards the temple, we could clearly hear drum beats at a distance. Suddenly, to our amazement a few of the local ladies accompanying us alongside, started screaming out loud and rushed upwards as being drawn by a magnet. There congregated near the drummer and in a state of trance danced wildly to the beats.
On being asked, one local lad said that "Devi Mata gets inside their body and they go into a trance and swing wildly". After some moments of celestial ecstasy, screaming, they move inside the holy shrine and after bowing their heads in the revered shrine they became normal again. We could realized how devoted these locals are to the 'Holy Mother' though it surely was an experience which we would surely remember for long.
Bowing our heads in the inner sanctum of the shrine, we prayed to the mother from the bottom of our hearts. Feeling blessed, we spend over an hour outside the temple simply gazing at the scenic rolling valleys below in silence. Thereafter, accompanied by a light drizzle, we made our way back to Dhanaulti.
Next day, late morning the Manager of Dhanaulti Crown Plaza, Mr Gajendra dropped us back to Mussourie and on the way he said, "in winter Dhanaulti is an all snowy affair, do come back to enjoy the snow."
Dhanaulti truly turned out to be one uncrowded offbeat serene destination, which I'm sure we would like to be back again.