Uttarkashi – My Spiritual Sojourn

“Faith is a beautiful concept – it makes you believe. If you believe, it exists and if you don’t, it doesn’t. There are concepts and theories even modern science cannot explain. Sometimes, all you need to do is – stop trying to find an answer and simply embrace your surroundings.” This conversation with my host set the pretext of my days ahead. I was advised to let go, keep my senses open and be receptive. Even if I were not, this is exactly what a place like Uttarkashi does in a month long stay.

The Kashi of North, Uttarkashi is a holy town situated on the banks of Bhagirathi. Most popularly known as the gateway for “Char Dham” yatra; it is a culturally significant place equally pleasant for nature and adventure lovers. Picturesque and mystical, it is a living example of Hindu mythology. During Mahabharata, Uttarkashi was called “Varnavat Gram” situated at the base of Varnavat Mountain on confluence of rivers Varuna and Asi. Whether mythology is a myth or reality – this debate can go on forever but even an atheist cannot deny the positive vibes of this hamlet such is the undeniable beauty.

How to Reach Uttarkashi

  • By Road: A direct overnight bus runs from Delhi ISBT till Uttarkashi; however, it would be a long journey. Alternatively, reach Dehradun or Rishikesh and take shared taxis or cabs till Uttarkashi.
  • By Train: The nearest railhead is Rishikesh from where one can take the motorable roads to Uttarkashi.
  • By Air: Dehradun is the nearest airport from where one can further take a taxi.

My stay in Gangori:

Hill Dew Homestay, Gangori became my home for a month. It is precisely situated at a distance of about 3-4 kms from the main town of Uttarkashi at the confluence of Assi Ganga and Bhagirathi. See details of the accommodation on Hill Dew homestay.

Waking up to the picturesque views, mandatory morning coffee in silence, hosting a group of friends, everyday bonfire nights – few captures with a glimpse into my days in Uttarkashi (Slide through)

Walking to the town

Regular shared taxis from Gangori to Uttarkashi are easily available starting early morning until dusk. However, it is best explored on foot. I often walked the distance to and from the town – my constant companions being the mountains, river, ashrams and temples on the banks of Bhagirathi. If you choose so, you will cross places of extreme importance like Ujeli, Laksheshwar from Gangori till the main town.

Some of the breathtaking views enroute.

Temples in town

Kashi Vishwanath Temple – “This Uttarkashi is one which gives salvation to living beings. Blessed are those who are fortunate to live here during the dark age of Kaliyug, which refers to the present age, in the same place where all Gods reside in their absolute form.” – Skandpurana These lines beautifully sum up the visual and spiritual retreat named “Uttarkashi” – one which will reaffirm your faith in our ancient scriptures and Vedic traditions. Dedicated to Lord Shiva, this temple is situated in the heart of the town and worth a visit. Most important and holy shrine, it is believed that Lord himself has been residing here in deep meditation in the form of a shiva-linga (leaning southwards) since ages.

Shakti temple – Facing the Kashi Vishwanath temple, the tall trident (Trishul used by Durga to kill demons) of the Shakti temple immediately catches your attention. Believed to be made of iron and copper, it can be moved by a finger; however, it won’t if tried with entire body weight. Well, try yourself.

Kandar Devta temple – This temple is situated in the middle of the town (Badahat) and considered more as an administrative office for Kandar Devta, the chief custodian of the area. He is considered to be above all local deities and no major decisions can be taken without his consent. The main temple or home is located in Sangrali. An uncanny and uniquely rare deity, it radiates beauty and extreme energy. I was privileged to witness the full glory during the annual Magh mela. Read the full story Badahat Ka Tholu – A sneak peek into Annual Magh Mela (Uttarkashi)

Ujeli – Ujeli (called constellation of sages) is a neighborhood on the north of the town where most ashrams are located (some featured below) and many still undiscovered. Owing to an off touristy season (Char Dham being closed during winters) my walks ensured silent roads mostly devoid of human habitation except the locals.

Laksheshwar – The tunnel which was built to save the Pandavas from the Lakshagraha is said to have its exit in Uttarkashi which is the modern day Laksheshwar.

Taking a walk through the banks from Ujeli to Laksheshwar

Laksheshwar Temple

Triveni Ghat temple – I walked past this temple near home often during my walks until one evening when I changed course from the main road hearing the temple bells. No words can express the divine experience.

Attending Evening aarti

Varanavat  Bimaleswar temple – Our visit to this temple happened all of a sudden on a beautiful winter afternoon. The path covered entirely with snow, it was not even visible from the road. Tall trees act like a shield to keep this temple a secret. A brief hike and with first sight of the premises shining with setting sunlight; I was transported back in time and wondered how many such jewels are hidden in the Devbhoomi.

Picture perfect frame
Making my way through the snow

A day out to Netala – The beautiful Sivananda Kutir is situated on the banks of Ganga (in the neighboring village, Netala) against breathtaking views of the majestic Himalayas. It is undoubtedly the perfect natural setting for study and practice of yoga.

Ganeshpur Shivananda ashram on the way

Volunteering at Rawada primary school – My most rewarding experience was the little time spent with the children in Rawada primary school where my hostess is the principal. Unfortunately, it was a limited span to be able to make any considerable difference; however, it was a great learning in the process – one which also left me in deep questions for our education system. In between, the carefree ways of the children reminded me of my own childhood.

Displaying the creativity of young minds
Happily striking a pose
School premises
Childhood games

Exploring Food outlets in Town

The market area in the town is buzzing with eateries and shops for a quick bite. While there was no dearth of the amazing homemade, Garhwali delicacies I enjoyed at my stay; I happened to try these two outlets:

The Food Habit – A book lover’s paradise, this place is probably the only cafe in town – the types every traveler looks for. The owner is a friendly gentleman, an avid traveler, photographer and book lover as evident with his collections at display. Grab your coffee; get yourself seated in a cozy corner and enjoy as long as you want.

The Farmhaus Cafe & Bakery is a small little German bakery right next to Auli cafe (Milk parlor opposite bus stand).

The little outlet
Enjoying Chocolate Chai with malta cake on Christmas

Experiencing the winter glory

Dayara Bugyal winter trek: In between my extended stint with solitude, I definitely did not lose the opportunity to get into some adventure mode. This is an extremely popular winter treks of the region and it is nearly impossible to imagine a lush green meadow underneath. Engulfed in a carpet of snow, it is nothing less than a paradise.

Heading to Dayara summitNew Year trek with Terrain Troopers
Credits: Terrain Troopers (Uttarakhand based touring and trekking company)

What to do with 48 hours of power outage

48 hours of power outage – sounds bad? Not if you decide to spend more time with each other away from technology. Here’s what all can be done.

Read a book in candle light
Heating water the natural way
Enjoy after effects of snowfall the next morning
Long walks in the afternoon
A leisurely brunch
Meditation in silence

Until now, the mighty Himalayas have always looked overpowering with their grandeur. It was here, they soothed me – attaining a sense of love and peace with self. As I gradually gathered layers of harsh effects of winters on my face and skin, I let go of the long rooted inner doubts, fear, and guilt from within. I did not come back as a changed person but a more balanced one 🙂

**Some images used in the article are courtesy Mr. Akhil Pant, Owner, Hill Dew Homestay and personal clicks.

The information provided is based on firsthand experience. For any further queries, feel free to leave a comment below or email. I will revert at the earliest.

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