Lakshman Temple, Lokpal Lake at Hemkund

It was many generations before the Sikh community was introduced to Hemkund Sahib, was worshiped by the local Bhotia and Gharwali community who lives in the border area of India and Tibet and nearby villages of Joshimath use to come and pay their respect to the Lokpal or Lakshman the younger brother of Lord Ram , it is believed that in his previous birth as Shesnag meditated in the lake here

 

Lokpal Temple or Laxman Temple at Hemkund

Lokpal Temple or Laxman Temple at Hemkund

Situated  at an altitude of 4329 mts, (14,200 ft) in the Garhwal Himalayas , on the banks of a glacier lake, surrounded by several towering pinnacles of snow, reflected in its clear water. Surrounded  by the ‘Saptashringa’ Peaks (seven snow-clad peaks, including the Hathi Parvat), also called Hemkund Parvat, the lake mirrors its surroundings on the crystal-clear waters. It is the source of the Hem Ganga stream that merges with the Pushpawati stream flowing from the Valley of Flowers at village Ghangharia (Gobind Dham). From here onwards the river is called Laxman Ganga. This valley had been earlier known to the local residents as the Bhyundar Valley . This places is accessible from Gobind Ghat ( 20 km from Joshimath on Sri Badrinath Highway) a trek of 13 km up hill steep climb or helicopter a 7 minute flight to Ghangharia and the 6 km trek by Palki , mules, or in basket carried by porter on his back.

One can reach this place from the month of May till October

Lokpal Lake , Hemkund Lake

Lokpal Lake , Hemkund Lake

 

The stories about this place have mentions in Puranas (ancient books of Indian mythology) and the Hindu epics (the Mahabharata and the Ramayana). The sanctity of Lokpal is attributable to tales of Lakshman, (brother of Lord Rama) Goddess Durga, the Pandavas and some Rishis as well. Lakshman is said to have meditated or done penance here . In a popular story, Lakshman was brought to the shore of Lokpal after being mortally wounded in battle with Meghnad .

Another story related to Lakshman is , during a previous incarnation as a seven -headed serpent meditated under the water at Lokpal and lord Vishnu slept on his back. In a variation of the same theme, the snake was called Shesh Nag,  its tail was wrapped around the base of the mountain.

In a third legend, it is said that during Sat Yug, (the first of four ages according to Hindu mythology), fierce demons called ‘Dhents’  were terrorizing humans and gods. The goddess Durga was engaged in battle with the demons Bel and Subel , she had to flee and take refuge in the mountains. There, she approached a great Rishi who was meditating, seated on a lion skin. When Durga asked for his help, he told her to hide near him. The demons came the Rishi said that ” the mother of all, had come to him and it his duty to protect her”. The demons were infuriated , they were about to attack him , the Rishi said he and his disciples do not kill any one but he will  create a Khattri ( Warior) to kill them all ,  he got up and shook the lion skin , from the dust of lion skin there emerged a shakti (power) in the form of a strong Khattri (warrior) youth clad in lion skins and carrying a sword. The Rishi commanded the youth to kill the demons . When the youth had destroyed all the demons, the goddess appeared before him and gave him a sword with the blessing that he would henceforth be known as Dusht Daman, the ‘destroyer of evil’ since he came from the skin (khal) of a lion, he would also earn renown as Khalsa. The goddess departed after telling the youth that he would be given a mission to fight like a lion (Singh) in a later incarnation as a human being and for that he would create the Khalsa ( ‘The Pure).  The Rishi mentioned above is also known with references in various holy scriptures as Samundh Rishi, Rishi Medhasa, Rishi Bishala,  and Asan Rishi , the story of Dusht Daman’s battle is recorded in the Brahma Purana and some of the characters and events also resemble those in the Markandeya Purana, referred to in the Dasam Granth ( the Sikh Holy Book) References to Lokpal and Sapatsring also appear in the Skandha Purana.

Camps at Ghangharia

Camps at Ghangharia


Lokpal also reputed to be an ancient place of pilgrimage for the Tibetan people.  The local Garhwali people have followed a tradition of visiting the temple on the shore of the lake on three annual festivals held during the summer season: Rakshabandhan, Janam Ashtami, and Durga Ashtami ( Nanda Ashtami) The sacred journey was made primarily by women, both Garhwali villagers from the valley below Lokpal and villagers of Bhotia (Indo-Tibetan) ancestry from neighboring valleys. Out of respect for the purity of the water and the surrounding landscape, they made the steep climb barefoot, clad only in white cotton dhoti. The women left their clothes and shoes behind at a halting place set in a glade of fir trees. This place became the site of what is today Gobind Dham or Ghangaria, named after the ghagara (petticoats or skirts ) which the pilgrims would leave there. The women would spend the night singing songs of the goddess, and at dawn they would set out to climb the slope to the lake, at the Lokpal lake . They would bathe in the cold water, and pray to Lakshman for the blessing of a son, a better future, the health of their menfolk, or a cure for sickness.

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Hemkund Sahib Trek opens

Hemkund Sahib Gurudwara

The famous pilgrimage in Himalayas Chardham opened from  May  , the Hemkund Sahib and Lokpal Temple 10 km trek is open from Gobind Ghat to Ghangharia and then 5 km steep climb to the main shrine . Each year Advance party  a team of Indian Army soldiers first climb up this trek and declare its condition to open the route , 

Group of priests and pilgrims then follows to reach the valley with a Lake called Hemkund ( Pool of Ice ) a high-altitude lake (4329 m) surrounded by seven snow caped mountains collectively called Hemkund Parvat. According to the Dasham Granth , Bichitra Natak ( Authored by 10th Sikh Guru, Guru Gobind Singh Ji) he meditated at this place in his previous birth . This place has a high regards among the Sikh Community  . There is a Star shaped Gurudwara where pilgrims pay their respect .

According to the Hindu mythology Rishi Medhasa of the Markandeya Purana and Lakshman, the brother of Lord Ram also meditated here .

Pilgrims are not allowed to stay overnight here , they have to return for a night stay at Ghangharia where  there are many guest house and camps, also there is a Gurudwara one can stay in dormitories with common private facilities.

From Govind Ghat palkis , Mules and helicopter service is also available till Ghangharia .

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Valley of Flowers and Hemkund Sahib Trek

Hemkund Sahib

Hem Kund or Hemkunt is one of the holiest Sikh pilgrim place in Uttrakhand, it has a mention in the Bachitter Natak authored by the Tenth Guru, Gobind Singh Ji that he meditated in his previous birth at a lake of ice  surrounded by Sapt Spring mountains and where the King Pandu ancestor of Pandavas of Mahabharata ,  practiced yoga.

Until nineteenth century the geographical location of this place was not known, it was the efforts of Pandit Tara Singh Narottam, Sikh scholar Bhai Vir Singh, Sohan Singh, a retired Granthi and soldier Havildar Modan Singh from Indian Army, located this place and laid foundation of this pilgrimage site, at a height of 15,200 feet , it  opens during the summers from May till September, rest of the year it is covered under the snow and becomes inaccessible.

Lokpal Lake

Lokpal Lake

 

Starting point to this pilgrimage is Hardiwar/Rishikesh about 275 km drive to Gobind Ghat, it is advised to stay at Joshimath where there are good hotels, camps and rest houses which are easily available, next morning travel by bus or car 22 km up to Gobind Ghat situated at the confluence of River Alaknanda and Laxman Ganga, a gurudwara is situated at the right bank of Laxman Ganga,  a small market with restaurants, guest houses, shops for trekking equipment, one can get porters and mules,  vehicles can be parked here  till their return from the trek, there is a helipad and  Helicopter service is also available up to Ghangharia.

First stop on this trek is Ghangaria also known as Gobind Dham it is 13 km rocky path and unclear road, a base camp for two treks at a height of 3050 meters, one trek leads to Hemkunt Sahib and the other leads to Valley of Flowers. There are no arrangements for overnight stay at Hemkunt Sahib therefore pilgrims have to leave early to return the same day, there are open ground tents with mattresses, gurdwara, guest houses and dhabas(small restaurants) to take care of basic needs, it is here the river Pushpavati coming from Valley of Flowers and Laxman Ganga from Hemkund Lake meets. Pilgrims leave early morning on a 6 kms rocky trek which takes about 5-6 hours crossing the glacier to reach the Hemkund Lake, it is also known as Lokpal lake, there is a, Lord Ram‘s younger brother’s, Laxman temple on the banks of lake, it is believed that after the battle with Meghnad when Laxman got wounded, came here to take rest and regain his health.

Gurudwara Hemkund Sahib and Lokpal Temple

A star shaped Gurudwara which is designed and  constructed under the supervision of Major General Harkirat Singh and Architect Siali from 1960AD onwards. Situated at the height of 4240 meters on the banks of lake surrounded by seven snow capped mountains. One has to return to Ghangaria as there are no arrangements for night stay at Hemkund Sahib .

The Valley of Flowers

Next day one can take a trek to Valley of Flowers which is 3 km from Ghangaria after crossing the bridge over River Pushpawati, which takes about 2-3 hrs, no mules are allowed, at check post one is to make entry in register and a nominal fee is charged, one can feel the exotic scent in the atmosphere from here as trek to Hemkund is full of smell of Mules dung, this valley is 5 km. long, it was known as Bhyunder Valley, In 1931 mountaineer Mr. Frank S. Smithe, lost his way after successful expedition of Kamet, by chance reached here, he was so impressed he authored a book “The Valley of Flowers” and wrote about the beauty and flora, thus giving its present name,  until then this valley was not on a tourist map, legend has it, that Lord Hanuman came in search of Sanjivani Buti (herb) after Laxman got injured in battle with Meghnaad. This valley has mostly the orchids, poppy, marigold, daisies and anemone looking like a carpet on the ground and many medicinal plants, besides flowers there is a variety of wild life and commonly found animals are Snow Leopard, Musk Deer, Red Fox, Langur, Himalayan Black Bear and Brown Bear over 100 types of Butterflies are found here, among the birds are Snow Partridge, Himalayan Monal, Himalayan Golden Eagle, Snow PigeonGriffin Vulture, Sparrow Hawk etc. there are no tall plants, everywhere there is some grass, berries, shrubs, flowers, what to see and what to leave one gets so exited about the beauty. Rain is quite unpredictable and one is not allowed to stay in the valley at night and just one day is not sufficient if one is really interested in plants will like to come again and again.

Valley of Flowers

Valley of Flowers

 

Flowers in Wild

Flowers in Wild

 The return journey starts from Ghangaria/Gobind Dham to Gobind Ghat and then to Joshimath, one can stay for one day to explore the Ski slopes of Auli and views of Himalayan mountains or trek to lakes and meadows above Auli .

For more information and trek arrangements contact +91 9810506646

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About the Author

[author]
[author_image timthumb=’on’]wp-content/uploads/authors/anil-rajput.jpg[/author_image] Anil Kumar Rajput is well known in the travel trade since 1980. Worked in India and abroad. A boxer, Rifle Shooter and Para Jumper. As a Boy Scout and NCC Cadet, attended Adventure camps, trek in Himalayas which developed  interest in traveling and to explore new places, loves driving to adventurous places and photography. (promarktravels.com)  Connect with him on Facebook (htttp://www.facebook.com/anil.k.rajput) and Twitter (@PromarkTravels)
[/author]

Yatra Chardham – Joshimath

Joshimath is also called the Jyotirmath established as one of the four main “pithas” by the Adi Shankaracharya in four different places in India the other three are Shrigeri in South , Puri in East and Dwarka in west. It is at a height of 1890 meters from sea on the Rishikesh – Badrinath  highway 220 km from Rishikesh and Badrinath is further 42  km, it is situated at the confluence of river Alaknanda and  Dhauli Ganga the Vishnu Prayag. This town is also the winter seat of Sri Badrinath at the Vasudeva Temple, other important temples are the Lord Narshimha the incarnation of lord Vishnu, the Hanumaan , the Gaurishankar, the Ganesha, the Nau Devi and the Surya .

Around Joshimath

This place is famous for base camp for many treks , Auli is at 3940 meters from sea level , from Joshimath there is a Asia’s longest 4 km Ropeway to reach here , it has the famous Ski slopes beautiful views of Nanda Devi peak , Mana and Kamet also a close view of the peak Hathi Ghora Palki and behind it the Neelkanth.  There are many trekking routes starts from here , the Gorson, Tali and Kauri Pass, Khulara and Tapovan. Valley of Flowers can be reached from here upto Govindghat by road and the trek 14 kms to Ghangharia and then three km trek to the Valley of Flowers, from Ghangharia the Hemkund sahib the famous Sikh shrine and a temple dedicated to Laxman the younger brother of Lord Ram is situated , it is the place where Tenth Sikh Guru Gobind Singh Ji meditated in his previous birth which he mentioned in his book Bichitra Natak.  Nanda Devi National Park is 24 km from here. Oldest tree in India the Kalpvriksh since the time of Adi Shankracharya is in Joshimath.

Most of the pilgrims stay a night at Joshimath before proceeding for Sri Badrinath , Sri Hemkund Sahib or Valley of Flowers journey and Lokpal Temple trek, it is a single road from here and traffic is allowed turn by turn in both direction for two hours.

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