Rambling in Parvati Valley
The world around us is beautiful but agreeing with John Keats I also believe that beauty lies only in the eyes of the beholder. Thousands of people must have walked past the enchanting sight of those daffodils without sparing a cursory glance, but the same flowers captured the imagination of William Wordsworth, and he artistically presented a stunning and sublime spectacle of the dancing daffodils on his poetic canvas. Likewise, if a man possesses those subtle sensibilities and has a love for nature, his every trip to mountains can offer him the share of his bliss. Last June when I was again bitten by my travel bug, I decided to stay put for some days away from the din of the city life amidst the pristine natural glory in Parvati valley in Himachal. The intoxicating charms of the valley loaded with their disarming beauty gravitate a nature lover in a manner, a lover gravitates towards his bewitching beloved. About eight miles away from the city of Kullu is situated Bhuntar, another small but busy town of Himachal.
Bhuntar is a gateway to the salubrious Parvati valley. While standing on the iron bridge between the right bank and left bank of the river Beas, one can view a captivating confluence of the rivers of Beas and Parvati here. At this point, Parvati (which originates from the Kheer Ganga glacier) merges with mighty Beas and sacrifices its own identity.
From Bhuntar, a narrow serpentine road diverges to the verdant valley that has many small but picturesque Hamlets like Jari, Kasol, Manikaran, Barshaini, and Tosh. The breathtaking spectacle at both the sides of the road is a visual feast to the eyes. Covering 30 miles of the journey on the zig-zag path, we reached Kasol by the dusk. After our first night stay in our pre-booked hotel at Kasol, the next morning we were awakened by the pitter-patter of rain. The thick blanket of dark clouds which PB Shelly has referred to in his poem 'The Cloud' often remains spread against the sky in this village of lofty mountains. The rain ceased and we were all charged and ready to embark on the journey ahead. Four kilometres away from Kasol is located the famous Hindu/Sikh pilgrimage place of Manikaran. This place signifies the unity of both religions. Surrounded by snow-capped mountains, it touches the deepest spiritual chords of every heart. Covering 12 miles by a local taxi, we were finally dropped at village Barshaini from where our tracking adventure to the glacier Kheer Ganga began. Walking to the bridge crossing Barshaini, we took the left turn and we're all set to trek to Nakthan village and Kheerganga. This is the shortest and most preferred route and takes 3 to 4 hours for a person with average trekking speed. This route is on the left side of Parvati river. The path through Nakthan is the most popular route to trek to Kheerganga and the trail is well marked.
Climbing the green mountains, the dense forest, I was delightfully comparing myself with the virtuous characters of Shakespeare's play 'As You Like It'. The Duke and his courtiers had taken refuge in the forest of Arden after they were subjected to atrocities at the hands' human civilisation. Wordsworth rightly remarks that nature never betrays the heart that loves her. One the way to our destination the mellifluous chirping of the birds transported me into the agony-free world of Keat's 'Ode to Nightingale'. The heard melodies of the gushing waters of the mighty river Parvati were indeed sweet but those unheard melodies were sweeter. The canopy of deodar trees on which the mischievous monkeys were making merry readily reminded me of Robert Frost's poem 'Birches'. Here the human world and animal kingdom were not at all at loggerheads with each other. Huffing and puffing but with no fatigue of soul, we were eyeball to eye with the vast gargantuan kheer Ganga glacier. Again, my imagination was fired up by Wordsworthian philosophy and I could see the tongues in trees, hear sermons in stone and read books and brooks. The panorama of pastoral beauty scattered all around had enlightened me with a mystic's truth and like John Keats, I was also convinced of the fact that beauty is truths, truth beauty. In his poem 'Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening,' Frost symbolically drives home the message that one must not forget one's duty when enticed by Woods (Worldly temptations). But I feel when woods are lovely, dark and deep, one should just forget everything else and enjoy the woods.
Although there are three different paths, which lead to Kheerganga from Barshani. Whichever path you choose, the beginning of the trek is a short gentle climb followed by arduous uphill track. The way to Nakthan is bedecked with gorgeous apple orchards. Towering deodar trees line the path from Kalga (another Hamlet en route) and the dominance of nature is evident everywhere. Nakthan village is a traditional Himachali village with small wood and stone homes and also has a few cafés for travellers and trekkers. In the recent years, a few homes have also begun to provide homestay facilities to the trekkers. The place is indeed a trekker nature lovers' paradise. Now back home, lying on my couch, in a pensive mood, I recollect those soul-stirring memories of Kheerganga trek which have become the bliss of my solitude.