Magical, Majestic

Magical, Majestic

Dehradun, the capital city of Uttarakhand is nothing like it once used to be The streams have become narrower and even got covered in certain...

Dehradun, the capital city of Uttarakhand is nothing like it once used to be. The streams have become narrower and even got covered in certain stretches to make way for wider roads. Colonies have come up where once there were only forests. Development has come to Dehradun, but only at the cost of its beauty and serenity. The saving grace is that there are quick getaways in and around Dehradun, places which are still serene and unspoiled. The quaint village of Matogi, perched on a hilltop is one such place which can be even explored on a day hike.

As we drove out of Dehradun, the scenery changed drastically. Behind concrete buildings and the hard roads, lie open fields, gurgling streams and forestry trails that Ruskin Bond and Stephen Alter have encapsulated in their writings. The last part of the road to Matogi was like a drive-in mountain wilderness.

Matogi is a quaint little hilly settlement situated at an altitude of about 5,000 ft. According to mythology, after the Mahabharata war, Lord Balarama (elder brother of Lord Krishna) was mediating at a hilltop near Matogi. Before leaving the place, he assured the people that he would be back soon to protect them and fulfil their wishes.

A few years later a farmer named Nandu was tilling his land at the base of the hill when he stumbled upon a boulder resembling the statue of Lord Balarama. Nandu received a divine order to carry the boulder to the top of the hill and build a temple there in honour of Lord Bhadraj (another of the many names of Lord Balarama).

The pious man immediately faithfully set out to execute the order. While he was trudging up the contours and feeling thirsty, a stream got created by divine order to quench his thirst. That stream in the form of a step well (baori) still exists at Matogi and is one the ‘must see’ points of the place.

In the later years, Matogi was populated by a section of Tomar Rajputs fleeing persecution during the Mughal Rule. Even today Matogi is an all-Tomar village. The step-well too has undergone a name change and is called Dev Baori (Step-well of the Lord). During the British Rule, an Englishman by the name of Captain Hood hunting in the surrounding hills noticed the structure and asked a shepherd what it was.

“Matt hogi” (It might be a matt, ashram), replied the simple man. “I see, Matogi!” Exclaimed the Englishman and that is how the village is believed to have got its name.

Matogi is still very much the way it has always been. Traditional houses of mud and stone with slate roofs dot the landscape. Though concrete houses have started popping up, still they are a minority and have not been able to dilute the dominant traditional fabric and hence the inherent charm of the place. Agriculture and tending to animals is still very much the way of life here. The village is surrounded by lush green fields adding to the beauty of the place.

A small temple of Lord Bhadraj stands right at the centre of the quaint village square. This temple is considered as the Bhandar (storehouse) of the main temple of Lord Bhadraj located on a neighbouring mountain top. The short and soft 4 km long jungle trek to the main temple of Lord Bhadraj is the main USP of Matogi. Nothing can match that wonderful feeling of trekking through serene forests, amidst mild sunshine and a pleasant breeze. The experience is every bit as awesome as it sounds.

On leaving Matogi behind, we continued on a path that soon entered the jungle – a verdant mixed forest of maple, deodar and oak trees. Though the path was rather rocky, still the stress was somewhat compensated by the soothing company of dense forest on both sides.

After some distance, the trail opened up into a grassland where we immediately sat down to catch our breath. Throughout the trek, mountain ranges lay calmly all around us – prominent in the forefront and fading into a blue-grey haze towards the horizon. Gangetic plains sloped down on one side of the ridge we were trudging, while Himalayan ranges sitting snug in the distance dominated the other side. The views of the Swargarohini and Bandarpoonch Ranges offered a real treat for our eyes.

After the expanse of the grasslands ended, we reached the upper part of the Bhadraj Forest. The walk from here to the temple took about an hour, the last leg of the trek being a steep climb that ended straight at the base of the temple. Thankfully!

The Bhadraj temple is a snow-white structure perched at the mountain peak at an altitude of 2200 metres. It offers a 360-degree panoramic view of the higher Himalayas, Assan Barrage and Doon Valley. After paying homage at the temple we walked to the edge of the ridge and stood there in absolute silence for a couple of minutes amidst the soul-stirring surroundings. Simply heaven, it was.

Trekking in scenic environs is a great way to take in the beauty of nature while indulging the adventure enthusiast inside you. If you in Dehradun, short of time, yet want to get a feel of a trek, then Bhadraj trek from Matogi is ‘the trek’ for you – an adventure that is sure to remain etched in your mind long after you have returned from the magical place.

Fact File
Location: The place is located just 50 kms from Dehradun, where the nearest airport and railhead are. Drive along Chakrata Road and then branch off to Langha Road. Matogi lies at the top of the hill at the end of Langha road.

Accommodation: Homestays in traditional village houses offering a cocktail of local life, cuisine and culture.

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