The Bhangal Region is in Kangra District and it is divided into two different sub-regions; Bada Bhangal and Chota Bhangal.
Thereare seven + one ‘Panchayats” in the Bhangal Region and only three of them are connected by the road. Relatively speaking, reaching Chota Bhangal is easy because it has road connectivity but as far as Bada Bhangal is concerned, that place remains hidden beneath snow sheets for months.
Bada Bhangal is accessible from 3 directions and each one of them is equally challenging.
Stream and Watch the Mighty Fall from 1:20 onwards
Bhangal Region was once popular for its Bhaang (Cannabis) Crop. Cannabis was used as medicine and herbal plant. Bhangalis were experts in making cannabis shoes, ropes, carpets, and a lot of other daily use items.
Drug mafia and insane commercialization of the word Bhaang has totally destroyed the ancient culture. People have forgotten the other uses of Bhaang and in the name of holy- herbal-smoke people are happy inhaling chemicals. The government has already destroyed Bhaang fields in the valley, not only in the Bhangal Region but all over the state.
The word “Bhangal” has mysterious origin(s) and different generations tell different stories. One story says that the King Bhangaliya ruled the region and hence the name. The King was killed in a war and the legend says that his head is buried deep beneath the Clock Tower in Mandi Town at the famous Indira Market.
It is also believed that during the Shivratri Procession in Mandi an empty horse leads the way ahead of Radha Madhav Ji, which supposedly belongs to the Raja Bhangaliya.
So to explore the hinterlands of remote Bangal region we embarked upon a journey that would take us to the ancient connection between two of the largest villages of Chota Bhangal.
Day 1 – Luhardi-KothiSwar-Cherna-Bardhar-Nohru Jot-KothiKohar- 16-18 kilometers
The trek starts from the Luhardi Village, 5 km from beautiful Barot. You get direct bus from Jogindernagar to Luhardi. Luhardi happens to be one of the most developed villages of the Chota Bhangal region. One has to cross the bridge over the Lama Dug Nallah and the trek starts from there.
You need to walk 4-5 kilometers to reach the first village in the Kothi Swar valley. There is an old school and a forest rest house in the Swar Village. The village once had a 1000 year old (supposedly) tree which was lying flat in front of us because of unknown reasons. There is a primary school in the village and it was constructed way back in the days when Kangra district was a part of the Punjab state. Cherna is the next village after Swar and from Cherna you get an amazing view of the Poling village, which happens to be the biggest Panchayat of the Chota Bhangal region.
The Nohru Pass has a steep gradient, which is a common property of almost every mountain pass in this region. The natives do not use this pass anymore but “Gaddi” (shepherds) come every year, to go to the Bada Bhangal region and beyond. The pass stands at a height of 3250 meters.
At 3250 meters, snow starts receding in March but this year glaciers are full of snow and erratic weather has made things even more difficult in the hilly states. We expected 1-2 feet of snow but it was close to 4 feet at places. As we crossed Cherna, it started raining and we had to spend one hour inside a sarai(सराय), which we later got to know was a temple.
The villagers had established (स्थापना) Bardhar Mata’s idol inside that sarai. The Bardhar Goddess is revered in both Chota and Bada Bhangal Regions. From the sarai, the Kothi Kohar village is approximately 8-10 kilometers and the time you will take to cross over the pass will completely depend upon the thickness of snow sheets beneath you.
We started our climb in the afternoon which is not a wise thing to do. At the top of the pass, foggy conditions prevail making it difficult to cross over. Passes above 3500 meters must be crossed before the noon.
It started snowing, we almost lost our way, I fell down and buried my friend’s phone in the snow. We had to walk for an extra hour because we took one wrong turn. One long turn can surely kill you but whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, so we emerged stronger after that life threatening walk in five feet snow at 60 degree gradient.
was is always difficult because you need to exert pressure on your kneecaps and when you have a broken fractured knee, you know where it hurts. We used camera flash as torch and walked for an hour in dark-thick forest. I was expecting a bear or a tiger to take us for a dinner party but fortunately we survived.
We landed in the Kothi Kohar village at 9 P.M and we were worried about our night stay.
n old man noble man saw us, asked our names and without any second thought he simply said, “Stay with us tonight.” We looked at each other and followed him as if we were hypnotized.
Our dinner was cooked fresh and we were treated like their own children.
They asked us to sleep in their bedroom and they slept on the floor.
I was wondering if someone walked like this in my neighborhood, I will think at least hundred times before letting him inside my house. The uncle simply took us inside and treated us as a part of family.
Probably the Himalayas make all the difference.
Today, after 6 long years I met uncle again in Chota Bhangal accidentally. And both of us were equally surprised to see each other.
He vividly remembered each and every detail of that fateful night. I expressed my heartfelt gratitude for he saved our lives that night.
Day2 – KothiKohar-Nalohta-BadaGraan-RajuGandha-KukadGandha – 10 kilometers
A five kilometer long, well paved road connects the KothiKohar village to BadaGraan (बड़ा ग्रां) village. On the other side of Uhl River, three main villages of the Chota Bhangal region are located namely Phlachek, KukkadGandha, and Rajugandha.
There are two forest rest houses and the one at Phlachek was closed down because of unknown reasons. Phlachek happens to be a temporary summer settlement of the Chota Bhangal region and the real bone-grinding trek to Bada Bhangal starts from here only via the Thamsar Pass, the origin of River Uhl.
Day 2 was spent sleeping and the plan to go to Plachek was dropped because of my laziness and bad weather.
There is an old guest register at the rest house which tells the story of this place through the eyes of British Lords, Army Majors, tourists, scientists, and ghumakkads.
Not many people have visited these villages but those who have they have felt blessed. The register speaks it all.
Day3-Rajugandha-Chhinna Pass-Bir Billing Valley – 16 kilometers
Day 3 was easy, Punjab government tried to construct a road from Billing to Rajugandha, which could have made things easy for the Bhangali’s. HP state government buried it’s head in sand and left the road as it is.
It is a long walk via Chinna Pass and the landscape is amazingly beautiful. Para-gliders welcome you in the Billing Valley at the end of your journey.
Land is available in abundance in the remote villages of Himachal Pradesh and ironically villagers are selling their land, like everywhere else in our country. Soon we will see hotels, restaurants, and farm houses in the region.
What good will they do to the Bhangalis, only time will tell.