The Valley of Parbati offers infinite possibilities to all; to them pot smoking hippies, to locals, to adventurers, and to those who seek to go beyond the Parbati.
The expanse of Parbati and the raw power with which it flows is mesmerizing. Cutting through huge rocks it flows effortlessly amidst thick deodar forests, calling hundreds of tiny little streams to be a part of its wild excursion.
And every stream merging with the Parbati appears to be pouring its whole existence into the turbulence of Parbati. Even those huge slate boulders lying in its way appear to be dissolving in the pristine waters of Parbati.
In India, we believe that the turbulence of mind is brought to rest by a learned guru. And you don’t have to find your guru, the guru will find you on her own.
Like these little streams find Parbati. Like the Parbati finds the Beas. Like all of them find the ocean.
Kheer Ganga (2980 meters) is a tiny little meadow atop a hill, which was once a great Hindu pilgrimage site. Gradually, it turned into a hippie hideout for all bad reasons and today what we see atop that hill is a congregation of pot smoking locals and firangis looking for Shiva in the rings of smoke.
The trek starts from Barshaini Village, 16 km on a motorable road from the famous Manikaran Sahab Gurudwara. We left from Manikaran late in the evening and by the time we reached Barshaini, it was already dark and everybody on the road appeared to be drunk. We rented a shabby room and made our calculations for the day ahead.
The popular belief says that Barshaini to Kheer Ganga is 15 km but I think that’s an inflated calculation. It can’t be more than 12km, 13km at the most. So that makes 26 km to and from Barshaini. We inquired about last bus from Barshaini to Manikaran, which leaves at 5 P.M., but we were told that we wouldn’t be making it back on the same day.
We did come back on the same day. And that’s why I say 30km to and fro is an inflated guess.
The moment you leave Barshaini, a hydel project appears at the head of the Parbati River. One can see tiny little settlements all around from this high point. The mountain group of Manikaran Spires rises above Tosh Village and down below Tosh Nallah rushes to merge with the Parbati.
The trail meanders along the Parbati and you will find enough stay, eat, and smoke options throughout the trail. However, Nagthan village is the only proper settlement en-route. I even found one small tower temple at Nagthan. Rudranag (Rudranath) is the next settlement after Nagthan and it is a revered site for Hindus.
Deities from across the Kullu Valley gather here on 20 Bhaadon of Hindu Calendar (Septemeber) and overnight hawan is performed. I was told that the likes of Aadi Brahma, Triyugi Narayan, Kasoli Narayan periodically visit this place to pay obeisance to Mahadev Shiv.
For us, the high point of this trek was Rudranag. River Parbati cuts through a deep gorge here and the Vasuki Nallah (Lipto Nallah) coming from Buni Buni Pass merges with the Parbati.
The landscape is exhilarating and the deafening sound it produces is a mind numbing experience. From this point, the trail passes through a thick alpine forest and the gradient is relatively difficult.
From Kheer Ganga, the valley opens up and following the river takes you to its source, the lake of Mantalai, at the base of Pin Parbati Pass.
In August 1884, the British traveler L.W. Dane pioneered this [Pin Parbati Pass] new route over a high pass. Following the Pin to its head, Dane climbed over the ridge, forcing a pass. He descended on the other side almost near Mantalai Lake, the source of Parbati River
Harish Kapadia in Spiti: Adventures in the Trans Himalaya
Historical records and old literary works suggest that this area was once popular for its gold and silver mines. Today illegal charas cultivation are the new silver mines. I have friends who talk about advantages of charas over regular bidi or cigarette.
But then all of them have graduated from prestigious institutes and none of them has been booked under the NDPS Act . Hippies roam free, free world sympathizers roam free, while the locals rot in jails. And that explains my hatred.
These very people travel by Volvo Buses and AC Cars on four lane highways and demand that the hydel projects in Parbati be scrapped. In Barshaini, it is a usual practice to shut off electrical supply in case strong wind blows. We spent our night in the dark at Barshaini. And that one day in the dark was frustrating, to say the least. Imagine the plight in winters.
In the past, several silver-mines worked in the Parbati Valley, and on account of the presence of this metal, the whole of this part of Kulu was called Rupi, a name still common in use.
A.P. Hamilton in Kulu, Himalayan Journal
We don’t hear a thing about these mines. The Valley of Gods is now famous for all the bad reasons. So much so that we have even renamed it as Little Israel.
Little Israel vs. Valley of Gods. What’s your take?