I dislike snowfall. I despise walking in snow because it sucks every ounce of energy from your body.
I had been walking in snow for almost three hours now and yet the lake was nowhere to be seen. Aayush, as usual, appeared to be uninfluenced by the surroundings. Kamal Preet, my wife, had the same unperturbed outlook. I looked at my semi-frozen beer belly and cursed myself.
Meanwhile, my companions had reached the snow gully that serves as a gateway to the lake. Now, the only thing I wished for was a semi-frozen lake. Not completely frozen because that would be too bland. Not unfrozen because that would be too common. I thought of heavenly blue tincture of Dashaur Lake and strongly hoped to find something similar.
The silent waters of Saryolsar Lake welcomed us with a greenish tinge. Thick tall alpine conifers guarded the lake. Black clouds once again engulfed the sun and readied themselves for the final onslaught. With every movement of clouds, the lake seemed to be changing its color.
I couldn’t ask for more. It was a divine setup for sure.
Saryolsar Lake often pronounced as Serolsar Lake is a hidden jewel of Kullu Seraj that stands at an altitude of 10250 feet. Accessible through a mule track from Jalori Pass, this lake is surrounded by a thick alpine cover throughout the path that leads to it.
Penelope Chetwode, the famous English travel writer, traveled from Shimla to Kullu through the heartland of Seraj region in 1963. She was accompanied by Durgi and Shanti, her two mule companions that she had hired from Shimla. Her journey has motivated numerous firnagi’s to visit India and travel through it’s villages.
The old Jalori Pass (10,720 feet) crosses the ridge about a mile and a half to the east of the present one (10,280 feet) which was constructed by Willie Donald in the years immediately preceding the First World War as a continuation of his road up the Ani valley. I was very confused by the modern guidebooks which all give the height of the pass as five hundred feet lower than the guide and travel books of before the First War until I realised that they were, in fact, describing two different passes both called by the same name.
Penelope Chetwode in Kulu – The End of the Habitable World, 1972
On a fateful day in 1986, it was at the Jalori Pass that Penelope breathed her last. Her mortal remains were brought to Khanag and they lay at rest there in the confines of Khanag Rest House.
The Beas and Satluj watersheds are divided by the Jalori Pass and it also serves as a boundary between Inner and Outer Seraj regions. The ‘tharah kardus‘ – 18 Naga deities of Kullu worship Budhi Nagin as their mother. It has been said that Budhi Nagin doesn’t have any temple and the lake itself is her abode.
The temple that we see today (dehra) came up after the lake became known to the external world. If Kamrunag is the Rain God of Mandi, Budhi Nagin is believed to be the Goddess regulating the rainfall in Kullu Valley. Probably that’s why in Kullu the rainbow is called Budhi Nagin.
Unlike recent years, Jalori remained open almost throughout the year in 2015-16. Until the weather took another violent turn in March 2016. It snowed real bad in March. So much so that the pass had to be closed down for vehicular traffic in the first week.
We reached Shojha by 10 A.M. in the morning and we were accompanied by disappointed students and employees who had to now walk in slushy-snowy conditions. Road to Jalori Pass, steepest of all the motor-able passes of Himachal, rises like a serpent uncoiling itself.
While we struggled in snow, a brand new Hyundai Creta tried to make its way through snow and failed miserably. The car was badly stuck and it had to be towed away.
It snowed intermittently and by the time we reached at the lake it had gone full crazy with snowflakes as big as an overpriced popcorn flowing all around. We were accompanied by a group of local tourists who tried their level best to piss off everybody at the lake. And to a great extent, they succeeded in it.
The snow laden Lambhri Peak and Raghupur Fort were visible and it seemed that the late onslaught has pushed them back to December. As we walked back, the Creta was still stuck with its parking lights turned on.
I sheepishly tried to peep inside but got a rap over the knuckles from my wife. I tried to convince her that I was just wanting to help. She is not convinced yet!
The bhandar of Budhi Nagin is at Ghiyagi Village. We wish to explore the Banjar Valley in May. Rishi Shringa Dev embarks on a journey in May when it goes back to it's Mul Sthan. It's nothing short of a festival when these deities meet.