Dhulchi Pass Yatra – Retracing the Contours of a 100 Year Old Map| Hinterlands of Mandi-IV

My friend Aayush spends a lot of his time analyzing maps and Gazetteers. He is my go to man whenever I plan a hike in Kullu or trails meandering along (modern day) Mandi and Kullu District. Long ago, Aayush had shared with me a 100 year old map drawn on a piece of cloth, property of Aayush’s grandfather -Sh. Kedar Nath Sharma, the then Naib Tehsildar of Kullu in 1970– and Dhulchi Pass was clearly marked on it: as a passage connecting erstwhile princely states of Mandi to Kullu.

Probably the oldest and shortest route connecting these two hill provinces (now districts).


Dhulchi Pass Map – A 100 Year Old Treasure

Prologue

The vast expanse of land that lies to the East of NH 154 between Palampur and Bajaura has been calling us for quite some time. Except for the much frequented Barot in Chuhar Valley and Parashar Lake, it has remained unexplored by large. It was upon a not so distant visit in the past visit to Parashar Lake I happened to exclaim on the layers and layers of undulating hills meeting the gaze as far as the eye could see. This led to a string of treks in the area, namely, Parashar to Tunga, Dayna Sar and Parashar to Pandoh.

During one of my conversations with Aayush he mentioned that there were two old passes used by locals and shepherds that connected Kullu with Kangra and Mandi i.e. Bhubhu between Kullu and Kangra and Dhulchi between Mandi and Kullu.

This is an interesting piece of info as modern day highways completely bypass these old passages and the areas that today appear as remote were possibly not that remote a few hundred years ago. Marriages, trade and pilgrimages happened between the inhabitants of these valleys and armies invaded through these passes in the hunger to own a little piece of a neighboring riyasats.

With such thoughts we crossed Bhubhu Pass sometime in August 2018 wondering about countless people who had frequented that pass and still no signs of them having travelled through these regions except for a few prayer flags at the top placed in the recent pass.

The next in line was Dhulchi which connects Tihri Uttarsaal region of Mandi to Bajaura. For this we requested our old friend Tilak who is a resident of this area and is posted in Kullu these days.

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Dhulchi That Was

The trail to Dhulchi Pass starts from Aadi Brahma Mandir located in the Uttarsal Region of District Mandi. My earlier findings suggested that these Brahma Temples were of the Hindu God Brahma but now I have strong evidences to believe that these Brahma Deities of the Kullu and Mandi Valley were Naga Deities originally and they were brought into the Hindu fold later (probably during the time of Aadi Shankaracharya?) Anyhow, this is what I had written previously:

The temple is located right across the Parashar Lake in Tihri Village in the North West direction. On a bright sunny day, the rest houses atop the Parashar Hill are clearly visible from the Tihri Village. It is said that once both the Tihri and Khokhan Villages belonged to Kullu Riyasat and natives from both the villages worshiped the Khokhan Brahma. However, a territorial dispute aroused between Mandi and Kullu and resulted in separation of these two villages. The Tihri natives decided to have their own Aadi Brahma Temple and they named it Aadi Purkha Temple. The new temple shares not only its name with the Khokhan Temple but also the architectural style.

Dhulchi Pass lies obsolete now because a pucca road has been constructed by circumnavigating the hill that adorns the Pass. The new road can be seen from the old trail as you tread under the shadows of Dhauladhar Himalaya.

Dhulchi Pass is the oldest trail connecting Mandi and Kullu. It has stood witness to numerous skirmishes between Kullu and Mandi dominions. Until recent times, when buses weren’t as frequent as they are today, they say if you started early in the morning, then you could finish your business in Kullu and be back home by evening. The current road, was constructed in the year 1881 by Raja Vijay Sen. 1719-1731 was the period of Raj Singh when 10th Guru Gobind Singh visited Kullu. Because the modern day Aut-Pandoh road didn’t come into existence until the Independence of India from British Rule in 1947, it is highly likely that the 10th Guru also hiked his way through the hinterlands of Mandi to seek Raj Singh’s help against the Muslim invaders from the West.

During the regime of Tedhi Singh (1742-1762) invasion of Kullu took place. The most likely route taken by the troops must have been Dhulchi Pass. Under the regime of Raja Bikram Singh (1806-1816) numerous invasions of Kullu took place. In his book The Wonderland Himachal Pradesh, the author mentions that Sikh Rulers plundered the valley of Kullu upon refusal of 50000/- by the then ruler of Kullu. The point of entry was again Dhulchi Pass. Again between 1839-1840, Sikh rulers conquered Kullu and Lahaul and Dhulchi witnessed another bout of bloodthirsty marauders trampling upon its soul.

Mandi engulfed in fog

Aadi Brahma – Tihri Uttarsal

Shringan Tung as seen from the trail

The D Day

We started from Mandi as the town was still engulfed in the sea of thick fog. Had I been driving the car, I would’ve certainly dropped my car in the fog expecting to land in Wakanda but that was not to be. My friend Tilak joined us at Kataula who was instrumental in executing this plan.

Because ours was literally a last minute plan, Aayush couldn’t join us. And then it was just the three of us accompanied by the mightiest towers of Dhauladhar and Great Himalaya. The trail is quite unlike other passes of Dhauladhar Himalaya. The trail is well marked on both the sides however the Kullu side is much steeper.

The valleys in this whole region carry waters from the glaciers of Dhauladhars and the hill tops become vantage points for soaking in the beauty of the shapely peaks of these ranges. One such vantage points is Tunga Bhagwati Temple. As you move from one point to another, the vistas change and keep fueling the urge to see more and more of these. At Bhubhu I was not lucky enough because of inclement weather. However as Dhulchi trail is further towards these great mountain ranges I hoped to get some spectacular sights and boy was I disappointed? Certainly not!

Far off in the distant North, you can see a huge rock as if leveled out by Gods once they got bored of creating these triangular peaks, that is Shringan Tung Peak. Further to its left you can see as far as Ghepan on a clear day. To the right you are greeted by the sky-piercing spires of Manikaran Valley and running far and wide in the East are some unnamed peaks dancing around the neatly carved out Ali Ratni Tibba Peak, all looking upto the crystal clear skies above.

Down below blue grey hills and thick Alpine tree line complete the frame.

Ali Ratni Tibba


Tilak Thakur Resting at Dhulchi Pass | Left Mandi – Right Kullu Valley

The Sentinels in the North

Kamal Preet at the first crossing of Dhulchi Pass

Trek Trivia

  1. The maximum altitude one gains on this trail is 2267m
  2. Total Trek distance is 9km
  3. The trail passes through a thick forest
  4. There are temporary campsites established by locals enroute the pass
  5. Kullu side is much steeper
  6. There are no shops enroute
  7. Water Scarce Trail
  8. From Ropa Village (end point of the trail on Kullu Side) one can find buses/vehicles to Bajaura which is 10km from Ropa
  9. Download GPX File for Dhulchi Pass Hike 
  10. Buy my book at Amazon 🙂

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