It has been two months since I moved to Patnitop area in Jammu and Kashmir. It’s a mountainous forested area. Apart from the fruit-bearing trees, the region abounds in evergreen pine and deodar trees. The rustling of breeze through the dense woods has an enigmatic and enticing pull that nudges you to step out of your comfort zone and leap into the beautiful sites and trekking tracks all around.
I am restless and uneasy if I have to sit idle in such a serene and heavenly place. So, we planned a trek from Batote to Sannasar (both in close proximity to Patnitop). Due to some administrative loose ends, the trek could not materialise. Not to be deterred by failure, we decided to trek from Patnitop to Sudh Mahadev instead.
We drove from Batote to Patnitop early in the morning and parked our vehicle near Naag Temple at Patnitop. After making a few enquiries about the route for our trek, we started our journey. As we got out of Patnitop, the scenic beauty of the sun rising from behind the mountains and conifers was mesmerising. Our cameras went click-a-do to capture golden sun rays filtering through trees.
The initial part of the trek was a steep descent along a nalla under the deodar trees. After descending for about two km, we entered a small village named Karlah with scattered houses and abundance of stream water. It was a treat to trudge through corn fields.
The inhabitants of the village were happy-go-lucky people who greeted us with a bright smile on their face. They were helpful in guiding us toward our destination, the Sudh Mahadev temple. From Karlah, we started towards our next waypoint village, Gali, situated on the next ridge.
The track crisscrossed through fields, streams, and at places, thick forest cover. Even though the water in the stream looked clean, we didn’t take a chance of drinking from it since it flows down Patnitop side and we could see scattered polythene in all the streams we came across. It is advisable to carry your own water or take some from the houses in the village en route. On our way to the Gali village, just before we started climbing the ridge, we came across a lone house with a very loving family who offered us water. The children and the small lamb became a photographic delight and my friend Sudheshwer wasted no time in capturing those innocent faces.
The house had a water bawli to meet their drinking water requirement and a separate place for washing clothes. Having quenched our dry throats with the cool sweet water from the bawli, we continued our climb to the Gali village through a stretch of deodar forest.
The climb is gradual and soothing with rustling breeze from the trees to keep you cool at all times. At Gali village, we stopped for some refreshing tea and chips. The panoramic view from the ridge is absolutely breathtaking. One has to visit this place to let the beauty of the surroundings truly sink in.
After our brief break, we began our descent towards Gauri Kund. Legend has it that Goddess Parvati used to take bath in this water source before praying to Lord Shiv at Sudh Mahadev. It took us about half-an-hour to reach Gauri Kund. The place has a temple dedicated to Maa Parvati with a water body in front of it. The water in the kund is cold and clean with a couple of mighty frogs to keep it free of insects. One half of the temple is ensconced in a hill. After paying respects at the main temple, we came to the road head to proceed to Sudh Mahadev.
At the road head, there were a couple of shops offering tea, soft drinks and mouth-watering Kalhadi cheese sandwiches, specific to this region. Since we had not eaten anything since morning we gorged on kalhadi cheese sandwiches with a vengeance. Gauri Kund is the last way point of the trek. Hereafter one has to travel by bus to Sudh Mahadev.
We hopped on a local bus and reached our destination in 15 minutes. Travelling on a local bus was an experience in itself. We attracted quite a few quizzical glances for we seemed out of place in a bus filled with natives of the region. The constant, distinct chatter of people around us kept us engaged for the duration of the bus journey.
Sudh Mahadev is a revered temple in this part of J&K. The peculiar thing about this temple is the presence of a gigantic old trident with which Lord Mahadev is said of have killed the demon Sudh. Before the demon died, Lord Mahadev blessed him out of kindness. The place gets its name from a combination of names of the demon Sudh and Lord Mahadev. We returned to Patnitop content with our day-long ventures.
How to Reach Patnitop: Patinitop is 110 km from Jammu, which has an airport as well as a railway station that is well-connected to the rest of the country. You can also look for train connectivity to Udhampur. From either of these places, you’ll have to hire a taxi for Patnitop.
Photo Courtesy: Sudheshwer Sharma