Kinnaur Kailash : The Unconventional and Less Crowded Traveller’s Paradise
Hill stations are always a pleasant getaway for people of the plains, especially during the summers. And for mountain lovers like me, hill stations are always on the hotlist for all seasons. For a long time, I was looking for a less tampered region where I can just not chill out but can also come back with an extraordinary experience to cherish for the lifetime. And bingo! I found this place that turned to be a dream destination because this place had a lot to offer beyond my expectations.
Himachal Pradesh is a traveller’s paradise as the diverse nature galore here never disappoints its visitors. And Kalpa, the main village of the Kinnaur district, made me more than happy. The majestic mountains surrounding the region create a magical aura as soon as you step in to the place. They stand like walls all around you boasting of its haunting beauty – so near, provoking the desire to touch yet remain quite far manifesting the gigantic power of nature.
The snowy peaks of the Kinnaur Kailash (19,849 ft), Raldang Massif (21,250 ft) and the Jorkanden (21,236 ft) ranges, the spectrum of colours surrounding the peaks and the sky, numerous flights of known and unknown birds, apple orchards – Kalpa promises you a glance of heaven. With Tibet in the north, Shimla in the south, Garhwal region of Uttarakhand in the east, at the confluence of Spiti river and Baspa river, there lies Kalpa in the lap of the Himalayan and Zanskar range, at a height of 9,711 feet. According to popular belief, this is Lord Shiva’a own place where He resides on the Kinnaur Kailash peak, distinctly visible from Kalpa.
According to mythology, Kinnaur Kailash is one of India’s “Tri-Kailash”, the other two being Mani Kailash and Mini Kailash. On the Kinnaur Kailash peak, at 18,000 feet above, lies a 79 feet high erect granite rock which is believed to be the ‘Shivling’ of Banasur. The holy rock is visible all through Kalpa even with naked eye. Folklore goes that worshipping the granite ‘Shivling’ can change one’s fate and hence, it is common to find the local people trekking through the dangerous trail for three days and offering prayers.
The road to Kalpa itself is a visual treat. Nature reveals a new attribute at every bend and corner. As I was heading towards the place, the colour of the sky turned into an intense bright blue, the greenery of the mountains were gradually being replaced with bare ruggedness and light turquoise coloured Sutlej river was meandering with a distinct murmur. The sight was so mesmerising that I was surprised with the existence of such a serene place. I have visited a lot of hill stations and adjacent villages but this place was something that my sub conscience was in search of.
On reaching Kalpa, the apple orchards welcomed with abundant fruits hanging from every mature and immature branches, spreading the pleasantly distinct aroma of ripe apples all around. Every local house has apple trees planted in their premises. Blooming flowers, butterflies and pure air fills the entire place leaving you awe-struck at all moments with the unadulterated beauty of nature.
The best way to explore Kalpa is by foot. I took the opportunity to walk in through the roads and alleys to discover the place all day. As I moved through the locality, I found a beautiful confluence of Hindu and Buddhist culture throughout, which is also reflected in all the architecture and structures of the place. While there stands the Kinnaur Kailash Parvat (mountain) along with the adjacent peaks dedicated to Lord Ganesh and Mata Parvati, there is a millennium old Buddhist monastery at the heart of the place known as the Hu-Bu-Lan-Kar Gompa . There is a lot of pagoda like old structures giving the entire place a very unique feel of an ancient simplistic abode of spiritual discipline.
The worn out appearance of the main marketplace will make one feel as if one has stepped back into some earlier historical century. As I walked past the narrow lanes over the covered drains, I had this very special feeling of travelling in a time machine with a certain amount of weirdness. Leaving the market, I found my way up the monastery which is seemingly welcoming with its clean and high stony stairs. A serene place of worship up there, the monks chanted sacred lines from scriptures filling the small hall with an unearthly aura of pure divinity. The monastery was founded by Rinchensang-po ( 950-1055 AD ).Tourists are welcome anytime but are encouraged to be quiet and silent while in the hall. Breathing in the purity, I quietly came out of the hall after a while and stepped outside in the monastery premises as the sun got ready to set for the day.
As the sun began to lose its brightness, the village put on a more mysteriously beautiful cloak all over. Standing on the premises of the monastery, I tried to absorb the untouched purity and beauty of nature as I could and gradually moved my way back up to my hotel through alleys in the opposite direction to make my walk a bit longer (read spending more time hiking and exploring). This time I got walked through a locality where I could see a lot of immigrants. A lot number of kids were playing together and their sweet cheers could be heard from quite a distance. On interacting with some families I got to know that many of their ancestors had migrated from Tibet and they have been living here for decades.
Spending some time with them, I moved ahead as the sun was going dim much faster. Within a couple of hours the whole place seemed to turn indoors. As I was moving about the hotel reception, the chilling winds wafted some pieces of music originating from the clarinets and drums played at the monastery. I felt very happy with what Kalpa offered in just a few hours. As I had my dinner, I made sure to get the exact timing of sunrise so that I can get myself on to the terrace well before time. And I could not sleep that night as I was too excited to catch the sunrise at Kinnaur Kailash the next day, the most anticipated and one of a kind experience in lifetime!
I got up at 6 am and the dark sky had caught the blue hue when I equipped myself on the terrace. It was freezing cold and I was shivering under two blankets plus woollens. Within half an hour, gradually the darkness was shifting and it was a spectacular sight of stars and the moon still lit in the sky. Alone in the terrace, I was trying to keep myself warm by rubbing my palms together which were losing sensation despite wearing gloves. But at that time, nothing really mattered!
I kept my eyes and chin up in the eastern sky having no idea of the sun rising from which peak. I kept staring at the Kinnaur Kailash peak as I had heard that one can see a spectrum of colours reflecting from the Shivling as the first sunlight falls on it. Waiting for the magnificent scene was gradually becoming difficult as the expected time had already passed. And right at that moment when doubt confronted the mind about the whereabouts of the sun, the sky took a magical conversion! The lighted sky turned dark within seconds and dissected strands of light lurked from the range. The sky turned darker as the lights appeared stronger with each second. And just as the day sky looked like a night sky, a heavenly sight was disclosed in front of my eyes. The sunlight looked like a searchlight behind the Jarkanden peak! The birds started chirping at the onset of the sight as if the creatures are singing in the praise of God! The sight stayed for a few seconds and then the sun revealed itself up the mountain in all its glory. The chirping birds all at once flew up the sky announcing the start of the day.
Spellbound by the sight, I could not blink in fear of losing any valuable second. I could not feel my fingers but I made sure that I record and capture the sight at any cost. I had never experienced such a sunrise in my life before. I was left speechless and I still could not believe what I saw. I sat there for a while in solitude and thanked the Almighty for such a blessing.
I came down to have a cup of tea. I took some time to get fresh and then I thought to move about the village once more. I took a ride to Reckong Peo, the busy district headquarter, 13 km from Kalpa. Spending some time visiting the local market, bus stand, hospital and some wonderful views of the mountain range, I returned to my dream place, Kinnaur Kailash. In the evening, I walked my way to some more unexplored corners of habitation and spend some time with the locals, trying a hand at apple picking. The holy Shivling offered a blissful sight throughout the day, changing its color with the change of light.
Next day it was time to pack my bags and leave this heavenly place! I was a bit depressed because I had fallen in love with the place and its wonderfully warm people. But then I remembered that you got to move on to take on the other callings. I got to pack my bags and explore other destinations, meet and greet more people, be one of them, hear their stories, take leave, move on and the cycle is to be repeated while I keep the memories safe to be unlocked and shared later. For I am part of that creed who means it when they say –
Even while the earth sleeps we travel. We are the seeds of the tenacious plant, and it is in our ripeness and our fullness of heart that we are given to the wind and are scattered. (Kahlil Gibran)
Have you come across an exceptional sunrise? Do share your experience below.