It was our strong desire of trekking in the higher Himalayas that initiated the journey from Ghangaria to Gurudwara Sri Hemkund Sahib. But as we began the journey, faith came in. Pilgrims of all ages were on this difficult trek; a complete uphill trek that certainly demands physical fitness. More than the physical fitness, their faith on Waheguru (Guru Govind Singh) and chanting his name “Satnam Waheguru” was driving them most on this arduous trek. For us also, no more it remained a walk in the Himalayas, but became a more meaningful one, to reach one of the most sacred Shrine of Sikhs that lies in the higher Himalayas at an elevation of 4632m (more than 15000 feet).
Legend has that, Sri Guru Gobind Singh, the tenth and last Guru of the Sikhs meditated at Hemkund in his previous life. In this place, a Gurudwara was first built in the year 1935-36 by Sant Sohan Singh. Later in the year 1960 the present structure of the Gurudwara was built with a roof like an upside down lotus.
It was our yet another day with an early start, at six in the morning, from the base camp Ghangaria. We stayed two previous nights in Ghangaria which lies at an elevation of more than 3000 m. Our yesterday’s trek to the Valley of Flowers did help us for proper acclimatization. So we were confident to go on this trek without much trouble. As we climbed few hundred meters from Ghangaria we saw the beautiful waterfalls. We were to go above the top of that to reach Guruduwara. On the initial part of the journey, the horsemen were not only offering rides to the shrine but also a word of caution about the steepness of the trek. However, their cautions did not let us down and we continued walking uphill slowly.
Gurudwara Sri Hemkund Sahib is considered as the most sacred pilgrimage place of the Sikhs which is visited by large numbers of pilgrims every summer from all over the world.
Though the trek to Hemkund Sahib is much difficult than the Valley of Flower still it bored larger traffics than the later. The path was testing everyone’s physical and mental strength, but almost everyone was completing it successfully taking each step chanting the name of Waheguru. Certainly the steep hike was taking toll on all, but I saw none leaving on the halfway. Obviously it’s the faith that was doing the wonder – the trick of trekking successfully on such steep trail by the elders. What surprised me more was that some young people found horse ride as more convenient means to reach the Shrine while elderly pilgrims were climbing the steep trek although stopping and huffing quite regularly.
There were only a few tea shops on the whole trek to Hemkund Sahib. A cup of normal tea did cost us Rs.25/- though not unexpected at that height. All along the road we did encounter with wild Himalayan flowers, some of them we have already seen in the Valley of Flowers yesterday. As we climbed a few more kilometers we saw many Himalayan Blue Poppy flowers. Many Brahmakamal (Sacred Lotus) plants started appearing by the side of the treks. But they were few near the trek. Brahmakamals occupying the vast areas of nearby mountain slopes were beckoning us to reach them by leaving the actual trek. It was hard to resist and we responded to that.
Brahmakamal blooms in the higher Himalayas and has many varieties of it. The flower has a lovely fragrance too. It blooms only once in a year during July to mid October. While trekking during the day hours you cannot see a fully bloomed Brahmakamal as they starts blooming late in the evening, open up as the night progress, close down after the midnight and wither away before dawn. So it blooms at night and remains for that night only. This Himalayan flower is the official state flower of Uttarakhand.
How wonderful it was to sit amidst the Brahmakamal plants! But we had also to reach the shrine. So we came back to the main trek climbing carefully the slippery mountain. Reaching at the bottom of the final climb we saw two routes there, longer one goes uphill gradually and the shorter one is with very steep stairs of about 1100 Nos. We took the longer route and reached the Guruduwara Hemkund Sahib at 10 AM after trekking for 2.50 hours from Ghangaria.
Guruduwara Hemkund Sahib is located by the side of a crystal clear lake and surrounded by seven Himalayan peaks. On the bank of this magnificent lake also lies a small Lakshman temple. The glaciers from the nearby mountains feed the lake and a small stream known as Lakshmanganga flows out of this lake through the Bhuyandar valley and merges with river Pushpawati in Ghangaria. It then flows as Lakshmanganga and meets with Alaknanda in Govindghat.
Much before the Sikhs found this holy place and started coming here for pilgrimage, Hemkund or Hemkunt has been a holy place for Hindus. They have been visiting it for centuries and called it as Lokpal Lakshman Mandir. Belief is that Lakshmana, the younger brother of Lord Ram, meditated at this place and the lifesaving magic drug Sanjeevani Buti that cured wounded Lakshmana in the battle of Ramayana was collected by Hanuman from this place.
Most of the pilgrims were taking dips in the ice cold water of the lake before entering into the Gurudwara. Their belief is much respected but I had a little courage to follow the ceremony. So I took some water in my cupped palm and tossed it over my head before entering in the Gurudwara.
We sat for a while in the Gurudwara and listened to the morning prayers, and then we went to the Langar where tea and Khichdi (a recipe made from rice and lentils) were serving to the visitors. We ate and set off our return journey. It was a day bound journey to Hemkund Sahib as staying overnight is not allowed and there are no such facilities too. Return journey took lesser time and we reached the base camp Ghangaria by trekking for an hour or so.
The difficulty level of this trek is Strenuous. Hemkund sahib is 6 Km from the base camp Ghangaria. From the nearest road head Govindghat one can reach Ghangaria by trekking of 15 Kms. To ease the difficulties of trekking one can choose to go on horseback. Depending on your affordability you can also hire helicopter service to reach Ghangaria and enjoy the lovely bird’s eye view of Himalaya.