Words- Imtiaz Ullah
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In this age of modern technology when one can research about places with the click of a button, the world has shrunken to such an extent that it has become increasingly difficult to find places which are less travelled and can be termed as hidden gems. In my quest to explore the less travelled trails, I stumbled upon a place called Karsog Valley in Himachal Pradesh which is still pristine and surreal; a hidden gem away from honking cars, loud music and free from the hustle-and-bustle of city life. In Karsog, you wake up to the sound of birds chirping in an ideal morning and during the day, you can choose to be part of the village community by helping them with the farming and eating like a local with fresh vegetables plucked from backyard farms. An ideal evening can be spent over a cup of tea, gazing at the stupendously mesmerizing sunset after an afternoon siesta.
A typical himachali house in the Karsog Valley; 120 kms away from the Queen of Hills – Shimla, which is rapidly turning into a jungle of concrete now.
Karsog in the subdivision of Mandi is a small town bordering Shimla. It is easily accessible from Shimla by road. The mystic serenity of this place and the sound of ringing bells emanating from the temples transform this place into an abode of the mountain gods. Due to the presence of numerous beautiful and historical temples, this place can also be called as the land of temples. Visiting these temples which are adorned with beautiful wooden carvings representing various art forms will ensure that that the visitor fall in love with the raw himachali charm of this mysterious valley.
Some of the temples worth mentioning are the Mahaleshwara Mahadev, Kamaksha Mata, Churag and the Mahunag Temple.
The Mahunag Temple is approximately 25 kms away from Karsog and located at a distance of 100 kms from the state capital, Shimla. This temple is a medieval styled pahari temple, devoted to Lord Karna (the legendary matchless warrior from Mahabharata, son of Kunti and the Sun God). It is locally known as ‘Mahunag’.
Shikari Devi Temple: This temple in Himachal Pradesh is dedicated to Shikari Devi, the hunting goddess in the form of a stone idol. Tourists generally access this shrine by trekking from Chindi. It is one of the special attractions of Karsog and also accessible from Janjheli by trekking. According to ancient legends, hunters from the valley worshipped Shikari Mata as their principal deity but never covered the roof of the shrine. Any attempts to roof the shrine would be in vain. Although the temple compound may be covered with snow, there would be zero presence of snow on the roof and the open shrine.
Kamaksha Devi Temple: This is a shakthi peeth dedicated to Goddess Parvati and is believed to be the site where the tongue of the goddess fell. During the occasion of Shivaratri, thousand of devotees throng this place in order to offer their homage to the venerable deity.
Apart from these temples, there are numerous other places where you can chill and have a relaxing time in the weekend. Noteworthy amongst these places are:
Chindi village: The crisscrossed steps of apple and peach orchards surrounds the entire valley making the whole landscape resemble an offbeat wonderland. The valley is green and beyond doubt, one of those offbeat locations which you won’t like to miss if you want to explore the less-explored.
Janjehli: Janjehli (2150 mt above sea level) is a small but captivating village around 80 kms from Mandi and is a paradise for hikers and nature lovers. It serves as the base for the Shikari Devi trek, which is further 16 kms up the mountains. Tall deodar trees, apple orchards, lush green meadows, small beautiful streams and enchanting views adds to the ethereal beauty of this amazing and quite place.
Tattapani: Tattapani is famous for hot water springs (sulphur springs) located at one side of River Satluj and the backwaters of Kol Dam. Situated at a distance of 53 kms from Shimla, it serves as the entry point to Karsog sub-division. The place is famous for its sulphur containing hot springs which submerges in the artificial lake formed there due to construction of the Kol Dam Hydro Electric Project. River-rafting at Tattapani is gaining a lot of traction, attracting people from all over Himachal and the neighbouring states. People from all over the country has been increasingly visiting Tattapani to experience the beautiful river-rafting adventure.
One who visits this beautiful green valley can hardly have enough of exploring the welcoming villages, chatting with locals and mingling with the lovely curious children, enjoying the scenery while sipping in the mystic silence and chirping of birds. This valley guarantees in its own unique
ways to provide travellers with those little joys of life which a city dweller often doesn’t associate with city life, thus rejuvenating their mind. Karsog is indeed one of the most refreshing destination in Himachal for city dwellers.
Places to stay at Karsog:
As this place hasn’t yet found its place in the regular travel map of most travellers, accommodations to stay in Karsog are few but beautiful. The PWD Rest House which offers a spectacular view of the valley below and the HPTDC Mamleshwar are some of the best accommodations available at this place. There are a few rudimentary homestays for budget travellers and are generally priced at around 500 INR.
How to Reach:
Mandi – Janjheli – Magru Gala – Chhatri: 107 kms. Shimla – Naldhera- Mashobra -Tattapani – Chindi – Karsog -Chhatri -155kms.