Uttarakhand: 25 trekkers on mission to rediscover lost routes to Chardham

04:13 PM Nov 02, 2021 | PTI |

Dehradun: Tearing through deep forests, trudging up steep slopes, and wading through mountain streams, a team of 25 trekkers is currently on an expedition in Uttarakhand to rediscover the lost trek routes to the Chardham.


Being carried out by the Uttarakhand Tourism Development Board in collaboration with an organization called Trek The Himalayas, the expedition was flagged off here recently by Chief Minister Pushkar Singh Dhami.

The trek team which consists of hikers, photographers, documentary filmmakers and SDRF personnel aims to find out the present condition of the routes that were used by pilgrims decades ago.

The team is documenting things they come across in the course of their exploration and will submit all documentation to the state government on the basis of which steps will be taken to revive the routes, Additional Secretary (Tourism) Yugal Kishore Pant told PTI.

Believed to have been used by the Pandavas in the course of their passage to the Himalayas after the Mahabharata war, the arduous treks which took pilgrims and ascetics days to reach the Himalayan temples until the 1950s fell into disuse as easier options of traveling became available to people with the building of motorable roads.


With still easier options like helicopter services to Kedarnath, Badrinath, Gangotri, and Yamunotri becoming available in more recent times, the ancient trails passing through shadowy woods and idyllic hill villages were forgotten completely until the board decided to rediscover them to give a boost to tourism and rural economy, which have been hit hard by the Covid pandemic.

However, before the network of motorable roads came into being, the trek routes to the famed temples were the only option available to people. Though difficult and time taking, pilgrims trekking to the temples had a range of stopovers built every few kilometers by the Baba Kali Kamli organization along the way where they could rest and fight the fatigue of the long journey before resuming it.

”We thought why not rediscover the trek routes and offer another option to the Chardham-bound tourists and pilgrims who had more time on their hands and willing to reach the temples through the scenic trail, halting at the chattis or homestays on the way, passing through the hill villages and connecting with locals,” Pant said.

”Reaching the temples in buses or helicopters is easy but it deprives travelers of an opportunity to experience things which they would probably love to if given an option. It is said that every pebble and stone on the road in the hills, every rivulet has a story to tell,” he said.

A devotee or a tourist who flies in a helicopter to the temples and completes the pilgrimage in two days may fulfill a lifelong wish but he definitely misses out on a lot which could have come his way if he took the trek routes,” he said when asked about how the idea of rediscovering them struck him.

If the trek routes are rediscovered and made usable once again they can even boost the rural economy in a big way, he said.

”Pilgrims on a trek to the Chardham will look for porters, local guides, horses, and mules. They may go for homestays on the way to take a breather in between the journey and opt for local cuisine. This will open up livelihood avenues for locals and boost the village economy,” Pant said.

The official said the trek routes stood fair chances of clicking with pilgrims as there is a growing tendency post-Covid among visitors to avoid going to crowded places and go instead to lesser-known destinations, quiet and secluded in the hills.

The trekking team will traverse a distance of more than 1,200 km in 50 days to find the old routes, team leader and founder of Trek The Himalayas, Rakesh Pant, told PTI.

”So far Gullerchatti, Phoolchatti, Mahadevsain, Mohan Chatti, Bandar Chatti, Kaandi Chatti, Vyaschatti, and Mahadev Chatti have been traveled and explored by our team. Around 80 chattis existed along the Himalayan trails in their heydays out of which around 30 are still in decent condition,” he said.

The exploration is being documented through visual and written mediums. On completion, the project will be developed into a documentary.

The recce programme is divided into 5 stages. Stage 1 covers Rishikesh to Yamnoutri; stage 2 Yamnoutri to Gangotri; stage 3 Gangotri to Kedarnath; stage 4 Kedarnath to Badrinath and stage 5 would bring the team back from Badrinath to Rishikesh, he said.

Alongside rediscovering the ancient route, the expedition also focuses on sustainability. Creating environmental awareness and promoting eco-friendly practices are a prominent part of the expedition which includes promoting a plastic-free environment by reducing the use of plastic for all daily operations.

”Uttarakhand is a hub for adventure sports. By involving trekking and experiencing new outdoor activities, the trail would allow visitors to explore different aspects of outdoor adventure experiences,” he said.


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