“Are you serious, we aren’t driving up these roads!” she yelled on our tough ascend to Shangarh from Sainj Valley! Doubtful about the choice, she gave me tough looks throughout the uphill drive. But once we reached and stopped near the meadow, she grinned and said it’s endearing!
A warm hug to my cold soul, A pretty smile to my sad face;
I fell in love with you at first glimpse, thus I call you my Happy Place!
Shangarh is a tiny hamlet perched in the gorgeous Sainj valley of Himachal Pradesh which is yet in veil and not exposed to many tourists. The gorgeous village welcomes you with enchanting views and warm people. Lying in the buffer zone of the Great Himalayan National Park, Shangarh has numerous treks to take. It is home to Shangchul Mahadev temple and extraordinary meadows overlooking snow capped hills.
My Trip to Shangarh, Sainj Valley-
It was 7 AM and both I and Swati were half awake just when we heard our Volvo driver calling out “Aut passengers”, we got down and were taken aback by the wild chilly wind which woke us up in a jiffy. Received by Nitish here, who was ready with the car, we left for our 30 KM drive to Shangarh!
That feeling when you land up in the mountains after ages and could feel the soul come alive is magical and that is exactly what we felt as we drove through gorgeous the Sainj Valley. Crossing a number of Hydro projects, small schools and roads which you wish never end; we stopped at a roadside dhaba for a glass of hot tea. That is when a random man stopped and asked if I were Vandana (which later turned out, was our host for the night!). He then left wishing us a happy stay.
Again as we ascended the tough roads, jus 2 KMs short of Shangarh we found an extremely beautiful abandoned wood house, like the ones you see in dreams! After a while of trying to avoid trespassing we gave up to our wish and entered that house. After crossing some thorny bushes and a broken ladder, we stepped on the house as it creaked. On hearing the creaks, an old man came out and greeted us with beautiful stories of the valley and freshly plucked golden apples!
A quick drive and we reached the Shangarh meadows. Ohh! That beauty. You definitely don’t imagine what we saw there when we talk of a meadow. Surrounded by Pines and Cedars, this golden-green carpet is so much more than a meadow. Animals grazing around, clouds playing Hide and Seek, Beautiful Himachali temple at one end with gigantic mountains in the backdrop, it was straight out of a fantasy.
After our short while at the meadow, we moved ahead to our Homestay to freshen up and were greeted with a wide smile and hug by the host there(I fondly call her Kaaki) . She showed us our room with a view so pretty and served us tea and Siddu, a Himachali delicacy.
A short walk to the farms around later, we came back, took a short nap and were served with hot farm grown Rajma and Chawal. Post that, left for a hike back to the meadow. En route stopping at the village temple where some celebration with local deity’s idol was taking place and we got to be a part of the same. Being a sucker for stories, learning about Shangarh and how it is connected to the times of Mahabharata from a local gentleman was the highlight of my day!
We witnessed an amazing sunset at the meadow, collected pine corns and sang beautiful Himachali songs with two local kids near the temple. An evening walk post sunset and almost falling off the roads as it was pitch dark in the village, we made it back to our homestay.
As soon as I entered, Kaaki called me quick to kitchen to record a video of her cooking a traditional dinner and we had a hearty long talk. Oh it was such a happy feeling to sit by the Tandoor as she cooked, the warmth of the fire and the sweet smell of home cooked food after a tiring walk of 4 hours is like a hug to your cold soul. Post dinner, we sat at the bon fire they had arranged at the back yard and with the sky lit with stars and my eyes glistening at the sight, I knew it would be a Good night for sure.
Waking up next morning with frosted windows and hazy view of the mountains, getting out of the warm bed wasn’t really difficult to after all go back and bask in the beauty of nature!
After a hearty breakfast of Aloo Parathas, we sat in the farm and just lazily gazed at the clouds and the goats as they grazed. Not wanting to leave, we had to bid adieu to the most wonderful hosts and we stopped by at the meadow for some pictures.
Post that, as we descended our journey, we got a number of road blocks and finally made it to the Manu Rishi Temple at Shanshar, crossing Neuli which acts as a junction for these darling yet adventurous roads. An exquisite old fashioned 5 tiered temple located within the bewitching scenic hamlet, spending some time here was a pure bliss.
Dodged by the clock, we quick left the temple premises towards the Sainj village. Got ourselves some food, woolens and withdrew cash as they don’t have many ATMs in the vicinity. Sainj is a small town with all basic amenities and acts as supply station for all neighboring villages.
It definitely was tough to say goodbye to Sainj as we headed towards Tirthan, but I guess that’s how it is! I really hoped to visit upper Neahi, but the roads didn’t allow us the liberty and we were looking forward to go Trout searching in Tirthan, which kept us going and we said a good bye to this endearing valley!
Wondering how to plan a trip to Shangarh? Well here are some basics which might come in handy when you plan one here. However, you can always get in touch with me for more details. Just a comment/Text away! 🙂
How to reach–
Shangarh is located in Sainj valley (Kullu district) at a driving distance of around 2 hours (30 KMs) from Aut, near Mandi district in Himachal Pradesh. One can drive all the way to here or choose to take a Volvo from Delhi/Chandigarh, heading towards Bhuntar and drop down right before the Aut tunnel. From here, you can get multiple connects to Sainj and one each day to Shangarh. I would suggest avoiding a bike ride considering the road from Ropa to Shangarh.
Places to stay–
Out of the few upcoming guest houses and home stays, I would recommend Divine Land Homestay (Contact Ravi on 7807237310 for the booking), because of the extremely delightful experience I had. Don’t forget to ask Aunty for fresh Siddu and walnut chutneys for breakfast. You have a number of other budget friendly options as well.
Myths and Legends about Shangarh-
It is believed that the Shangarh meadow was created by the Pandavas during their Vanavaas (exile period) to cultivate rice and other crops. They had magically created this thatch and lived here for a while. There are a few stones dug into the ground at the meadow which is also believed to be installed by the Pandavas to tie the cattle. The meadow was later occupied by the demons who were destroyed by the lord Shangchul Mahadeva, who now has an exquisite Himachali styled temple at the corner of the meadow and since then it is believed that this gorgeous meadow belongs to the lord and camping or staying at the meadow isn’t permissible.
Things to See and Do-
The infamous Shangarh meadows and the Shangchul Mahadeva temple are the highlights of the entire Sainj valley and must be done. Visit the local deity temple at Shangarh and make a wish in the ears of “Nandi” outside the temple. At a short trekking distance, there’s a nameless waterfall and a beautiful lake which can be fathomed even by non trekkers like me! Apart from that, one should just chill, gaze at snow capped mountains and soak in the sun here without bothering bout the tan!
Places around Shangarh-
Out of the numerous trek routes, I highly recommend the Great Himalayan National Park trek which can be done from Ropa Complex (7 KMs from Shangarh). You may choose to visit Neuli, Manu Rishi temle at Shanshar, Upper Neahi, Sainj town and further ascend to Tirthan valley if you wish.
I wouldn’t recommend you to visit Shangarh if you’re someone who likes touristy shopping at Mall roads or get all worked up in the absence of electricity or hot water etc. Shangarh is for those who like to leave a piece of soul at a place and visit there again in the search for it, for those who seek joys in the little things life has to offer, for those who would smile like an idiot when they witness a beautiful sunset and forget to capture it since they were in awe of the view itself!
Go visit a piece of heaven, go visit beautiful temples and meadows, go visit a piece of my soul, go visit Shangarh!