My visit to Surkunda devi temple was due since 2004. I had visited the temple in 2003 to pray the Goddess to bestow upon me the peace and relief from worldly pain. The promise to visit Maa again was therefore due from 2004 as things settled exactly as prayed. However that was easier said than done. Kabir aptly writes, ” dukh me sumiran sab kare sukh mein kare na koya, sukh me sumiran jo karen to dukh kahe ko hoya.” So the dilly dallying continued for next 10 years. It ended last week when honestly speaking I could not go to the charming Valley of Flowers. The Valley of flowers situated in Uttarakhand at the height of around 10000 feet in west Himalaya is a part of Nanda Devi National Park and is known for its unbelievable display of colorful range of flowers. Due to still under construction roads in the final patches and running short of 2 days for a decent plan, I settled for the visit to Maa Surkunda Devi Temple near popular hill station Dhanolti. So in third week of september 2014, proceeding from the state capital Dehradun along with my Jija ji , I reached the forest rest house Dhanolti in the late evening around 7 pm. The forest rest house in Dhanolti is a pre independence structure with typical hill station rest house features. The views from the rest house are amazing though on one side of it an imposing guest house of GMVN has come up and has somewhat dwarfed the beautiful but small guest house. We had the coffee at the glass house built in 1997 in the courtyard of the FRH and went ahead for an evening stroll on the road. The road in this hilly town gets deserted with the sunset as the most shopkeepers retire to their villages situated in the hills nearby. The frequent sighting of Leopard on the slopes and sometimes on the roads of Dhanolti also hastens an early shutdown of the town. We too did not go much further and decided to beat an early retreat. The food at the rest house was ready rather early. The temperatures were around 16 degree and to enjoy the great weather in true spirit we set for few drinks together and enjoyed the the devadar enthused ambience. It appeared as if the reed diffuser with the natural essence of Devdaar was placed right inside of our dining room. I retired to bed around 10 pm and went in to sleep quickly. Next morning we started early. The way to the temple was really full of fresh morning energy. This time infact in any part of the world gives you a booster dose of energy and you feel like a blessed human being brimming with positive energy. The temperatures were around 10 degree. The temple devoted to the Shakti swaroop is situated in the Kaddukhal village of Tahsil Dhanolti of district Dehradun at an altitude around 10000 feet. It is just 6 kms from the beautiful and picturesque Devdaar trees infested small town of Dhanolti. It is 24 kms from popular hill station of Mussorrie also called as the queen of hills. Situated at the height of 7500 feet the temperature here are best in summers and on lower side in winters. The snowfall occurs every year almost mandatorily. The small village of Kaddukhal is on the road to Chamba and almost 19 kms before the town of Chamba. The village serves as the base camp of the 2.5 kms track to the temple. A small bus stop cum taxi stand is on the foot steps of the temple and is also lined by few shops selling prasad for the devotees going to the temple. After purchasing the prasad at the start(its not available on the temple trek in the lean season at least), I proceeded to a 2.5 km track. The start of the trek on hills usually makes you realize in first 100 meters itself that your lungs were made only for your ascending steps in a maximum one floor house. The panting for breath which starts so soon gets unique sounds out of your nostrils as if you are a horse who has put in non stop 100 km sprint to be there. The realization of your limits actually humbles you a lot and your worship of the Goddess starts right there. It also does not help when you find locals sprinting ahead of you as a Bajaj Pulsar motorcycle racing ahead in style from a rickety hero cycle ! My panting kept on increasing for next 500 mts as after that I got a level patch i could walk as a human. Interestingly the road to the temple was rather decent as compared to what it was during my first visit in 2003. It had railings too in steep patches and few steel benches too donated by few worshipers who had got painted and full postal addresses etc as if to receive a vote of thanks from you via speed post.
The trek upwards also has facility of mules for those who can not expand their lungs like a Shaktiman. Interestingly the mule services is strategically placed after the first 500 meters in all religious places i have visited in India. Actually they are perfectly placed right at the places where they know that the pilgrim would surrender rather too meekly after a deep realization of their flat lungs ! To my agony the mule service in the week of pitra-piksha preceding the onset of Shardiya Navratra was not vailable in that wee hour of the morning. I had no option but to continue my journey with heavy feet and with chant of the Goddess without whose help there was no chance to ascend the hills. As I progressed the music played on the top of the hills started getting closer to me and with a lot of sweating and resultant lightening of the cloth i kept on going. Though the journey was not so long as happens in Vaishno Devi and like places there was not even a single shop on the way that could facilitate some lime water or some energizer etc for the hapless souls. I kept on trudging and finally reached the top of the hills in approx 70 minutes.
The locals, I was told don’t take more than 20 minutes to do the same. After placing my shoes in designated palaces i washed by feet and hands and reached the temple. The temple much to my pleasant surprise was renovated or you can say rebuilt actually in last few years as while earlier there stood a traditional small temple building, now there was a beautifully done temple complex on the patterns of an admixture of Hindu and Tibetan style of architecture as visible in the photographs attached. The temple was painted in yellow and red and had a carpeted area inside for the devotees with a Girbha-Griha for the traditional old idol of Maa Surkunda. On entry to all temples or religious places which are reached by after considerable efforts and pain like trekking, one feels a sense of immense emancipation. A deep breath there fills your lungs with pure bliss. You thank almighty and realize that he wanted to see whether you will take enough pains to come and meet him. You feel elated and recharged as if you were fresh like a flower and closest to the almighty. It was a bliss. I bowed before the Goddess and prayed from the deep of my heart. I thanked her for her blessings and sought her blessings for life further to come. The Pujari offered us the holy water and consecrated the prasad bought by us from the foothills. I felt blessed. Coming out of the main temple I went for breaking raw coconut and after offering to holy trident there had some coconut kernel. It was an enchanting view outside with the clouds setting on the temple and covering it almost completing. The valley too was partially covered with clouds. I took some photographs of the scenery and after enjoying breathtaking views started the return journey. The journey back was obviously less treacherous and it took almost half the time. Reaching down rather comfortably we thanked Goddess for her kindness and finally packed ourselves in the vehicle and went back to our halt at Dhanolti for our next destination. Thus ended a great journey due upon me for last 10 years. Jitendra