Hiking to Shikari Devi Temple Mandi Without a Guide At the Onset of Monsoons
Deciding To Do The Shikari Devi Trek
Since we arrived in Mandi (our trip began at Pangna going through Chindi) we kept hearing about the Shikari Devi temple. Locals religiously believe in Shikari Devi and used to walk to her temple every year. Now a road has come up to the top, and most Himachal people do not trek to Shikari Devi mandir. They get a car and drive there. But the walking trail exists and goes through the deep Shikari Devi Sanctuary. This forest is a dense one, and not even one house can be found inside, except that of some nomadic shepherds.
Every time my partner and I heard the mention of the hard trek to Shikari Devi, we would get a little bit more interested. As the road was kaccha and not a tar road, we were sure we will not drive there. We never drive on kaccha roads here in Himachal. But the idea of a challenging hike excited us both.
We took directions and suggestions from many people at Mamleshwar hotel in Chindi and talked to the village people. Most said we could go, but we had to be cautious of the way. The jungle trail is not the easiest one as many side routes exist around it. A few said the path was not a problem as long as we could walk. Would we be able to walk that long given we were from the city? That was the principal concern.
Assimilating all the local inputs, we understood the walking trail would need some figuring out. We would have to start early to have enough time to return if we get lost or cannot walk. And a one-night stay would have to be booked at the Forest Rest House at Shikari, so we stay there at night.
The internet did not have any information on the hike. As this trek is mostly done by locals and the temple is revered by Himachali people only — outsiders don’t even know about the temple of Shikari Devi — all the information about it is only spread through word of mouth. I wish I could find a good Himachal blog on the Shikari Temple walk (and for many other obscure hikes). But I got your back. This guide to Shikari will have all the information you may need to go there.
As my partner and I were both going to be busy until late Friday night, we decided to hike to Shikari on Sunday. Saturday would be a relaxing and planning day. The weather predictions expected the area to be rainy and stormy all week long. But on Saturday, the weather remained clear, bright, and dry. So we were inclined towards believing the weather would clean up and be nice to us.
Leaving For the Shikari Devi Mandir Hike, Mandi, Himachal Pradesh
Preparing everything at night, we had a filling dinner to prepare the energy for the next day and slept like two babies. Our 5-am alarm woke us up. I jumped out of bed at 5:20 and immediately got into action.
I will talk about the preparation of Shikari Devi hike in a separate section in detail. But in short, I can say we packed the essentials, kept our big bags in the car, checked out, and started walking. One big mistake I did was listening to my partner and not bringing my North Face rain jacket meant for heavy rains and winds (I bought it for the rougher terrains of Chile). He thought the rain jacket would make the bags heavier. We had the umbrella though.
We were on the road at 7:10. Timings are important because if you have got daylight, you can save yourself anywhere.
The Unpredictable Rainfall and the Confusion Whether To Go Or Not
The sky had been cloudy from the night before. The mist made me conscious. Will the weather clear up? We wondered. Soon it started raining. We were still away from the Hanuman temple in Bakhrot village. The trek to the Shikari Devi mandir begins from the upwards road opposite the temple.
On the way, we stopped at a dhaba to get a cover from the drizzle and have some tea. The aunty there said we should not go. The fog had covered the road in front of us. She said, “up there at the height of Shikari, the mist would be even thicker. You may get lost. The jungle is full of wild animals.” But she agreed many people walk to Shikari, and the route is well-marked. The main trail though is surrounded by many smaller paths, and even locals forget their way there.
To add to our dilemma, she iterated a story of three young boys from Hamirpur who had decided to walk up to Shikari in the snow of January (I wonder why). After a couple of days, their bodies were found. (We will keep hearing the stories of those two Hamirpur boys. Some said they were buried in snow, some said they lost their way, others believed wild animals had eaten the boys. But while writing this guide to Shikari Devi trek, I read the news articles about those boys. Those 2017 news pieces mentioned the boys died (possibly) due to hypothermia as they were buried in 7-8 feet deep snow. Some wild animals may have later eaten up the body. The unfortunate (and most probably, unplanned) hikers were found about a kilometre away from the mandir of Shikari Devi Mandi.
Just a precautionary note — After having been to Shikari, I can say with two hundred percent surety no one should trek to Shikari Devi peak in snow. The routes go through dense jungle, and so many paths go forward one wouldn’t know one from another. Everything would look the same, and the hiker will lose the direction. Only think about going to Shikari in the snow if you have a team of guides. One guide will not be enough as even locals forget their way on the Shikari trek. And there won’t be even one soul to help you in snow as shepherds would be gone too and no one else would be walking to the temple either.
But the dhaba owner also said if the weather clears we may have luck. The shop owner near the dhaba suggested we could go as the weather clears up slowly. “And you have to walk straight on the path. Don’t go here and there.” He concluded.
The local dhaba woman showed us the Sainthal village hill from her dhaba. The high mountain — or as the locals call it dhar — had a sea of clouds floating in front of it. Shikari Devi summit was even further up ahead of Sainthal village, and we could not even dream to see it in such fog. But the temple is visible from Chindi on clear days.
Climbing to Shikari Devi Himachal Pradesh from the Bakhrot Hanuman Temple
Grey and stuffed clouds stood neck to neck with each other. Meanwhile, we had two cups of tea, and my partner ate an omelet. Slowly the rain reduced, and the clouds backed off a bit. We paid and walked on.
In front of the Bakhrot temple, we took the kaccha road. We asked a local man if we were on the right way. He was surprised we were going alone.
“It is a long walk. You would need like 5-6 hours more to reach. Are you sure you will be able to walk?”
“Ask the people at the Sainthal village about the weather conditions at Shikari Mata mandir. If they say its too rainy or windy up there, return.”
We were thankful for the advice and decided to return if the villagers up ahead advised against us climbing.
Five minutes later, two old Himachali men (perhaps on a friendly stroll) were surprised we had come from as far as Karnataka to Himachal. They also said we would need many hours and we have to walk straight. “No shortcuts or you will lose the main path. You have to go down if the path goes down and go up if the way climbs up.”
We nodded, again.
We noted the advice to follow the main way and not explore smaller trails. And because we had the Forest Rest House at Shikari Devi booked for that night, we were assured we only had to walk one way. Serais — or guest houses — also give resting places to travelers up at Shikari temple.
Further up we crossed another village (just a couple of houses) where people had been active since morning. They advised us to take the car and not walk.
But most of them were worried we won’t be able to walk for so long. Keeping that aside, the route still didn’t sound so troublesome, at least on a clear day.
Crossing the Sainthal Village On The Trek to Shikari Devi
After climbing upwards for maybe an hour and a half, we arrived at Sainthal. Now instead of the jungle, a path curled straight ahead. Dry pine needles were swept to the side forming pyramids. Two women and a man stood there talking and minding their cows.
When we told the trio we were going to Shikari, they didn’t seem to feel so good about our decision.
“There isn’t a road there like you have in your state. This is a jungle path and not one, but many trails go around the main one.”
I told them we had more jungles from where we had come. But we appreciated their apprehension. The man gave us his number and said we could return to his house if we faced any problem or got lost. He lives alone, he said.
The women joined in and said we could stay with them too.
Thanking them for their advice to stick to the principal path and not wander, we entered the village. We walked through the mud trail of the village which was fringed with apple orchards, ancient mud and stone houses, cows, and farmlands.
Three cows stood staring at us outside one house under whose plum tree we stood. The plum tree was loaded with the fruit, and I had a hard time controlling myself not to pluck even one. But the house was unattended, and we didn’t want to steal. The cows were wary of us and called out so loud we were sure someone would show up soon.
The view of the valley below Sainthal had already become amazing. Ahead on the trail, clad in a warm jacket and topi, an old man came out of his cowshed as we were about to cross it. He held a stick in his hand and a benevolent look on his face. He inquired if we were going to Shikari Devi. When we said yes, he said, “Jai Ma Shikari” and asked us to stick to the main more-trodden path. “If it went down, go down, if it goes up, go up. Walking slowly you will arrive. There will be a lot of mist up there. But do not get scared and keep walking on your path.” He pointed his hands straight.
The old Sainthal villager was so reassuring I was pumped up after speaking with him. He must have done the trail at least a few times as in the past villagers visited the Shikari temple once a year. And as there was no road to the temple, they all walked.
The sky had now cleared up a bit more. Small red and green apples hung meekly from bushy apple trees. Further on, we crossed the tiniest and maybe the only eatery of their village. Maggie is sold here and tea coffee signs stood outside, but the door was shut.
We were finally at the spot the dhaba owner had shown us. A misty hill from far was now a village. We were not to meet any human until Shikari now, we were told.
Entering the Dense Shikari Devi Sanctuary and Finding The Way
After Sainthal, we walked through a pine and cedar jungle. The mud trail held in places by stones and roots was wide enough at that point. It was walked on, but at places, the path was covered with grass, pine needles, and dry leaves. Many trails ran alongside. Some on the left and some on right. Some tracks went long, and some met the other trail after the curve.
We continued. The weather was still clear. At a hillock point, we were confused if to go left or right. Left was a rocky and steep remnant of a path, and on the right, a narrower trail went straight. These two didn’t meet.
As if they heard our confusion, two hikers showed up. I guessed them to be semi-local for one of them carried a Quechua bag. Most locals don’t care about the brands. The boys asked us to follow the path more walked upon. They were on the narrower but straighter path. We would reach from the uphill path too but we would have to climb and go up and down, they said.
We were in the dense forest now, and the jungle was silent except the occasional crow calls and the crickets’ harsh buzzing.
In a few minutes, we ran into four more men. Some of them looked like stoners with heavy beards and red eyes. They asked us from where we had come and all that and told us we were on the right path and it would take us maybe three to four hours more. By that time, we would have walked for about forty-five minutes.
“Do visit a Shiva dera near the trail.”
We thanked them.
Getting Scooby — The Goldenest Furriest Fox-Like Dog I Have Ever Met
A golden fury dog was following the group of men. Once they left and we trod on, we saw the dog was now following us. He was golden, like ripe wheat. They whistled for him, but he didn’t go back. So the men walked away.
Now the dog trotted ahead. We walked behind. The dog seemed to know the way. And when he sat and waited for us to catch up or just rested behind us, he looked like a furry fox.
We named him Scooby as on the walk we had been singing the song Scooby-Doo Where are you? We were re-energized with this gorgeous and dependable company. Whatever doubts we had about the trek subsided. Such is the magic of friends.
Continuing Our Journey in The Dense Cedar Jungle of Shikari Devi, Now With a Dog
Within few minutes, the trail again divided into two paths. When I checked the left one, I saw two-three small stone and concrete structures standing there in solitude. Not a single soul was around. A lake covered with green moss lay in front. I could see by the Trishul on the top of the structure it was the shiva dera we were told about.
Behind lay a deep jungle. We sat on the rocks and tree stumps. Sharing our sweet biscuits with the dog, the journey now looked fascinating. In the middle of a dense and silent jungle with a strange dog en route to a high temple, what more we could ask from life. Our stomachs were filled with a sea of anticipation, fear, surprise, and excitement.
From then on, the dog ran ahead, and we moved after him. If the trail got divided into two or more paths, we both went around the trails. Then we discussed which one looked more walked upon and which one could have been a side path for shepherds and their cattle or so and so. We also noticed the empty supari packets, lays and other chips bags, and cigarette packs lying on the side of the path. If a path had those remains of a human presence, we were more confident it was the main one to Shikari.
One cannot depend entirely on a strange dog, can they?
And a lot of times Scooby trotted behind us. He would just sit in the middle of the path panting. I guess he must have been pretty tired by walking back and forth in the jungle. Who knew from where he had come?
At another part of the walk, we came upon a junction from which paths ran in all directions. As we stopped to find the one we had to take, we noticed some Hindi alphabets on the soil. Karsog was written, and the arrow was pointed in the direction from which we had come. And Shikari was written, and the arrow pointed to our left towards the uphill narrow path. That trail wasn’t so obvious. If the sign wasn’t there, maybe we wouldn’t have known if to go left or right.
The markings must have been made by the boys whom we had crossed before. Another group of four-five local boys jumped down from the direction which was marked to be of Shikari. They were returning from the temple, they said.
At least we were on the right path. We kept climbing up and down in the Shikari Devi forest Sanctuary for hours.
When Our Scooby Took Trouble With The Shepherd’s Buffaloes
After two or three hours, we came across a herd of buffaloes. At the sight of the buffaloes, Scooby went into full action and started barking at them. A few calves were there in the group, and their parents were huge.
You know buffaloes can get giant?
From my experience of trekking to the Bunbuni meadows in Parvati, I knew the buffaloes belonged to some shepherds. Villagers don’t venture into the deep jungle with their cattle. Most Himachal villagers herd their sheep and cows near their houses.
So the owners must be nearby.
We waited for Scooby to finish barking. In between, many buffaloes seemed to have made up their mind to run after the dog but none of them did. We waited on the side taking the cover of the tree in case they engaged in an ambush. But as soon as the buffaloes even looked in the direction of Scooby, he started making his way towards us. We were sure he would run for us if they chased him.
An Unpleasant Encounter With the Shepherds
Crossing the buffaloes from the side of the pasture, we ran into two curious kids who were looking in the direction of the noise we had been making.
Our journey to Shikari gets interesting now and a bit inconvenient.
The two kids were shepherd children. In kurta pajama and salwar kameez they stood. Thin faces and frail bodies.
The children asked if the dog belonged to us. We were stupid enough to say that he was not ours and he had just started following us. The boy was holding a wire rounded as a circle which was attached to a long wooden stick. They asked us to help them give the dog.
First, we didn’t understand what the girl and the boy meant. But then I got it. They said, “can you help us get the dog as we want it. We are scared but it has been with you so it would listen.”
My sweet partner even put that round wire around Scooby’s neck, and the boy took the stick in his hand. But it wasn’t too late. I said the dog had been walking with us since the beginning and we needed him to show us the way.
The girl said they feel afraid, so they need the dog. And I promised we would bring them the dog later.
I walked away and told my partner to come to me and tell them to not take the dog.
When both of us told them to let Scooby go, they removed the wire from around his neck. Scooby was so peaceful he may not have even noticed what was going on. He didn’t even wince when the wire circle was put around his neck. How could he be so patient?
The children’ parents peeked at us from behind the hill at whose base they had constructed their hut.
As we walked, the girl shouted from behind that her mother is asking us to give them the dog. And we said we would bring it the next day.
Arriving at the Steep Mountain (Dhar) and Dodging the Shepherds
We walked a bit straight on through the jungle. Due to the uncomfortable conversations, I can’t recall how much did we walk. But it wasn’t long when a steep hill stood in front of us.
We had been told about the precipitous mountain. The elderly man at the dhaba had said we would have to climb up from the dhar. But the path, he said, went zig zag.
As we climbed up, the shepherd man followed with those two kids. He was also wearing a kurta pajama. The three were looking in our direction. We knew they had come for the dog.
By this time, we were empathetic towards Scooby and felt comforted by his presence. Also giving him to a family so they could keep him chained and enslaved to herd their buffaloes didn’t feel like a good thing to do. He was a free dog.
The man asked us again if we would give them the dog. But my partner emphasized the dog was ours, and we won’t part with him. I felt protective.
The father and children stayed seated on the rock. They had stopped because we had stopped. Now as we climbed the steep mountain, we noticed they had started walking behind us too. At another curve of the mountain, I saw them watching us from their place. Their eyes affixed on our movements. The dog —ignorant of the possession dual — walked ahead peacefully. But often, he would sit and pant making a noise as if a tractor was at work.
We continued through the zigzag path. This hill was also covered with dense forest and boulders. Our speed had increased because we didn’t like the shepherds at our tail. Why were they following us?
The dhaba aunty had warned us against the shepherds. She had told a story where a guy from the village had gone to get milk from them, and they had killed him. He couldn’t be found later.
She had said, “you mind your own way and don’t ask them for nothing. You can’t trust these shepherds.”
Now I’m not from Himachal, and I don’t know a thing about these people. So I was no one to say anything. But I didn’t like that the Gujjars were following us when he had asked them to not take the dog.
Though we kept clambering up, after a while, we couldn’t see them. That hill takes a while to get on and is the steepest part of the whole Shikari hike. We wanted to believe the shepherds had let go of the chase. By this time we were getting tired too. Stopping for water, biscuit, and banana breaks, the journey went on.
But we could never relax throughout that steep climb as we both knew even if we couldn’t see the shepherds they could be anywhere. They know the jungle like we know our house and walk so fast they can catch up with anyone from outside the forest.
Scooby walked with a spring in his feet though. And looking at his golden sheen amongst that dense green deodar jungle kept us energetic.
Almost at the summit of that steep hill, a large herd of sheep was running down. Their wool had been taken off. The smaller sheep had their long wool intact which hung from their bodies like their tall ears. Came behind an old man with a long beard.
This time we didn’t even say hello.
But when the shepherd asked if we were going towards Shikari or returning, we told him we were on our way.
We were clambering up some rocks at that time. And seeing us struggle, the old shepherd suggested we take the straighter path below.
When we crossed, we heard him talk to someone. Soon we saw the shepherd’s father from before trotting upwards from another side. So he was there all the while.
Getting Out Onto the Pastures About The Road to Shikari Devi Mandir
Now we went further on for maybe ten more minutes. We could hear cars and bigger vehicles on a road nearby. Our GPS also worked, and our blue arrow was now closer to the Shikari mandir in the big green Shikari Devi forest reserve. A road curved ahead on the map.
Did we finally make it? We wondered.
As compared to the dark canopy of the forest we now received light in abundance. It was almost as if we were coming out of the jungle after a year. In the next few upwards steps, we came out in the open. We were on the pastures then. Out of the danger of any harm that shepherd man could have done us. To be frank, we didn’t like the look on his face. So now we were cheering hurray.
A large group of men and women adorned in gaudy clothes and heavy jewelry danced to local music on the velvety pasture.
Dancing With the Kullu Devotees On Shikari Devi Sanctuary Pastures
The dancing group called us towards them. They were all wearing decorative bands of colors golden and orange around their heads. Shikari Devi was written on those bands.
The group was visiting the temple from Kullu. They danced in slow rhythms by swaying their hands upwards and downwards, as one would dance on meditational songs. They formed a circle and asked us to join them. I kept my bag aside and danced alongside.
My partner sat on the side. Our Scooby had been following us for a while now. As I saw him lick water from some rock, I poured down water for him in the groove of a rock where we were seated. He finished a liter of water. (Maybe he needed water all this time, but we hadn’t found a place to pour water for him. I should have stopped and figured out a way to make him drink.)
Making The Final Walk to Shikari Devi
After a while, we bid adieu to the Kullu devotees and started walking towards our destination. Now the fog had covered large parts of the pastures and forests lying ahead. A mud road ran below. A few cars went on it.
The mud trail went up and down the green pastures filled with cattle and horse dung. Now the path went through pastures. Up and down and straight a little bit. After perhaps 5-7 minutes, our pasture track met the main road.
We got onto it and walked further. In the pastures above and below, the gaddis (gujjars or shepherds) herded their cattle, sheep, and buffaloes.
Arriving at The Parking of the Shikari Devi Temple Mandi and Gorging on Hot Rajma Rice
What we saw further on surprised us.
Hundreds of cars were parked ahead. And we head probably ten people and one dog in total on the walking trail. And all those were also returning from the mandir, not going towards it.
Now we understood why everyone said no one walks to Shikari now. They all drive. A big jostle of people seemed to float around the footsteps of the staircase that takes to the temple. There were a few dhabas. The thought of warm food after such a long walk brought a smile to our faces.
At a dhaba near the steps, we shared a plate of rajma ki dal and rice. They knew the way to the forest rest house at Shikari which we had booked the day earlier from Tattapani. We had to take the stairs to the second water tank and from there the path went straight to the FRH. Everything was covered in mist now, so exact directions were going to be useful.
Oh, we climbed up from 1822 altitude to 3359 height of Shikari Devi. Bravo! It was 4 pm when we arrived at the dhaba. So accounting for all long conversations with locals but not for the resting breaks, we can say we took six hours to climb. The duration wasn’t too long as we also figured out the way on the go.
Scooby had stopped behind on the road. He just sat there. People watched him. But he didn’t move despite our whistles that desperately called him.
Believing he would follow us, we had walked towards the dhaba. But when I turned around after a while, he was gone. How could I lose him? For the least, I wanted to thank him, feed him, and give him some more water. He could have just saved us from getting lost for all we know. We always decided upon a path independently of his choice, but still, he could have saved us on that strange dense-jungle walk.
Luck was on our side that day as I went behind the dhaba, I found Scooby. One whistle, and he came close to us. We opened the tap under which he licked the stone and drank to his heart content. As he didn’t eat the ajwain biscuits, I fed him all the remaining sweet ones we had. They had been his favorite all the while on the hike.
Climbing Up The Shikari Devi Steps and Loosing Scooby
We went up the marble stairs, and Scooby followed. Some stairs were newly constructed and were covered with dry bushes and tree branches to demotivate people from walking on them.
The paths that ran adjacent to the stairs were walkable enough, and I mostly preferred those mud and root ways over steep staircases. Especially if my legs are already breaking with the climb.
Some people were scared of Scooby, and in the mishap, we again lost him. I guess at some point he just stopped following us. My partner was exhausted by now, and I couldn’t ask him to wait to find Scooby.
I miss Scooby. He is the only dog who might have just encouraged me to keep one of my own. Maybe when I grow old!
Up and up and we arrived at the second water tank. We assumed a straight enough mud path from behind the tank would take us to our destination, and we followed it. The trail on which we walked goes further beyond the FRH, and we were later told the way went to the helipad.
Arriving at the Forest Rest House (FRH) at Shikari Devi
The FRH was invisible until we arrived close to it. A sea of clouds floated in front of the rest house. Of course, we should expect clouds at the Shikari Devi height of 3359 meters. The Everest is 8849-meter high.
Let’s not compare, but the Shikari peak is tall.
Tall enough that its weather is unpredictable around the year.
Clouds come and go,
and sunshine dodges them all.
One second the weather is sunny and clear,
and the next you can’t see your right hand,
the fog makes it so obscure.
The rest house was a simple slant roof building in the middle of nowhere. A small tent was clamped on its ground. Three boys hanging out around the camp looked like the owners of it.
The chowkidar wasn’t around. One of the boys told us the chowkidar had gone to the road to get some cooking material.
We had tried many times but couldn’t reach the Divisional Forest Officer’s (DFO) phone. As the Rest House officials had told us we had to inform the DFO about our booking at Shikari, we called him again. This time his number worked. He said he will call the chowkidar. And that the caretaker runs a shop near the temple and must have gone there with his wife to sell offerings that people present in the temple.
The Weather Worsens at Shikari Devi
Large clouds had descended around us now. From that time we won’t see anything clearly until the next day evening around 5 or 6 pm. The weather only cleared for two to three hours even then.
The chowkidar arrived and we got some hot tea. The room was opened up. It was simple yet sufficient. The caretaker first told us the bathroom flush doesn’t work and the geyser doesn’t work. He informed us that limited water is available so we have to use it carefully. Only when we promised we will not waste water, he opened up the lock of the bathroom.
While roaming around the room I found the heater kept behind the bed. We took it out and put it on. Some songs downloaded on my partner’s Youtube music filled our room.
We hadn’t received any signal throughout the jungle. Only around the dhaba area below the steps, the phone had some connectivity.
Dinner Time at FRH and the Stormy Night, Shikari Devi
The caretaker brought our simple meals much later (8:45 pm) than we had requested him to. He had again gone to his tent to finish some work there. The dinner had rice, chapati, dal, and cauliflower potato sabji at about 8:45. The smoky chapatis from the chulha were delicious, and we ate plenty.
As soon as the food was over, we got into our bed like two little kittens. At midnight it started pouring down. The boys outside in the tent wouldn’t even be able to get out to ask for help. Our heater was on. And the constant patter of the rains on the roof woke me up many times. I dreamt a lot that night.
A Rainy Morning at Shikari Devi Hill
The alarm rang at 5 am but there was no dawn sunshine to wake up to. It was still raining outside and clouds must have been right outside our window. Switching off the alarm, I drifted off into sleep with the sound of the rain pattering the valley around us.
Only around 8:30 in the morning I went to the bathroom. And the worse had happened. I had got my periods, and the underwear and the pajama hadn’t taken it well. That feeling of liquid bubbling in my panties had made me conscious but I guess I couldn’t wake up earlier.
I cleaned everything. But the worst part of it all was the freezing water spray.
Sun was hidden but the light was bright enough that I had to squint my eyes. The chowkidar came to ask for breakfast soon. And he brought us three aloo parathas. We got one more and enjoyed the paratha with butter or pickle, I don’t remember.
Sleeping All Day Long in the Rains. Devotees Get Stuck at Shikari.
We slept on as there was nothing one could do.
In between people knocked at our door several times. Once there were devotees who had come to visit the temple but had gotten stuck in the rain. The weather had taken them by chance. Thunderstorms and strong winds were shaking the area mercilessly at the time.
The family had little children with them, many of whom were crying. We told them the way to the caretaker. Later we saw the mother and the wailing children sitting inside the earthen chulha room.
For lunch, we had a lot of dal and rice to make sure we don’t feel hungry until the late dinner. We had the heater on all the time. The three boys with the tent had left at some point. We were sure they must have brought their car which was parked below the temple.
The weather was so unpredictable and harsh that day that hikers couldn’t even think of stepping out into the jungle. But the people in cars were still driving up because there was no way they could know about the storms up at Shikari Devi hill. And those who were going down were the ones who had driven and not walked the way.
So between us and the caretaker, it was decided we would stay another night. He extended our booking by calling the DFO. The Rest House also didn’t have any phone signals so we could not really do much. We were so dependent on the caretaker we were happy to just snooze in our bed. The next day we would try, we thought.
Wandering Around the temple of Shikari Devi Himachal Pradesh and Kullu Devotees
We woke up from our afternoon siesta at about 5:30 pm. The weather had just cleared up, and the views were damn fine. After a cup of tea and a few photographs over the clouds, we went for a walk around.
The temple and the forest rest house are surrounded by green pastures green. The shepherd brings so many cattle and horses in the hills they are covered in horse and cattle poop. You have to walk carefully, and you can’t do rolly-polly. Like we did around Kanag Devi temple near Theog Shimla.
The caretaker and his wife showed us their home from the FRH. They were both from Thunag in Janjheli Valley. Pointing to a rolling hill filled with dense forest, they said our home is right there. And the chief minister’s house is located there too. Just below his home, we have the way to our home. I could see the path going from below the Shikari Temple in the distance, around the pasture it went, and then disappeared in the thick cedar jungle. A couple of shepherd huts were visible from our view.
Behind the government rest house, we could see rolling waves of hills and more green pastures. The helipad lay somewhere ahead.
And on the front side of the guesthouse, was pastures and then the Shikari temple. There were pastures beyond the temple too.
As it was already about 6 pm, we decided to go in only one direction. And we headed towards the mandir. We climbed the uphill pasture and saw hundreds of people near the Serais — guest houses.
We were prepared for the crowd as our guard had told us a devta (god) from Kullu had arrived. All those hundreds of people had come following the devta. A devta is a man-god for Himachali people. I have yet to ask someone how a devta is chosen but once selected, the devta is the living god. People go where he goes. They carry him on their shoulders. He is given the best food and the best bed. He is all.
I had first come across the human devtas of Himachal in a village of Spiti Valley. Read the linked guide to see some interesting pictures and to know how the arrival of a devta is announced in the village.
Some of the Kullu devotees had walked on foot for two days from their home to Shikari Devi temple (Mandi), such is the belief of people. They had brought ration and would cook their food. A lot of tents were also set up there.
After spending a night at Shikari Mata temple, many people would follow the devta wherever he would go.
The Shikari temple was on our front now. On our right lay further pastures and jungle until the hills rolled onto a valley. Beyond laid mountains studded with huts and homes. At night we saw lights shining in those hills.
We climbed further onto the temple. I didn’t go inside but my partner did and saw those drums lying on the floor. Shikari Devi temple is popular for a hundred years maybe. I have read its mention in a 1961 census survey of Pangna village. Devotees believe that once upon a time hunters used to pray to God to help them get a good hunt. And then this god came to be known as Shikari Devi. And Pandavas had also stayed at Shikari and prayed to her. The goddess told Pandavas to build her a temple and they made one.
Now the Shikari Mata temple stands roofless. People believe that even in heavy snowfall the temple stays snow-free. And all the efforts to make a roof above the shrine have failed.
Even our waiter at Hotel Mamleshwar in Chindi told us the temple never receives snow. I wonder how many of them have seen the temple spotless in January and February. The temple is closed at that time and the guest houses shut down. Not even a single soul could be found and that’s the time when those two Hamirpur boys had also visited the Shikari temple. You would call and call but no one will come to help.
When we walked beyond the temple, the Kinnaur snow peaks in the distance caught our eye. We admired the white summits for a while.
Several Kullu men were heating their asses on a bonfire on this hill from where we watched the Kinnaur peaks. So we left them in peace and returned towards the temple.
The Shikari Devi temple area needs a good few days to explore.
We didn’t get much signal inside the rest house but now while walking down the pasture our phones beeped. An electricity tower stood there. I made a quick call back home. My mother had been watching the news which mentioned heavy rainfalls in Himachal. When she heard we were at a temple, she asked me the name and was surprised we had walked almost one full day to arrive at it.
Beyond the rest house, the setting sun lit the sky on fire. Streaks of golden and orange danced ahead. And horses still grazed in the pasture in front. Cedar and pine trees danced in the wind. We could just watch it all.
The Second Dinner and the Star-Filled Night
Some people from Kullu had put up tents at the Rest House, and they had a bonfire going too. But the winds were too damn strong and we ate dinner inside. A creamy and soft rajma (kidney beans) with chapati filled us to the core.
The sky was lit with stars outside but due to the clouds, The Milky Way wasn’t visible. In such weather, you wouldn’t find even one star in the sky.
The Second Morning at Shikari Hill
Clouds poured all night long. We snoozed the alarm and only woke up at 8. We knew we couldn’t do much even if we woke up.
The chowkidar must have been getting impatient for us to leave because this morning he brought cold parathas even when I hadn’t showered. But where could we go as the weather was still not the best?
Our chowkidar had told us that we owed him 2000 rupees for the two-day rent and 2000 more for meals and heater and everything. The heater was just a trick as that was included in the tariff.
We only had about 4500 with us so we paid the rent and gave him 1600 more for food and his services. Some cash needed to be saved for the way. We had seen his wife smoking out her lungs on the chulha and the guy running in the rain back and forth from his hut to bring us chapatis, water, and pick up our plates. So paying a little extra than usual seemed totally right.
Starting Our Return Journey From Shikari Hill to Chindi, Mandi
Seeing the cloudy sky, we put aside our plans to hike around the pastures. The weather had been sporadic and we needed to make our way back.
Given the two days of heavy rain, the jungle must be wet. We knew. So our idea was to get a cab or take a lift from someone already leaving the Shikari Mata temple.
The chowkidar wasn’t sure if we would get a taxi. He also didn’t try arranging one for us.
While leaving us on to the trail that would take us back to the stairs of the temple he said if he had made any mistake we should forgive him. We walked on straight onto the muddy and slippery trail now. My partner was already a bit conscious and any attempts at a joke or an idea of wandering around were turned down by him furiously. Oops.
The walk through the jungle until the staircase and then further were all soaked.
A Failed Attempt at Hitchhiking
Many cars were parked on the road though. We spoke to a lot of cars but most of them couldn’t take us. Some were full, some went in the opposite direction to Dharwad, Thunag, and Janjheli Valley, and some wouldn’t give us a lift because the friends were drinking and chilling and couldn’t be bothered with our presence.
The sky was still foggy but much clearer than before. There was a bit of sun.
Starting the Hike Through the Shikari Jungle For the Second Time
As we were reaching close to 12:30, we decided to quit asking people and retrace our way through the jungle. Now we had seen the path and, mostly, it went downhill. That the trails would be soggy and slippery was on our mind but we couldn’t do much. Assuring ourselves the weather will clear up we packed a couple of biscuit packets and filled our water bottles.
Scooby wasn’t there. We observed so many dogs around closely to see if we weren’t able to identify him because of the wet furs. Whistling incessantly we looked around. But he wasn’t there.
Quickly we made it all the way back through the road and pastures to the point where we had arrived.
Making sure it was the patch where we danced and the exact groove where the dog had drunk water, we descended into the jungle.
Let me tell you that from this point on there was no home until the village of Sainthal almost 3-4 hours walk away. On our way, we would find one Gujjar home of which I have spoken earlier. But given how they had behaved last time we didn’t even want to get seen by them. What if they ask us that we had promised them a dog but we hadn’t brought any along?
Trusting the universe and our walking strength we ventured into the jungle of the Shikari Devi sanctuary the second time. The path at the beginning goes down a bit and we were surrounded by old deodar spruces and pines. The jungle was silent after the rains except for a few birds who chirped thoughtlessly. The trees were all washed.
The trails were now wet and slippery. A lot of branches and leaves had fallen on the tracks. Because the paths were all soggy we couldn’t tell which ones were more walked upon and which ones were more grassy and covered with pine needles.
Reaching the Precipitous Hill and Descending Down
Trusting our instincts and memory, we went ahead. Slowly we kept encountering the turns and rocks encountered on our onwards walk. We arrived at the precipitous rocky slope where we had seen the sheep. Beyond the rocks the steep downhill climb began. Turning backward and forwards we descended it holding our hands sometimes and sometimes grasping the mossy wet trees.
We had almost descended down the entire dhar (mountain) — which the locals say is the steepest part of the climb. Steep rocks formed the last few steps. They must be slippery. There would be another way around but everything was wet.
We Take a Fall. Ouch.
I was holding my partner’s hand who walked behind. As he took a step, he slipped, and along with him, I fell too. My ankle was just twisted a bit but my partner had taken the fall on his right side. His right calf was a little bruised.
We both got up immediately. Now we had to make sure his leg doesn’t swell because then we wouldn’t be able to walk.
Our estimate told us we were near the shepherd area so we continued our walk and decided to take a break a bit later after crossing their home. We would sit and see if everything is alright.
After walking straight for a bit we descended. My partner has had no pain so far. Weather was also clear until now.
Crossing the Shepherds the Second Time and A Short Break
Now we came on the hill under which stood the shepherd home. The old shepherd was sleeping on a rock. We thought he was drunk as froth was oozing out of his mouth. We passed their hill quickly.
The gaddi’s buffaloes stood on the right, and after a staring contest between us, we moved ahead.
The Mist Enters and All Becomes Ghostly
Taking a break on some rocks, we analyzed my partner’s legs. Neither was any part of his leg swollen nor did he have much pain. We peed, ate some peaches, pears, and bananas.
By now mist had started to spread in the forest. We walked fast.
Further on we met the Gujjar children. They walked with their phone’s music on and perhaps were returning after selling milk and khoya to one of the villages.
Saying namaste to them we moved on. We kept on taking the trails which looked wide. Maybe that’s where we made the mistake. The entire forest seemed covered in mist now.
Tall green deodars stood black in the white clouds of fog. The jungle suddenly seemed ghostly.
The Rain Pours and We Are Soaked
Soon it started drizzling. And the clouds poured. We took shelter under some trees and opened our umbrellas. I missed the rain jacket but what could be done then.
Even under the umbrella, we were soaked as the rain swayed with the wind. We walked in the umbrella, then stopped, and walked. We had to get out of the Shikari Devi forest before the weather became too bad.
Are We On The Right Path?
Filled with water, all the trails looked the same. We couldn’t see any footsteps on them. And the path was also not constantly wide and turned from wide to narrow and narrow to wide. Maybe it was somewhere there we took a path just because it was wide. One of those choices went wrong.
We believed the lays packets and toffee wrappers would leave us on the right path but that assumption wasn’t true either. That there could be exits from the jungle leading to other villages didn’t cross our mind.
Getting Lost, Well, My Partner Disagrees.
Soon we were descending a jungle we didn’t recognize. Deodar logs and stumps fringed both sides of our path now. We thought someone must have cut those trees the previous day. And then we came upon a cabin — a rooftop with some pillars all made of wood — that we hadn’t seen earlier. At first glance, I felt it was the Shiv Dera but we knew that dera lay through an inward path and not on the main trail.
For a second I lost my breath. My partner had been complaining of a little leg pain for a while now and we were not in much strength against the dense jungle that would soon begin to darken. It was already 4 pm. I wanted to believe we were near Sainthal but we were far from it. And the worst part of it — we didn’t know where we were.
My partner took out his phone. The phone connections had started working a bit. We must be coming out of the dense jungle, we thought. Cedar logs also proved humans were nearby.
We Were Near Darwad Village. How Did That Happen?
The GPS arrow pointed towards Darwad. The dense green of the jungle was now giving way to a cleaner territory as per the map.
And I remembered the chowkidar had asked us to go the Darwad way. He had said it would be shorter as compared to the path to Bakhrot we had taken earlier. But the road distance between Darwad and Chindi would be about 70 km. We had ignored his suggestion as we didn’t want to venture onto a new path in the moody weather.
My Partner’s Knee Hurts
We had somehow ended up on the wrong trail while choosing the wider path. My partner’s hurt knee pained a lot now. I rubbed some Volini on his knee and we moved downwards. We had to get out of the forest before another downpour came or it got dark.
Following the directions to a Kirana store, we trudged. The honks from the road could also reach us.
Getting Down to Darwad, Mandi
Holding my partner on one side, I descended the slippery downward slopes. After walking for ten minutes we saw a blue hut.
One guy at the house told us his house was the first one of the village Darwad. We had to walk further down the path through the fields and orchards to get to the village.
This better path that the guy had chosen for us over another one was even steeper and went through fields. The rain had made the track slippery and wet. Several plants lay uprooted on it.
All around us beautiful mud and stone homes stood beautifully on lush green hills. Everything looked so fresh. I was in some of my best landscapes of life but my partner was in pain so I was concerned.
Having Tea With Locals and Getting a Taxi
After climbing down for some time, we came upon an under-construction house. Four-five men and women were working there. They saw we were soaked in water. Upon hearing that we had been coming from Shikari, they said we lost our way and went that way. But in order to save our pride, we said we were told to get down the Darwad way and so we have come from here. I don’t know how much they believed us but at that insecure moment, the surety no one knew we had gone the wrong way was making us feel strong.
The humble people offered us tea and laid a plan for us to sit down. We told them my partner’s knee hurt from the fall and asked how could we get down.
Seeing our difficulty they asked us to stay with them. But we didn’t want to impose.
The workers and the family told us about a bus we could get from 6 km away. The bus stand was at Sanarli village. But to get to that bus town, we had to first climb down the village and then cross a couple more villages on a kaccha road. Further on the road Sanarli town will come.
There was confusion about the timing of the last bus and if in the rain the bus would ever come.
“We might get a taxi. Or someone may give us a lift.” We thought aloud.
“No. You won’t find a taxi like that. And the traffic on that kaccha road is less. Most cars run full.” They said.
“They could call us a taxi right below. The walk to that point in Palochi will be ten minutes from here.”
If we had been both okay I would have definitely chosen the bus route. But my husband was in excruciating pain now and I wanted to make it easier for him.
We went for the taxi. The price from Palocchi to Mamleshwar Chindi where our car was parked was fixed at 900 rupees.
Descending from Darwad To Our Taxi in Palocchi and Awkward Conversations on the Way
The downwards trail from the village further on was even worse. It got wetter, muddier, and steeper. Not one but many trails forked in different directions. Some went through fields and others went from outside the fields. First, we went through the farms. And in between the farms, we would suddenly run into a house.
The surprised villager would ask us many questions before telling us the way. Oh you can go here and you can go there and what happened and from where are you and where you are going and from where you have come. A village lady here, a girl there. They all offered tea, they all offered to stay. But we couldn’t and didn’t stop. I knew my partner wants solitude when in discomfort. We promised to go later and clambered down.
The scenery was beautiful. The distant hills were covered with fleecy clouds. The grass was so green and fresh I could have eaten it. Apple orchards covered us on both sides. Corn, coriander, and radish grew in bulk.
Most villagers understood we had gone the wrong way. And then we came to a house where two children sat in an iron tub in hot water. The mother of those kids first demanded to know from where we had come. She told us the way. When she saw us descending slowly, she shouted, “you don’t fall on these paths.”
I shouted back, “his leg is hurt.”
She threw a walking stick to us. We laughed and moved on. As I turned to click a photo she smiled, and we waved at each other.
Further on came a concrete path. The path was sometimes rocky, muddy, and just plain concrete at times. We crossed a courtyard where people directed us. The Palochi point as we reiterated to everyone.
The trail went down and down and down. I was sure it must have been to the khud. But a girl told us the trail went by the side of the brook but would bring us to the taxi. She really wanted us to stop and have tea with her. She was doing literature and when she heard I write she got piqued. With a heavy heart, we told her we would come some other time.
The cab driver called us to see if we had lost the way. The villagers had said the descend would take us ten minutes but we had already been walking for more than half an hour. But we were so slow that counting time didn’t make sense at that point. I was just thankful that my partner could walk without depending on anyone except my hand.
Reaching the Taxi. Oh How His Leg Hurts!
Finally, I saw a car in the valley below. So that was it.
Soon we were in the car and the driver sped his Alto. The adventure hadn’t ended though. The road ahead was not a tar road but a kaccha road on which loose stones were strewn. The mud had also gone loose in places.
Driving Through the Villages and Crossing the Brook in a Car. Woah!
We ran through villages whose names I don’t remember. Trucks sped by, people braked to say hi to each other, buses fitting themselves in the gap, JCBs fitting in, people shouting at each other for being impatient and then speeding up themselves, all the while beautiful homes and valleys and their paddy fields rolled on our left.
But the driver showed us the big stone on which Bheem had thrashed the demon who ate one villager a day. Two-three women sat atop a rock chatting. Then I saw a little girl standing upright on an apple tree plucking one of its fruits. She knew her weight wouldn’t do any harm to the plant.
If all this seems exciting let me ask if you have ever crossed a brook in your car? Well, we did. I mean the driver drove and we sat holding onto each other. I started laughing though when he splashed the car through the shallow stream. That’s the way the road works. You get in your car and cross the stream in your car if you have to get somewhere.
By The Side of the Paddy-Filled Karsog Valley, Mandi
Now we were on the main road with the velvety paddy-filled Karsog Valley on our left. My partner was better now as he had taken a pain killer after sitting in the car. And I felt bad for not giving him the medicine when we were hiking downwards.
Taking Shelter At the Hotel Mamleshwar Chindi
We arrived at Mamleshwar and leaving all plans behind asked for a room. Our jolly taxi driver told us he had a relative at the hotel and he was going to see if he can meet him. Everyone knows everyone here in Himachal. We took his card and left after thanking him for coming out to help us.
The fun didn’t cease.
The manager asked us if we wanted a maharaja room or a maharani room both costing close to 1800 rupees. We said we wanted the simple 1000 rupee room. All simple rooms were booked. So be it. We saw both the King and Queen rooms and decided on the maharani (the Queen) room. It was spacious and opened into the forest and the orchards.
Wait, wait. The story isn’t over yet.
Ending the Day By Doing the Laundry With Hand, Eating Mushrooms, and Drinking Apricot Wine. How Can I Complain?
I had to of course wash all the muddy and wet clothing there and then. We showered in hot water. My partner chirped at the idea of eating chicken and I ordered mushrooms. We opened a bottle of apricot and celebrated our journey.
We partied until 11 or so and slept like babies. I guess we are babies. Wanting to explore every patch of this gorgeous earth and wishing to speak to every person on the planet while eating it all we can. I guess we are babies just out of our shells looking for fun and adventure all the time. And if on the way we face some troubles that’s okay too. Who said it will all come easy?
I hope you enjoyed my memoir of our hike to the Shikari Devi temple (Himachal Pradesh).
What is Shikari Devi Height?
The temple of Shikari Devi is located at a height of 3340 meters.
What is the Shikari Devi trek distance?
No one really knows. Everyone talks about the hike in terms of hours taken. Most villagers say you start in the morning at 6-7 am and arrive at 2-3 pm.
What should one bring on the Shikari Devi climb?
- Toilet paper
- Rain jackets
- Warm jackets for men and for women
- Light Travel Towel
- Water Bottles — At least 3 litre water for one person (Think about getting this Lifestraw Go Water Bottle with integrated 1,000-liter capacity)
- Extra pair of socks and an extra pair of underwear (for these two should stay dry and clean)
- pack some food, fruits and bananas, peanut bars (or other protein bars)
- Bring cash
- Carry phone chargers and power banks.
- Download some songs offline
- Wear sturdy Hiking Shoes
- Carry strong backpacks
- pack medicines such as volini, pain killer, bandages, ibuprofen, dettol
- Wear good-quality hiking tracks or just good stretchable track pants (for women and for men)
Look at my Travel Resources and Travel Tips guide for more ideas.
Important — Load the offline maps of the area and before you start the hike load the map. The GPS arrow will keep showing you your position at least.
Should we walk to Shikari Devi or should we drive?
This is entirely your choice. We love to hike so we went the wayfarer way. For the drive, the road is kaccha. You might want to consider booking a local taxi.
What’s the best time to visit Shikari Devi temple?
Avoid monsoon and winter. The best months would be April to June and then from October to November. Ask the locals before going.
How to book the Forest Rest House at Shikari Devi?
I will soon publish a guide on booking PWD guest houses in Himachal Pradesh. You will find detailed information there. But to book the Forest Rest House at Shikari call on the number given in this pdf (search for Shikari) and say you are visiting the place. Tell how many rooms you need and the dates. Call the numbers the office provides. Later call the chowkidar (guard) of the FRH and confirm your arrival to him too. Though the guards are informed by the office, a phone call from your side will prepare them better.
Other guest houses (locally known as Serais) also are built at the Shikari Devi hill. But a lot of them have shared accommodations. I think they put mattress in the big hall. Sometimes people camp outside these guesthouses too. Or you can camp on the FRH grounds by talking to the guard. Keep in mind the weather though and carry the essentials.
Should we hire a guide for the Shikari Devi trek or shall we go on our own?
As you know from my story, we went on our own. But even the locals didn’t say we were taking any huge risk. The walk is just really long and goes through a dense forest without any villages. That’s the best and the worst part of going to Shikari hill.
Looking back on the journey, I can say our experiences in the jungles of Himachal Pradesh and of hiking at other places helped us a lot. So don’t go on your own if this is your first time doing a long trek or if you aren’t confident you will be able to walk that long.
Have you hiked for a day-long before? If yes, you can climb up to Shikari. As per the trail, I have given enough information in this guide.
To reiterate — Take the more walked upon path. Even if you notice the toffee wrappers and chips bags on the side of the trail, do think before assuming that would be the only right way. Many other side trails also lead to other villages. When in doubt, check all the trails. Don’t go after the widest trail. The tracks do get narrow at some points while another trail may seem wider. That’s how it is.
First you climb up to Sainthal, then into the jungle, now walk through the forest for 2-3 hours, further a steep uphill climb comes, and soon out in the pasture. Walk through the pastures, get on the road, and arrive at the staircase.
Some people also have a good direction sense. But if you are one of those who get lost even in the city, consider taking a guide.
Having said it all, you can choose to go on your own or hire a guide.
If the weather is bad or rainy, postpone. Leave as early as you can so you have all the time to figure out the way and for any mishaps.
About those wild animals now — Wild animals don’t bother anyone during the day. They stay in their own areas. But if the hills are misty, there is the fear of running into the Himalayan bear. So a clear sky is the best time to hike to Shikari Devi. And, of course, don’t go into the jungle at night.
Hope this helps.
Would you do drive or walk to the Shikari Devi Mandir? Tell me in the comments.
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