Kartik Swami Trek: Meeting the Warrior God

Kartik Swami is a small day trek not far from Chopta. That is all I knew about it until recently and was not very sure about the route to the place. After the pleasant snow and rhododendron surprise at Chopta, I set out for Kartik Swami along with Travelshoebum, who had done some research and seemed to know the route at least. Before that, of course, we had a detour to Sari and Deoriatal. I did not want to visit it again but he was keen on visiting it.

Reaching Kanakchauri from Chopta

After some time at Deoriatal, we came down to Sari and then to the main road to Chopta, got lift in a tourist vehicle with some people from Bangalore, to a point called Banswara. The route was problematic after that. It was already evening and no public transport was likely to arrive at that point. There was a basic hotel at that point and I was prepared to stay there at night and try next morning. However, Travelshoebum kept trying and finally talked one local person called Jagdish into giving us lift and then, and he even invited us to his home for the night!

Hosts from the unknown village.
So, that night we stayed at Jagdish’s place. His village was actually a long way beyond the point where we had to take a turn for the temple. The road was horrible after that point and we reached at around 9 pm. We had no clue where we were and wondered if we should just have stayed at that hotel in the earlier point. But eventually it turned out to be a good experience with his family and they were generous with the food.
The next morning, after some discussion, he also agreed to drop us at the trekking point because the public transport was scarce and was going to waste a lot of time. We agreed to pay him a little something for the fuel cost for this extra round and yet again we were going through uncharted territories. I have said it before but I need to say it again, the popular pilgrim routes of Garhwal have been commercialized excessively and they don’t even have the hippie vibes of Himachal. You either need to go higher, or take these offbeat routes to experience true Garhwal.
Peaks visible even at the start of the trek.
Anyway, we were at the starting point of the trek at Kanakchauri by 9.30 AM. We bad adieu to Jagdishji, we will probably never meet again but he saved this phase of the trip. The majestic peaks were already visible even from that point, beyond the few small shops selling pooja items. Since it was spring, they were also selling rhododendron juice that rejuvenated tired legs and we started the hike.

Trek to Kartik Swami Temple

It was a bright sunny day with no haze and the peaks at a distance were clearly visible. I felt that a slightly cloudy sky could make it look more dramatic but you can’t always be lucky. The trek is around 3 KMs long and is one of the easier treks I have ever done. Although the trail passes through a jungle stretch, the temple is always visible in the horizon and the jungle mostly consists of non-threatening rhododendrons. I’d had an overdose of rhododendrons in Chopta and so these comparatively sparse flowering did not rerally impress me.
Can’t miss the rhododendrons in this region
Peaks and more peaks…
At the priest’s place
We moved in quick speed and after 1.5 Hours, we were almost there, at the lower base of the temple, where the priest lives. The information plaque set up by Tourism Department here recounts the story of Kartikeya. For those who are not familiar, Kartikeya is the elder son of Shiva & Parvati. In many traditions he is represented as a warrior god, who rides a peacock, thus making him cooler than most. Since this area is full of major Shiva Shrines, the “Panch Kedars“, it is not surprising that his son also has a separate temple, along with a hilltop for himself.
The last flight of stairs
There is a small Shiva Temple at the base and then there is one last flight of stairs, that finally takes you to the Kartik Swami Temple. The original relic inside the temple is believed to be a naturally formed image of the god on a marble-like stone. There are other statues and wall paintings depicting Kartik as well as his peacock. I was expecting more ancient relics but could not really locate them.
Original Relic

 

Kartikeya on his peacock
Nevertheless, the primary draw of this temple has always been the views rather than the archaeological remains. Now we were at the top of the 3000-metre hill and getting 360 degree views of the much higher peaks on the horizon. From Chaukhamba to Bandarpunch and from Neelkanth to Trishul, there are scores of speaks visible from here although don’t ask me which one is which. I have never been very good at identifying peaks.
Kartik Swami Temple
For Whom the Bell Tolls…
For Whom the Bell Tolls… Part II
Beyond the temple, there is a deep gorge on the other side, covered with dense forests. I looked down from the edge, but my views was blocked by another rhododendron tree. Anyway, we had seen enough by then and we started the return, which took another hour. I bought a bottle of buransh (rhododendron) juice and the bus to Rudraprayag had arrived too.
Dense forests of the warrior god.
The last Rhododendron on the edge
The Buransh season is one.

Kartik Swami Travel Guide

Where and what is Kartik Swami?

chopta-tungnath-deoria-tall-Kartik-Swamy-trek-map
chopta-tungnath-deoria-tal-kartik-swamy-trek-map

As you can see from the map, Kartik Swami is located on a slightly different route from Chopta to Rudraprayag, but not too far away. It is basically a temple on a hill top, dedicated to Kartik, the son of Shiva. A short 3 KM hike starts from a place called Kanakchauri, 40 KMs from Rudraprayag.

Why visit Kartik Swami?

Apart from the temple, you can get an excellent view of many peaks from here on a clear day. You can 360-degree unobstructed views from the top and even at the starting point, the peaks are visible. The whole stretch is covered with rhododendrons that turn the forest red in the spring.

How to Reach Kartik Swami?

  1. From Rishikesh take a bus to Rudraprayag (140 KMs). From there just look for buses going to Pokhari. Kanakachauri is on the way (40 KMs) and you will reach easily in an hour and a half.
  2. However, if you are coming from Chopta side, there will be no direct connectivity. In that case the suggested route is Chopta-Ukhimath-Banswara-Mohankhal-Kanakchauri. You may have to change your vehicle (mostly shared cars) at each of these points or hope to get a lift by some generous local like we did.

Where to stay in Kartik Swami?

We just did the trek and came out to Rudraprayag without staying. There is an expensive-ish accommodation at Kanakchauri as per my knowledge that costs INR 1500-2500 per room, which was way beyond my budget. However, one can also stay near the temple, where the priest stays. You need to build a rapport with the priest for this. Also, there is a Forest Rest House at nearby Mohankhal (see map). Otherwise juat make a day trip from Rudraprayag, which is a big town with many options.

If you need a complete guide on all the major treks in the Chopta-Tungnath area, read my complete Chopta Travel Guide.

Jitaditya Narzary

Is a traveller disillusioned by the familiar and fascinated with the unknown... and of course the founder of this blog.

11 thoughts on “Kartik Swami Trek: Meeting the Warrior God

  • Pingback:Chopta-Tungnath-Chandrashila-Deoria Tal-Kartik Swami-Trekking-Guide | The Travelling Slacker

  • 2018/07/07 at 11:28 am
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    Must be so cool to see the original relic in person! I love also how your experience was rich with local family and food. I had a similar experience in Arenal Costa Rica with one of my guides. He took us to his family farm and his mom made us fresh cheese and coffee with pastries. I will never forget their hospitality!

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  • 2018/07/07 at 1:28 pm
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    There is nothing like trekking in the Himalayas. The mountain ranges, even if you cant identify the individual peaks are fabulous.

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  • 2018/07/08 at 4:03 pm
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    My goodness, the view from the Kartik Swami Temple alone is worth the hike! I’d love to see the mountains covered in Rhododendron in the spring. How marvelous that must be.

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  • 2018/07/08 at 10:16 pm
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    Oho, nice to know that you and Shubham did it together. So typical of Shubham to convince local and stay at his place too 😊
    I agree, Garhwal has no Hippie vibes and dense population is another reason for commercialization. Would love to try rhododendron juice next time for sure. View from Kartik Swami Temple is awesome.

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  • 2018/07/09 at 11:39 pm
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    We are yet to explore this part of India, it must be such a wonderful experience hiking through quaint villages with those majestic mountains always in view. How does the rhododendron juice taste? Have never heard of it!

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  • 2018/07/10 at 1:18 am
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    A god who rides a peacock! Now that IS cool. Sounds as though this trip was full of beautiful sights.

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  • 2018/07/10 at 10:04 am
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    What a wonderful trek and such rewarding views. The views from the temple are spectacular. You had a wonderful host who welcomed you and took care of you. That’s true genuine hospitality. Did the rhododendron juice help with the tired legs and fatigue? What does it taste like? Thanks for sharing about this amazing trek.

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  • 2018/07/11 at 3:36 am
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    The views are really spectacular! And the rhododendron are so pretty. Definitely worth the frustration you went through finding your way there.

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  • 2018/07/13 at 6:11 pm
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    There are very few Kartikeya temples that I know of. In fact, I have to think hard on where I know them from. This place is one of the rare ones and in addition to the temple, the whole thrill of the trek and the lovely mountains is what makes me want to go there. I will be considering this when I make a trip to Uttarakhand for sure.

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