I was beating around the bushes in Mandi, unable to decide where to go. The vast, green meadows of Shangarh had been in my mind for a long time, having seen the photographs in various Himalaya related FB groups on many occasions but I was hoping to come up with a bigger plan covering more attractions in the Great Himalayan National Park (GHNP) Ecozone along with it.
Everything falls into place
However, the phone rang and fellow blogger Traveshoebum suggested that he is entering Himachal and we can be at Shangarh by the next afternoon. So, we rendezvoused at the Mandi bus stand next morning and hopped into a Kullu bound bus to reach Aut. I knew that from Aut one gets direct buses to Neuli via Sainj from Aut. Shangarh is still 10 Kms from Neuli and there seemed to be no buses to Shangarh. However, it was a good day. There was a marriage somewhere near Shangarh and everyone in the area including the bus driver were going to Shangarh. So, we got a bus ride to Shangarh at a negligible cost. On top of that, Travelshoebum struck a conversation with a local guy on the bus and soon it turned out that he was was a homestay owner at Shangarh (till that point we were not even sure if the place had any proper accommodation).
As the bus moved along, the visual grandeur of Sainj Valley become apparent. In fact, the squalid village turned town of Sainj does great injustice to the valley. It is hard to imagine what lies beyond that point and a few years ago I’d returned back from Sainj, not knowing where to go after that. But this time we knew exactly what we were looking for. But the first noteworthy edifice we saw from a distance was not the one we were looking for. It was another temple from a distant sub-valley that was visible in the horizon against a setting that could have been grander. I know what it is but will take another trip to visit it.
We reached soon enough and Ranaji, the homestay owner took us to his place. He is still developing the place and it does not even have a name yet. But once we went inside, we were taken aback by the tasteful and traditional ambiance. It is noteworthy that while the adjacent Tirthan Valley is going through a tourism boom (and resultant overpriced rooms), Sainj Valley for some reasons has remained more or less untouched by tourism. This homestay is in fact one of the early signs of it catching up to its neighbours. I can imagine this place getting filled with tourists in the near future but for the time being, it is exactly the way I like it, completely devoid of other visitors.
The celestial golfcourse
We left our stuff at the room and Ranaji finally led us to the fabled meadows of Shangarh. I thought it would take some serious hiking but it was just above the location of the homestay. We just walked for a couple of minutes and suddenly we were in front of a vast, resplendent, breezy expanse that can neither be explained with the few words I am writing here nor with the thousand words I clicked there. But nevertheless, I must try!
Coming back to the temple, the primary deity lording over Shangarh is known as Shungchul Mahadev. Apart from the central temple inside the images, there are some smaller shrines located at various corners of the open meadow. As per the locals, the Devta (Deity) rests in these places at times although I am not fully qualified or informed to explain the same. All the temples contain intricate wooden carvings depicting mythological scenes, apart from some ancient stone sculptures. More importantly, the original temple in the village was gutted a year ago. But the dedicated people of the village rebuilt it almost immediately.
We walked along the periphery of the grassland to check the smaller shrines. The landscape reminded me of a golf course and as I expressed my analogy, I was informed that some British officers did try the same once but the locals never liked the game. The ground is not plain but there is a dip in the middle. It also seemed to have many stories associated with it. The ground is believed to be blessed by the gods. That is why no big trees grow here although it is surrounded by thick pine forests. One story also relates it to the Pandavas. The rest of the village, including the main temple, can be seen clearly from the ground.
After ogling at the lush green surroundings, content people, and well-fed cows for more than an hour, we slowly moved across the field towards the village, consistently discovering newer frames from different angles.
Approaching the Temple
We reached the temple crossing a lot of other traditional building, each more photogenic than the other. As far as the temple is concerned, it is another one of those tower temples prevalent in Himachal. Due to its sheer shape, I feel like calling it the Citadel of Shungchul Mahadev. It is a solid, multi-storied structure. Unfortunately, a new concrete structure is being built just in front of it, blocking the front view. So, most of the good shots I got were from the backside. A sudden hailstorm appeared out of nowhere, making us stop near the temple. But the storm disappeared soon, leaving a dreamy sky behind.
The Devta Arrives
As I’d mentioned earlier, it seemed to be good day with all our motives getting fulfilled and it was now going beyond expectations. Due to the aforementioned marriage, the villagers were taking the deity out for a procession. For those uninitiated with these areas, such practices are common in the Himalayan states. I have seen them many times before, but always from a moving vehicle, unable to photograph properly. Finally, this was the chance to get some clear images of the rituals. We were told that the bridegroom is also one of the bearers of the Lord’s palanquin. They stopped near the Shangchul Mahadev temple and gave us a walnut as “prasad”. After chatting with them for a while, we returned to the homestay.
A Fitting Finale
That night we were offered home-cooked food as expected. It was simple food but one of the best ever in terms of taste, served with a generous bowl of homemade ghee. The next morning we had to leave quickly as there was another engagement. I really wished to stay there for a couple more days and trek to the interiors but I think I’ll have to return soon.
Shangarh Travel Guide
How to reach Shangarh?
Take a Kullu-Manali bound bus from Delhi or Chandigarh and get down at Aut. Get a bus to Neuli via Sainj but get down just after Ropa, a few KMs before Neuli. From there it a diversion around 10 KMs goes up to the village. This road is not very smooth but still is motorable. It is possible to hike or hitchhike (Remember that you will have to hike UP) but you can also get a shared car going towards the village from Sainj Market. There were no regular buses when I first visited but now there seems to a bus in the afternoon.
Shangarh Bus Timing
The daily bus to Shangarh leaves from Sainj market at 4 PM in the afternoon. It apparently comes down next morning. It is a new development and I will update with more information soon.
What is the right season to visit Shangarh?
All seasons have their own charm in Shangarh. The summer is, of course, the easiest to reach, along with the post-monsoon festive season. The roads will be slippery in the rains. Winters may also be too cold but the snowy landscape has its own attraction.
What are the accommodation options in Shangarh?
You can stay at the place mentioned above, i.e. Ranaji’s Homestay that doesn’t yet have a proper name. It is located very near to the grounds and the Shangchul ji Temple. In the meantime, a couple of other homestays have also opened here and the prices may have increased (we paid next to nothing in 2017, that too with food!). You can also consider the GHNP guesthouse in Ropa just before Neuli, which has dormitories as well as private rooms.
Treks from Shangarh
There are many local trails to the villages and meadows higher up from Sainj. The most famous of them is the Trek to Lapah Village, which takes a few hours from Shangarh.
Data Connectivity in Shangarh
Shangarh is very well-connected in terms fo phone and internet. My airtel SIM was working fine and so, I think it is a good place to be a digital nomad.
29 thoughts on “Shungchul Mahadev of Shangarh: Celestial Meadows, Resurrected Citadel”
I really liked that you are talking about shankargarh as it is not wellknown but more beautiful than other famous places. This place looks so peaceful and serene. Description of temple and arrival of devta is very spiritual and mindblowing.
I’ve never heard of this place, but now I definitely want to visit. The lesser known, lesser frequented villages and towns of India are the parts I like the most. Although I’ve never been to HP, I really want to! It looks so luscious and green compared to many of the parts of the country I’ve already seen.
I’ve never heard of this place but I’m glad to know every season has its own charm. The village looks bustling with all the green scenery and beautiful buildings. It looks like a very spiritual journey.
This is such a beautiful park. I love the mountains and the temples. How lucky you were that you got to see such a colourful procession!
Shangarh is so vast and so green. It is really a hidden gem. Thanks for introducing this lesser known place. We’d love to visit on our next trip to India.
Himachal has some of the picturesque and pristine landscape and you have captured them beautifully. Staying with a local and getting to witness their local culture through the pre marriage procession sounds like an amazing experience. Good that there is only one homestay if more comes up then it would quickly turn into a crowded touristy destination isnt it? 🙂
This place is so picturesque. I could go here and forget about the rest of the world. Thanks for sharing your pictures with us and your experience. We really enjoyed reading it
The meadows look so serene! Love the little known, off beat parts of Himachal. There is honestly so much more than the famed Shimla- manali- kasol belt! What a lovely read this was, right from the serendipity of finding a homestay owner in the bus to staying in such a wonderful place. Himachali hospitality is the best 🙂
Though I have visited a few places in Himachal, but I still want to explore more less known options, but there are always concerns about transport and food. But going through your pictures and your experience ,I have realized one thing, that everything eventually falls into place.
how interesting! I love the idea of homestays and would love to have that experience. It feels very untouched still, this place that you’ve been too, which is definitely a part of its charm. Would hate to see it overdeveloped!
The celestial golf-course looks massive and from your photo it is a beautiful place to visit someday. Now is the best time to visit before the boom begins.
I’ve never heard of Shangarh before, but I’m glad that it hasn’t quite reached the popularity of its neighbour quite yet! It’s always nice to visit beautiful areas without a visitor overload. That temple was also absolutely stunning!
I had not even heard of Shangarh until I hit this blog. I have mostly explored Maharashtra, Goa, Gujarat and South India. Now that I have shifted to New Delhi, I plan to visit the gems of Uttarakhand and Himachal for next few years. Your blog is a great resource for travel ideas.
Just read this again! What joy to have seen a pristine place as beautiful as this. Hopefully will go back soon enough to explore the other temples and more hikes in GHNP!
Very detailed and beautifully written !! Lot of information are there in this particular post !!
Nature looks stunning. It seems so vast and almost endless. Especially in the pictures with people in it.
Congrats on being top featured posts at Indi blogger. Great post keep up the good work.
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Well a splendid trip came out for me just looking at the breathtaking images. I feel so anxious about why Himachal is not developed for organized tourism. Anyhow, I happen to be a literary composer, and I am not growing 21 without submerging my entire soul with the heavenly beauty of Himachal. I also happen to be a yogi alongside, and as a hungry stomach requires food, a hungry soul requires splendor. 🙂 Please arrange some useful link for me.
Do you the cnt details of the home stay?
Its peaceful n nice place n no crowd as like common hill stations. Thanks for sharing. Plz send me ranaji ‘s contact no on my mobile 8007146342(Dinesh Ramdas Bodhade,Akola , Maharashtra)
Nature is looking Beautiful in that Photography and good article, i hope it’s a joyful experience for you. Thanks for share.
I spent two days in this beautiful village. Such a wonderful piece of paradise on Earth. No crowd, no chaos, no traffic, just peace.
Nice blog post dear. http://foodravel.com/2020/02/07/shangarh-village/
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