Sahastradhara A Thousand Streams
As your vehicle swerves into the sideway descending on a small bridge you get a glimpse of a stream, which gushes out from one terraced pool to another terraced pool till the gurgling water masses into Baldi River. From the bridge, it looks like any other typical, non-descript stream, which gushes down in different parts of Uttarakhand, the hilly state carved out of Uttar Pradesh around a decade ago.
But cross the bridge and drive up on a slope towards left of the stream and you are witness to hundreds of mesmerising scenes. On either side of the stream, you notice hundreds of springs from which water spills down into the stream. There are natural caves where water constantly drips down from the mossy roof keeping the rocky-floor soaked and slippery. The water flows down from the flora and fauna as well around the mountains, which barricade the stream from either side.
Welcome to Sahastradhara, a beautiful recreational location around a dozen kilometre from Dehradun, the capital of Uttarakhand. Literally translating into ‘thousand-fold spring’, the place attracts even 20,000 tourists on an average day during peak time from April 15 to August 15 every year. Thousands of people bathe in the clean, bluish, unpolluted water in 25-step ponds which the villagers from Karligarh have dug up to create the kind of swimming pools for bathers. They even rent out floating tubes to the bathers. Of course, the floaters come with a price—Rs 20 for a car tube while Rs 60 for a tractor tyre tube for an hour. The shopkeepers also rent out undergarments and provide shelters for changing clothes.
What adds to the appeal of the place is the presence of sulphar in the streaming water and gushing torrent, which flow down during the monsoon. People believe a bath in the sulphar water has medicinal properties and can curel their skin diseases. The right of the stream is dotted with restaurants, dhabas, tea stalls and shops selling masks, beads and trinkets etc. The water flows down from Massoorie, the queen of hills, which is not very far from the place, Dhanaulti, another tourist attraction and Surkanda Devi, a temple located at an altitude of 9,500 feet.
Besides providing a panoramic view of the stream, the Sahastradhara has a history associated with it. The legend is that Dronacharya, the Guru of Pandavas and Kauravas who lived in Dehradun (old name Dron Nagar), worshipped in a Shiva temple situated near Sahastradhara before the Mahabharata war. The temple located on a slope towards left of the stream has a Shiva Linga in a dark and damp cave. The temple supports a hoarding which reminds visitors about the legend. The waterfalls down like a shower in the temple cave. There is another dark cave, a few feet away from the temple. This cave, known as Parvati cave, also has water droplets drizzling from the roof.
Apart from the terraced stream, Sahastradhara has a couple of other attractions too. For one, a politician from Haryana has constructed an amusement park called ‘Joyland’ on the slope next to the Shiva temple. There is also a Sai temple on top of a hill where you can reach in a ropeway. The ropeway charges Rs 80 per person for one side travel. The Baldi River, formed by the thousand-fold spring, flows into Son River and finally merges into the Ganges after traversing some distance.
Local shopkeepers now have plans to introduce trekking at Sahastradhara. The trekking beginning from a cave near Bagdadhoron, a village on top of a hill, can end on the foothills from where the
springs convert into a stream and then further into Baldi River.
There is a government guest house and few not-very-expensive lodges at Sahastradhara or one can stay in Dehradun, which is hardly 20-minute drive from the place. The advantage of staying in Dehradun is that one can visit Tapkeshwar, a Shiva temple, where Shiva Linga was supposed to have provided milk to Ashwatthama, the son of Guru Dronacharya. The cave temple is only five-kilometre from the city. One will also have the option of travelling to Mussoorie and Dhanaulti, the other hill stations in the vicinity. At the same time, it would be advisable to visit Rajaji National Park, which is not far away from Dehradun. You never know you may even get to see a tiger. We were lucky to see one during an excursion. Dehradun is around 255 kilometres from New Delhi and is connected by buses (luxury as well as ordinary) and trains. It takes about six hours to commute one way. It is also not a bad idea to either drive yourself or hire a taxi. Barring a few stretches here and there, the highway has been doubled.
On the flip side, the overflow of tourists to Sahastradhara and lack of cleaning facilities have converted Sahastradhara into a dingy place with polythene, construction material and other waste strewen over the streets on its right. Pankaj Kanojia, who runs a restaurant in place, blames local tourists for not maintaining a hygiene environment. “Since the place is only about a dozen kilometres from Dehradun city, people flock to it on weekends for recreation. They carry their lunch packs and eatables and dump their leftovers in the public places,” Kanojia complains. Though local administration penalises shopkeepers if waste is found lying near their shops, tourists happily flout the guidelines.
Over the years, the shops have mushroomed like anything threatening the ecology of the place. The commercialisation of the place has picked up the pace. The Sai temple and the amusement park exemplify what greed can do to pristine and green location!
By Narendra Kaushik from Dehradun