The promise of a relatively short drive seemed exceedingly hollow as we drove up and down winding mountains meandering through aggressive truck drivers in search of a temple that held great mythological significance. Day one of my trip to Mussoorie to explore the Garhwal region was full of promise and excitement and despite the long but breathtakingly gorgeous drive, I felt more curious than anything else. I’m not a Hindu and most of the mythology is unfamiliar to me except for the bits I learn in school so when I do get an opportunity to visit temples or shrines with such significance I’m intrigued and full of wonder. When the journey finally came to a grinding halt we walk through a small village and up a flight of stairs built for what I can only assume were exceptionally tall people ( or I really am tiny ), right up to the temple of Lakhamandal.
I think the entire village knew of our arrival as the children had a great time beating their dhol while giggling in excitement. The priest was indifferent lost in prayer and the rest of the town folk observing this odd group of people feverishly clicking pictures of everything on their multiple devices. I think they looked at us with a mix of excitement and wonder as some of ours over zealous photographers nearly attacked a goat and his keeper while striving for that perfect photo and even a selfie!
Nestled between Mussoorie and Chakrata, this temple is home to the deity of Lord Shiva. The temple and the grounds are sacred as it is said to be the same spot where Duryodhan tried to kill the Pandavas by making them stay in a wax house ( Laksha grah) The inscriptions at the temple date back to the 6th century and the people here believe that there are lakhs of shivlings all over the grounds. With recent excavations they have found plenty but firmly believe if they keep digging they will uncover many more and this is where the temple gets its name. There is one granite shivalinga which when you pour water over it, you can clearly see your reflection. Needless to say the faith here is unwavering and whether you believe or not, you can’t fight the fact that archaeologically, it dates back centuries and is a marvel it’s still here today.
Post our many photography sessions and a tour of the temple and premises, our group was taken up to one of the old houses in the village, up through a trap door to be treated to a lavish local breakfast. The meal is prepared by the ladies of the household except for a spectacular chutney which has been prepared by one of the men who it would seem has a strange but welcome fondness for making chutneys. He is of course superbly talented as it was the one dish on our plates that was a unanimous hit. The meal is elaborate and their breakfasts usually include one or two of the items but as is the case in any part of India, when you have guests to entertain, you pull out all the stops!
Our one of a kind Saatvik breakfast included Gehat ke Swale which is typically eaten. Gehat is horse gram that is abundantly available in this region and used most commonly in parathas. Aska or rice pancakes, pakodis made from Urad dal, Ulua which are savoury steamed parcels with daal, and a sweeter version of the same with jaggary and sesame seeds. All this with that delightful apricot chutney made with such vigor and delight. I didn’t much care for the uluas but the urad dal pakodi, rice pancakes and the apricot chutney were deeply satisfying.
This kind of warmth and simplicity with food is what completes your meal and I can safely say this was a fantastic start to understanding and experiencing Garhwal and Garhwali food.
Disclaimer : This trip was done in association with APB Cook Studio and J W Mussoorie to learn more about Garhwal and Garhwali cuisine. As always thoughts, ideas and opinions expressed are mine 🙂 To know more about the hotel this blogpost will help –