Motorcycle Diaries (Part I) Rampur Bushahr
I call my annual trip to the Spiti Valley my pilgrimage. The surreal landscapes, starlit night skies and stark beauty of Spiti make their celestial calling to me year after year, and I cannot resist but succumb, surrender and embrace the voyage. Traversing through what was once known as ‘The Forbidden Valley’ calls for a meditation of its own accord, and the divine echoes in the most ordinary nooks. My first encounter with this magical land took place on my 25th birthday, a time when all I needed was to be engulfed in Spiti’s calming embrace. Much of my life was running amok, and I needed a place to keep me grounded, assure me that I was safe and worthy.
Spiti was it.
After three over-landing expeditions to Spiti in a 4 wheel drive, I reckoned it was time to kickstart my 30th year quite literally with a 2 wheel ride through this year’s pilgrimage. For the sake of general consensus, I was more than willing to have a backup vehicle follow me, and my long aspiring mother accompany me in another SUV with my doting partner in crime, Mylo, and our good old driver, Manoj ji.
Given the familial concerns around my mother’s health, Mylo and I strategically planned a laid back circuit to Spiti via Rampur Bushahr and Sangla. We kept the dreadfully bumpy journey back to Manali for the last day, when the idea of heading back to our own beds and bathrooms at Urvashi’s Retreat was a critical booster of morales. So here we are, on the first leg of our Spiti sojourn, and my beloved pilgrimage.
Experiencing my pilgrimage on two wheels (and a rather competent ride indeed) sums up to a feeling that I am still processing beyond words. All I can say for now is, that I fully agree to the saying, ‘the Soul travels on two wheels’. Just when I thought choosing the right motorcycle was the beginning and end of my pre-trip pursuit, I was struck by a series of contradictory advise, given by none other than my veteran motorcyclist friends. The right riding kit, helmet, spare tyres, motorcycle accessories, crash guards and WD 40 oil topped the seemingly finite list. Just then, a doting uncle of mine sprung a birthday surprise at me after a secret co-op with Mylo. It was the iconic GoPro Hero 9 camera along with a helmet mount. This thoughtful gift ignited the travelogue bug in my head. Going beyond my DSLR and tripod kit that I had sincerely packed, it was also time to document this pilgrimage more meticulously, as an ode to my uncle who spoils me rotten, along with all those who are yet to experience the unique wonders of Spiti.
This article marks the first of (hopefully) many subsequent parts that I will be able to pen down along the course of my travels to Spiti. The first stop, as I mentioned earlier, was the picturesque town of Rampur Bushahr, a four hour drive from my parent’s house in the Teerthan valley. Upon crossing the scenic alpine village of Shojha, where I spent a great part of my childhood, we crossed the threshold of Jalori pass. After that, the commercial hub of Anni led us past the Sutlej to Rampur Bushahr.
An erstwhile princely state situated at 3,350 feet above sea level, Rampur Bushahr is best known for the astounding legacy of late Raja Veerbhadra Singhji. A leader and visionary of unparalleled feet, Rajasahib was a legend second to none. His exceptional service for Himachal Pradesh and its people remains immortally inscribed onto a million hearts. Rajasahib’s legacy is carried on by his wife Rajmata Pratibha Singhji, who currently stands at the helm of the State Congress Committee as its honourable president. His son, Vikramaditya Singh is a Member of the Himachal Pradesh Legislative Assembly, and commands an urgent voice amidst India’s Youth Congress contingent.
The Rampur Bushahr family, especially their daughter, Aprajita Kumari and son-in-law Angad Singh were ever so kind to extend to us their heritage home, the Nau Nabh Heritage as our trip’s first stop. Situated in the annexe of Padam Palace, the Rampur Bushahr family’s winter palace, Nau Nabh Heritage is a quaint and charming hospitality venture started by Bushahrs.
One cannot help but gasp in admiration every-time they peek out of their room window, to see the commanding vista of Padam Palace and its gothic domes, its palatial garden centred around a fountain, and not in the very least my favourite gazebo Machhkandi, which is like none other that I have ever seen. Established by Rampur Bushahr’s 122nd Raja Padam Singhji back in 1919, Padam Palace took 6 long years before attaining completion. The unique venue of Machhkandi is reminisced as the place where the Raja held meetings with his people.
Without wasting even an hour of daylight since our arrival, our entourage made a hasty departure to seek the blessings of Maa Bhima Kali, Rampur Bushahr’s presiding deity or kuldevi. An hour long drive past Jakhri, the windy trails of Sarahan guided us to one of the most picturesque and well maintained temple complexes. Maa Bhima Kali’s temple is believed to be over 800 years old, with the main sanctum resting upon many flights of stairs. Accompanied by several other deities such as Shiva and Narsingha at her entrance, Maa Bhima Kali’s aura, combined with the heavenly landscape around her made for an unforgettable experience.
With only so much to be seen during our brief retreat at Rampur Bushahr, I most certainly look forward to frequenting it in the colder months with more time in my hands. The following morning after a sumptuous breakfast, we made way for our next stop at Sangla, with a sweet after taste in our mouths. Rampur Bushahr, its scenic beauty and large hearted people surely made for an auspicious beginning to this year’s pilgrimage. If this special destination beckons you, be sure to realise that you must be special for it to be so.
Author credits: Urvashi Singh
Photo credits: Ankita Dhar & Urvashi Singh
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