Saturday, July 29, 2017

Monsoon Ride to Giridih - visit to the untamed Usri Falls and lofty Harihar Dham Temple

Monsoon Ride to Giridih - visit to the untamed Usri Falls and lofty Harihar Dham Temple
It was a cloudy Thursday, precisely 13th of this month. Weather forecast was least assuring, threatening me with a precipitation > 90% in and around Giridih. If you are a motorcycle fascinated with monsoon rides, you just can't afford to pet ombrophobia. After cross-checking multiple weather predictions from different Internet sources when I was sure that there was hardly any possibility of thunderstorm at Giridih, I finalized my riding destination for the day right in the crack of dawn. Giridih, the land of hills and hillocks, is the headquarter of Giridih district of the Indian state of Jharkhand. Despite Giridih's location in the mining belt, its natural grandeur and presence of abundant religious sites have secured it a popular spot in the tourist map of Eastern India. Oh, don't mind that amiable chameleon in the cover photograph. I met him in the jungle adjacent to Usri Waterfall. Although there are several places of tourist interest at Giridih, considering the paucity of time and unpredictability of the season I had decided to limit my focus only on two sites- lofty Harihar Dham Temple at Bagodar, and the untamed monsoon impregnated Usri Falls located at a close proximity to Giridih town.

Monsoon Ride to Giridih - visit to the untamed Usri Falls and lofty Harihar Dham Temple
Benu clocked almost 540 kilometers in the day, and she was all geared up for her 2nd servicing.
My first halt of the day, Harihar Dham was pretty easy to find. Bagodar directly falls on NH-2 (presently, renamed as NH-19), approximately 240 kilometers north of Bardhaman. As you leave the national highway and take a left diversion thereafter, drive a couple of kilometers at most to reach Harihar Dham Temple. After crossing Raniganj, a sudden pour reminded me that my breakfast was due. Luckily I could spot a decent highway inn before rain could embrace me more intimately. Here comes the best part- the Aloo Paratha they had served me with a tumbler full of Punjabi Tea was truly rejuvenating! As I crossed the Bengal-Jharkhand interstate border I was quite surprised to find no congestion of loaded trucks and other goods-carrying vehicles. Those commercial drivers must be thanking the newly introduced GST (Goods and Services Tax) for putting an end to their hours of waiting at every state border to oblige custom police with relevant taxes and bribes.

Monsoon Ride to Giridih - visit to the untamed Usri Falls and lofty Harihar Dham Temple
Probably those colorfully crafted swords are local handicrafts of Isri.
Road deteriorated as Benu touched the highway passing through Jharkhand. There are unpredictable furrows, inappropriate elevations and sudden potholes over the Delhi-Kolkata Highway to make your high speed cruising sufficiently life threatening! Considering the congestion of heavy vehicles over NH-2 such distortion of the tarmac is no surprise. But, my question is- Why NH-2 is not being maintained at Jharkhand? Who, or what is stopping NNHAI (National Highway Authority of India) from carrying out their duties even after leeching bagful of money from passing by vehicles? Do share your opinion. Sometime after crossing the coal-dust coated city of Dhanbad, I passed through Isri, the small town from where devout Jains start their Parasnath Hill pilgrimage. I was surprised to see a number of roadside shops selling designer canes and colorful swords. I could relate the cane with hiking, but why would anyone sell swords near a Jain pilgrim site?

Monsoon Ride to Giridih - visit to the untamed Usri Falls and lofty Harihar Dham Temple
Harihar Dham Temple boasts of housing the largest Shivalinga in the world.
I stopped by one such shop and presented the seller with my innocent doubt. He was cordial but not so rich with information. All he said was, "These are sold here", as if I didn't already know that! Probably those colorfully crafted swords are local handicrafts of Isri. Bagodar was not far from there. Mere two kilometers ride from the left deviation at Bagodar took me in front of the much hyped Harihar Dham Temple. You can clearly see the upper half of the mammoth Shivalinga right from the road where you'll be parking your vehicle. Harihar Dham Temple, a popular tourist cum pilgrimage destination at Giridih, enclosing a 65 feet high Shivalinga, boasts of housing the largest Shivalinga in the world. There is sufficient free area inside the temple complex. You can offer puja to the presiding deity, or simply laze around to observe various religious idiosyncrasies of other devotees and appreciate the neck-straining stature of the mighty Shivalinga.

Monsoon Ride to Giridih - visit to the untamed Usri Falls and lofty Harihar Dham Temple
Usri Waterfall is formed by the steep descent of the Usri River 39 feet down a gorge!
Among many other Hindu festivals, Nag Panchami is observed in Harihar Dham with great devotion. On a regular basis, Hindu marriages are conducted in this temple for a prefixed nominal fee. Shortly, a group of distant devotees clad in saffron, chanting "Om Namah Shivaya", playing drums and trumpets entered Harihar Dham, and I realized it was the right time to leave for Usri waterfall. My next landmark in G-Maps was Dumri over NH-2 from where one has to divert to Isri-Giridih Road. This road is remarkably scenic, almost fairly maintained and represents the typical landforms of Chota Nagpur Plateau region. The same road can take you to Madhuban, a pious town for Jains from where the ascent to Parasnath Hill actually starts. I headed to Giridih. Usri Falls is located another 10-12 kilometers beyond Giridih, on the road towards Gobindpur. You can't ignore Gobindpur, because that's where you'll rejoin NH-2 in case you're planning your return journey towards Kolkata.

Monsoon Ride to Giridih - visit to the untamed Usri Falls and lofty Harihar Dham Temple
A dilapidated idol of Goddess Kali found in the jungle adjacent to Usri Falls.
Excusing few kilometers of chaotic ongoing road construction over SH-13, just prior and post to Usri Falls, I appreciated the effort taken by Jharkhand Tourism (or, is it PWD?) to iron out the tarmac of Usri Falls Road. It meanders while ascending through the village and forest cover to take you up to the hissing mouth of feral Usri Waterfall. Usri Falls is undoubtedly the most precious gem in the tourist crown of Giridih district. Usri Waterfall is formed by the steep descent of the Usri River 39 feet down a gorge, into three separate untamed streams, to transform into a relatively calm Usri River once again and join Barakar River after a short while. Although Usri Falls won't charm you with clear blue water, her wild roar and deep impact on scattered metamorphic rocks (as evident by their polished, eroded surfaces) are sure to make you respectful towards her powerful presence! Be careful while stepping down to approach the waterfall. Rocks are mostly wet and slippery. If you lose balance Usri will surely gulp you in a single sip. Don't get too close while capturing photographs too.

Monsoon Ride to Giridih - visit to the untamed Usri Falls and lofty Harihar Dham Temple
Parasnath Hill, the sacred pilgrimage for Jains veiled by monsoon clouds, as seen from NH-2.
Heavy mist produced by the dynamic water can harm your camera lens. There is a stunted watchtower nearby. You may climb up its poorly built stairs to enjoy breeze at the top. Do not expect any better view of the waterfall from there. I straightened by back for a while. When I realized my eyes getting heavy, I woke myself up with a sudden jerk and bid hearty farewell to the beautiful Usri. Return journey to Bardhaman was almost uneventful, except the horrible late lunch devoured at Khalsa Vegies. Benu clocked almost 540 kilometers in the entire day, and with mud and dust ornamenting her curves she was all ready for her 2nd servicing. My monsoon ride to Giridih was overall a fun ride. Oh hold on folks, I've got an update to share. I'm flying to Leh this coming Tuesday. Once I reach Leh, I'll be renting a Royal Enfield Classic 350 to explore the mesmerizing Ladakh. Unfortunately I'm down with fever, just two days prior to the commencement of such a dream journey! Please wish me some luck here. See you soon with my Ladakh motorcycling diary.

14 comments:

  1. In India it may be futile to complain about roads-even NHs. Had a horrible experience while driving on Bangalore - Mangalore NH a couple of years back. Hope things improve.

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    1. Yes, let us remain optimistic.
      People living in North or North-east are facing more horrible road conditions throughout the year. What is marked as NH/SH in our map of those regions are mostly nothing more than shallow river-beds, layers of gravel or sand! I salute the contribution of BRO (Border Roads Organisation), but, clearly it's not enough :-(

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  2. Seeing Usri,I remember the famous lines.."Usri nodir jharna dekhte jabo,dinta boro bisri..."

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    1. Hahaaa... you remember so much!
      Amar to, "Taal gach ek pa e dariye sab gach chariye..." otai thikthak mone nei :-P

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  4. Nice artlicle .. Please keep writing

    Thanks

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  5. Truly, these moments of happiness and sense of togetherness are priceless and cannot be bought, rather felt and loved.
    Compact Analysis

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  6. Surfing internet I suddenly Stumbled upon your blog and couldn't resist reading it once I saw "Giridih" in it. It is my native place and I have been born and have spent the entire first half of my life there, Unfortunately have not been able to visit from past 6-7 years.
    Everything you said took me back to my childhood/teenager(1995-2005) days we (group of 5-6 friends) use to visit usri falls and Shiv temple, bagother, usri town on our bicycles and later on bikes ( my Hero honda , which my dad discarded and I got it repaired for me, similar with my other friend; 2nd hand/ repaired/ borrowed bikes). We always thought that Giridih town is the best place to live and come what may we will always stay here. Alas! life had different plans all of my friends settled out. But we all miss the seneary and serenity of the town and it's surroundings. Hope we can atleast go back once in a year. Thanks for bringing back the memories.

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    1. I'm so glad buddy that Google led you to my space and triggered your nostalgia :-)
      Nowadays whenever I get a day or two off, I ride to Jharkhand to explore its some place or the other. Except the inhospitable climate Jharkhand has so much to offer to its travelers (and photo enthusiasts)!
      Hope you visit your native place soon and get to catch up with those old time folks. Could you please suggest me some less known beautiful places of Jharkhand?

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    2. There are place with raw beauty in Jharkhand, You just have to take your bike and start exploring. I'll mention a few but I am sure I will be missing most of them who are unknown to many but are truly paradise for a backpacker.
      1. Ranchi - Filled with awesome falls (Hundru is the most famous) and Jungle.
      2. Giridih - You visited couple of places but without Madhuban and Parasnath mountains it is incomplete.You will adore the Jain architecture there
      3. Deoghar - One of the 12 Jyothirlinga, whole town is filled with temples and you may get a feel of our ancient culture
      4. Dhanbad - Maithan Dam. Also if interested you can visit one of the coal mines. The photographer inside you will get something completely different.
      5. Jamshedpur - Dimna lake and deep forests. Also Tata plants if you feel like visiting.
      But my advise is to pick a place and go with the wind, that's how we use to do. There will be places to explore on the way. Also I think the roads are much much better now from 15 years ago.
      I hope we will read you blog soon with you new journey and adventure.

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    3. Oh yes:

      1) Been to Ranchi few times for official purpose, but yet to get a chance pay a tourist visit and explore its 3-4 waterfalls.

      2) I enjoyed visiting this place: http://www.clickingphotos.com/2016/10/hike-to-parasnath-hill-holiest-jain.html

      3) OK, noting it down.

      4) Here's a quick trip: http://www.clickingphotos.com/2017/04/a-trip-to-maithon-kashmir-of-koyalanchal.html

      5) Definitely in my wishlist... Few weeks back I visited Ghatsila and I did put Jamshedpur in my "coming soon" ride list.

      I really appreciate your encouragement and inputs. Please visit again to enrich me more :-)

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