Saturday, June 18, 2011

The Pandavkholi Dharamshala and Mandir, Dunagiri, India

Stones representing the 5 Pandavas
If you are visiting Babaji's cave in Dunagiri, India you should definitively climb a bit higher and visit Pandavkholi, the mandir (hindu temple) and consider to stay at the Dharamshala (pilgrims shelter) on top for at least one night. This has been one of the most authentic Indian experience that I've had so far. Pandavkholi is believed to be one of the places that the five Pandavas used as shelter during their 13 years exile from their kingdom, a story told in the Mahabharata, an Indian epic, which includes the great Bhagavad Gita.

I never heard about this place before but after reaching Babaji's cave and practicing a bit of meditation over there my Indian companions asked me to come all the way up to the top of the hill. On the top besides the astonishing landscape we found this beautiful and simple dharamshala and mandir (temple). As soon as I was there I thought "would be great to stay here" so I asked the swami "can I stay here? do you receive guests?" and smiling he answered "you can stay here whenever you want and for as long as you want, but only if you consider this place to be yours, not mine", and then he added "but this is no guesthouse, it is a Dharamshala". He explained to me that a Dharamshala is a spiritual shelter for pilgrims. He finally said "we have no facilities, all very simple"



The Dharamshala

Ten days later, after leaving the Yogoda Satsanga Sakha Ashram, I called Swamiji to let him know that I was coming to stay at his dharamshala. Once I reached Kukuchina he send a guy to help me carry my big backpack on the 50 minutes walk uphill. Yeah, I have to admit, I definitively needed some help. Just carrying my 5 Kg backpack and I felt like my heart was coming out of my chest. On my defense... Pandavkholi is at an altitude of 2,550 meters (8,800 feet)! The guy carried my 20 Kg backpack without a problem, he just stop to rest a couple of times and on the second time he lighted up a beedi, an Indian cigarette!!

One of the most unforgettable experiences about staying at this shelter was enjoying the simple but delicious breakfast, lunch and dinner that they cook at the small kitchen in a wood fire. It is impressive what they can make with just a wood fire and some old pots. We would all gather around the wood fire, sit on some very all carpets that looks that they've been there forever, while the Swamiji's wife or one of his boys would prepare the chapatis (Indian bread) for the meal. Swamiji's wife? Yeah I know, he is not really a swami but everyone around calls him swamiji so I also call him like that. They also call him Babaji.



The ashram was build by swamiji's guru, which is also called Babaji. There is a small temple and a statue of Babaji (not Mahavatar Babaji) and there is another larger temple which is in construction at the time of writing this blog post. There is a watch tower from where you can enjoy the astonishing views of the hills around. You can even see the watch tower from Kukuchina.



Dharamshala facilities

Before coming to the dharamshala swamiji had told me that there were no facilities. Actually there are but of course everything is very basic, which is probably one of the attractions of staying at this place. Is the perfect place to practice some austerity and abandon all ideas of comforts, although the "room" that I got was a bit too austere for me.

There is a wooden house with some rooms inside which looks comfortable. Two French ladies were staying there and they told me that it was ok.

There is also a tiny cottage, just four walls and a bed, but very cozy. I would have loved to stay in this cottage but it was occupied with a friendly Indian guy from Mumbai, a serious meditator. It was nice talking with him and also joining him in his cottage to warm up with the wood fire on the floor when it was freezing outside. There is a plan to build two more of these cottages soon.

Unfortunately the day that I arrived they didn't really have a room available so they sort of arrange a space within a building with a big hall that they call the "museum". In one corner they put a bed on the floor with some blankets and... that was it.


A couple of days later when it started to rain heavily I had to move the "bed" because of water leaks and then I realized that the bed was actually a very old rotten door. I finally understood those shapes that I was feeling in my back when laying down to sleep, but surprisingly I slept pretty well, better than in many other places. This became the second time in my life sleeping on an old rotten wooden door as a bed. :-)

The hall was very dirty, a very strong smell of dust permeated the whole place. Fortunately they cleaned it during the night because some guests wanted to see the "museum" but it was just not enough. I tried to clean it myself but it was just an impossible task. Asking for a mop and water to clean the floor seemed totally out of place at this ashram.

There was one shared toilet just behind the museum and a couple of "bathrooms" where you could take a bucket shower though there is no tap water available. All the water comes from the rain. It is collected in big recipients and from there you take whatever you need. Since it is quite cold up there they will heat up a bucket of rain water for you to take a bucket bath whenever you need it.

They have a very simple rain water collection system that collects the water in different tanks and this is the water that they use for everything like dish washing, laundry or taking a bath. There is also a filtration system that purifies that same water for drinking. Everybody around said that the water was very healthy and even better than bottle water. It tasted quite good to me.

It is quite an ecological place. Besides the rain water collection to do the dish washing they use the ashes that comes from the kitchen fire. They also cultivate honey. They just put a box inside one wall, they seal it and from outside there is a hall that bees use to come in and out of their "home". They told me this is all actually local customs, all villagers do the same sort of things.

How to reach the Pandavkholi Dharamshala and Mandir

Just follow the same instruction to reach Babaji's cave and after reaching the cave continue climbing up the hill until you reach the top.

Contact information

If you want to spend a night or more at the Pandavkholi Dharamshala just give a call to Swamiji a couple of days in advance. I believe his name is Ramsingh.

+91 94 10 182743
+91 5966 219330

4 comments:

  1. Wow, Sounds great, I want to go there!

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  2. great place to visit.my heart throbes to visit this place immediately.

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  3. Thank you very very much for ur information... itz really will hepl us to visit babaji cave..

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  4. Very nice to read. Hope to visit in February 2nd week

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