I had heard of Chauragarh, second time in my life when we reached Kedarnath an year ago (Oct 2019). There, after the arduous trek to the sacred temple from the base camp, and after we had our “darshan” with the Lord, we were perambulating the temple courtyard when I noticed a huge and heavy steel Trident leaning against the wall of Kedarnath. My wife (who had made me aware of Chauragarh for the first time) screamed with surprise to find the Trident here of all places. After all, Chauragarh is a place near her hometown of Pachmarhi (in Madhya Pradhesh of India). Its a place that they used to hear of very often, with stories of difficult climb, of indigenous man-eating tribals and the curse of Satpuras and what not. A strange feeling emerged as we stood gazing the Trident. I figured in my head that if and when we get a chance to visit Pachmarhi, I’d try and visit Chauragarh.
I learnt more about Chauragarh in the meantime. Situated atop one of the highest points of the old Satpura mountains (it is at an altitude of 1330 meters while the highest point in Satpuras is at 1400 meters), it is a temple with a huge following for its divinity. People from all parts of the world come here to pay their obeisance and pay it by donating Tridents – small, big and massive. The place, is rumored to have hundreds of Tridents all around it. Especially on Shivratri, the temple and the nearby hills are crowded by thousands of devotees who believe their wishes come true on that day. And so the legend of Chauragarh kept growing inside my head.
Destiny it was, because I got a window to visit Pachmarhi this year despite the devastations of Corona. Once there, I looked up at the Satpura horizon to locate the object of my dreams.
Chauragarh is a 3.5km arduous trek from a point at the foothills called Chota Mahadeo. The entry point to this foothill is teeming with wild monkeys who off late have become a violent nuisance to travelers because of the Indian habit of feeding monkeys. Now they are so audacious that they jump onto humans and vehicles to snatch anything that you are carrying.
Anyways, more than the monkeys it was the uphill trek that reminded me of what I had done a few years ago in Bhutan – to trek to The Tiger’s Nest in Paro. Both Lord Siva and Bodhisattva Padmasambhava seem very similar personalities, both have hugely loyal devotees and their temples are found in very remote and challenging terrains. Like the Tiger’s Nest, Chauragarh also has a very arduous climb with uphill and downhill portions both ways replete with steep steps and loose gravel. It took me ~ 3.5hours to finish my end-to-end trek of Tiger’s Nest, and it took us 3.5hours here as well from start to finish. Only point being I did Tiger’s Nest in the morning while we started for Chauragarh here only at mid-noon to come back by 3pm.
Take a look at some of the pictures of the trek and decide for yourself –
Finally, we reached the top to find a very simple temple. Spent 30 mins inside with the Lord and the cool breeze he filtered in for us through the marble screens of the temple. It was a place for quiet and prayer, for now, my resolve to go see this place and experience for myself was done.
And Tridents, yes, there were hundreds of them. Take a look –
When to go: October to March is the best time with the hills being cool and the views pleasant. Shivratri (which typically falls in Feb/Mar) is a special occasion. If you relish the crowds and religion is your opium, try then. If you prefer solitude, avoid those days.
How to reach: Nearest Airport is Bhopal (4 hours drive from Chauragarh) or Nagpur (5.5 hours). Nearest Railhead is Pipariya (75km or 1.5 hours away). Nearest town is the beautiful hill station of Pachmarhi (10km away). You can only drive upto the parking lot of Bada Mahadeo Temple from where you will have to get on foot and trek the distance (approx 5km) on a well laid path. You will need to obtain a forest department entry receipt at a checkpoint just outside Pachmarhi on the road to Bada Mahadeo. Our suggestion is to hire a local guide – available at the parking itself – to help you pace your trek as per your comfort, as well as stay away from menacing monkeys.
Where to stay: Best option is to stay at 1 of the 14 MP Tourism properties in Pachmarhi though there are even more private hotels of all ranges and kinds. Our recommendations are MP Tourism properties because of their heritage and upkeep (try Rock End Manor, Champak Bungalow, GlenView or Amaltas).