McLeodganj: Butterflies in the land of ancient Nags

This is 3rd post in a series of posts describing my visit to Mcleodganj. You  can read previous posts on this link.

Day two started with me waking up at 8 am and getting out of the hotel approximately half an hour later. Walking through the market, I came across one small restaurant named Peace with a Korean flag on the door. It claimed to be completely vegetarian Curious, I entered to check out the menu. There were 5-6 tables, all except 1 of which were occupied by foreigners. Owners of the place certainly didn’t look Tibetan but I didn’t ask.

I browsed through the menu and  ordered Tibetan white and brown bread with butter along with herbal tea.  I had no idea what they looked or tasted like. My eating out is almost always like this. :)

Tibetan white bread turned out to be soft, puffy and slightly salty while the brown was  hard. White bread tasted great with butter. Herbal tea was a bit of disappointment in the form of a tea-bag in a  glass of hot water. For some reason, I never liked teabags.

Bhagsu Nag spring
Bhagsu Nag spring


After finishing, I walked to the town square again and took the road to Bhagsu. It’s walk of 30-40 minutes. My first destination was spring near Bhagu Nag temple. As with most of natural caves, springs etc, this place too has been robbed of it’s natural beauty  by mindless construction and commercialisation. People have added shops, marble, concrete etc on and around old stone work and even constructed a swimming pool right next to it. If you are looking for a place to enjoy serenity of nature, skip it. Place is heavily congested and crowded.

Even the old Bhagsu Nag temple has little to show for it’s ancient origins as most of it has been covered by marbles, tiles etc. bearing names of the people who paid for them during the last 20-30 years.   Sad state for a temple with such interesting story.

During the rule of Raja Bhagsu there was once a severe drought in his capital. The local chiefs requested the king to do something or else the people would leave his kingdom. The king promised to do something this and set out himself in search of water. After about 3 days of searching he reached the Sacred Nag Dal (Lake) at a height of 18000ft. This lake was very big and had a lot of water. Raja Bhagsu used trickery to fill the water of the lake into a small vessel. He decided to spend the night there, as it had grown dark. Later in the Evening Nag the Lord of Snakes happened to pass by the lake and was shocked to find the lake empty. Following the footmarks he reached the place where Raja Bhagsu was resting. He challenged Bhagsu for a duel and defeated him in the ensuing fight. The moment the vessel containing the sacred water fell on the ground water started flowing from there. Baldy injured Raja Bhagsu prayed to Nag and moved by his prayers Nag granted him a boon that this place shall henceforth be referred firstly by the kings name and then by the Lords name and he shall become popular. Henceforth this place came to be known as “BhagsuNag”. In the Beginning of the Kalyug Raja Dharamchand dreamt that lord Shiva asked him to build a temple here to bring prosperity to the area. Today it is about 5100 years since this temple was built. 


View of Bhagu fall from a distance
View of Bhagu fall from a distance


I didn’t spend much time there and left for Bhagsu falls. Unfortunately, the path to falls has been paved with concrete and is nothing more than a typical weekend tourist place. One of the mountains nearby showed signs of illegal slate mining, which has been stopped since some time. The waterfall itself (except for two shack like shops right at the base) and the surroundings   are still beautiful and worth the effort of getting there. Water was very cold and I found it difficult to stand in it for more than 2-3 minutes.

Bhagsu waterfall
Bhagsu waterfall


Walking back from the falls, I came across a small trail going up towards top of waterfall. It lead to a small hotel / camping place run by people who seemed to be pot smoking hippy type. They had some beautiful paintings and sculptures all over the place. The place had great view and was a welcome relief from the crowd below. They had 2 rooms but both were under renovation.

Nag sculpture
Nag sculpture

Additionally, they had the option of  pitching tent in a small open area. After having a glass of milkshake, I left the place and took another trail that went approximately 100 meters above the paved path below.     As I went further, paved path seemed to shrink further till it was almost completely out of sight except for occasional glimpses. The weather at that time was sunny and hot. I sat on a rock for a while to rest and look at the scenery. Till then, I had seen a few butterflies flying here and there. But as I paid attention, I found that they were everywhere. Whole place was full of pale yellow fluttering butterflies. I tried taking pictures, but it’s hard to notice them. Even when there must be many dozen in a single frame.

Butterfly ! One of thousands  :p
Butterfly ! One of thousands :p

After some time I reached an area, which seemed to be the outer edge of Bhagsu.  There were two old wells near a new water storage tank. Wells were dry and full of rubbish. Nearby area was also full of litter and rubbish, mostly spread by locals. Common civic sense seemed to be a rare commodity amongst  people living there. I had no desire of walking a circuitous  through the town  and instead turned down the slope of mountain. I soon started to doubt the wisdom of such an ‘adventure’ as there was no proper path, except if you can consider longish patches of bare ground as some kind of trail. But I was on an elevated area and just followed my nose down. I ended up some distance away from where I actually wanted, but it wasn’t too far. I landed on a small ledge right next to the spring,  near the market.

It was almost 1 pm by that time and I started walking towards main Mcleodganj. Feeling hungry, I entered a small Tibetan eating joint and ordered the only dish available, steamed mutton momos. These were served with soup, spicy vinegar and chili sauce. Momos never tasted better. :)  People there drink hot water and I was offered a glass, but I refused. My mouth was  smoking due to accidental overdose of chili sauce and I doubted if hot water could help.

This ends first half of my 2nd day in Mcleodganj. It was a bit of let down but it was made up for later.

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