Destinations / JOURNEY
IT WAS LATE June in Bagi village and I was grateful for the clear, windless sky. The summer monsoons that pound the western Indian Himalayas, turning its trails into treacherous trenches of mud and debris, had not yet arrived. Because the footpaths were dry, the
pilgrimage I traveled so far to see would go for ward. Shringi
Rishi, the most venerated god in the region, could now return
to his sacred seat on Sakiran Peak where he first miraculously
appeared as a stone. This event occurs every June, weather
permitting, and draws hundreds of villagers, spanning the
generations, who walk with their god to the 11,500-foot peak.
My host Karan and I waited outside Shringi Rishi’s
temple with villagers spilling down from their mountain-
side homes. They were buoyant when their god emerged at
last — his serene golden face floating, bodiless, in a mantle
of silk and mountain roses. An elderly priest carried the god
through the parting crowd as long-necked horns and beat-
ing drums heralded that the procession had finally begun.
By nightfall, in a single long day, we would trek more than
5,000 feet up the mountainside to Sakiran Peak.
Sakiran Peak is located in the Seraj, an obscure region in
the northwestern state of Himachal Pradesh. It’s a stone’s
throw from the Great Himalayan National Park, 468 square
miles of pristine wilderness rich in flora and fauna. The
Seraj’s sublime natural beauty, especially the unsullied
waters of the Tirthan River where the wild brown trout still
spawn, is a testament to the villagers’ David-and-Goliath
struggle to keep the river free of hydroelectric projects.
Sakiran Peak is worlds away from San Francisco, where I
live, and the dirt trails of Marin County, where I’ve primed