If you could touch and walk around heaven, what would it be like? I picture it as a house atop a hillock, surrounded by white snow peaks, with the warmth of the mountain sun. And this summer I got the closest I could to this reverie. In Uttarakhand’s tiny hamlet of Talwari, about 24s kilometres from Dehradun, I walk on the forest trails and across apple orchards to arrive at the charming Tridiva by Saffron Stays. ‘Tridiva’ loosely translates to ‘heaven’ in Sanskrit, and this three-bedroom villa does justice to the name.
Uninterrupted green landscapes help create a sense of tranquility at this homestay. Tall, manicured deodar trees and terraces growing mustard and other local vegetables surround the area I sit in the balcony to get a magnificient view of the Trishul massif- three Himalayan mountain peaks which take the shape of a trident. And this, my host and caretaker of Tridiva, Pradeep Rawat, tells me, is a matter of chance as weather in the mountains can be really unpredictable. The Trishul massif is usually hidden behind the clouds during monsoon, but on a regular day, one can see the mountain range for hours.
As panoramic windows fill the room with warm light, I walk into the house and run my hands on the Vaishnava chants written on the wall. From the earthen pot at the Main door, making my way to the wooden tables and the artistic swing, I admire the dark wood panel with carvings of Radha-Krishna over the stone fireplace.
The kitchen is a storehouse of local produce and stories. Pradeep introduces me to the (fresh and) local cuisine of Garhwal. While pahadi rajma and white rajma from the highlands of Garhwal, were a revelation, the madua (finger millet) roti and lentil cooked with local seeds like jaghiya were more homely and suited my palate. I spent mornings sipping tea while chatting with Pradeep about local beliefs, customs and stories. The people here are believers of Goddess Parvati, also known as NandaDevi. Every year the NandaDevi Jaat, a religious procession, is taken out in the months of June, July or August. It attracts hundreds ofbelievers from neighbouring villages. It is believed that the goddess returns to Mount Kailash after being away for six months.
The procession takes a bigger form every 12 years (Nanda Devi Raj Jaat) when palanquins from different parts of Kumaon and Garhwal scale up to Homkund, which lies at an altitude of 37SS metres. Pradeep was a part of the last Nanda Devi Raj Jaat—an experience that he says has reaffirmed his religious beliefs and spiritual inclination. During my stay, I met Khilaf Singh, a neighbour of Tridiva’s. An elderly gentleman, Khilaf tells me in detail his moment of faith during’ a visit to the hill shrine of Badrinath.
His face lights up as he recalls his journey to the shrine of Lord Narayana, where he managed to stay put in the temple for more than an hour, when everyone else struggle to offer their prayers for even few seconds. In my quest to identify with Khilaf’s beliefs, I hiked up to Badhangari- a popular devotional spot among locals. A day visit from Tridiva, the temple is situated at a height of 2,286 metres and dates back to the eighth century. It is dedicated to Goddess Parvati, and the locals believe that the goddess herself once stayed here.
I walk the steep and concrete path to the old temple on the hilltop. As I sit to catch my breath, I try to spot my homestay. A small white house appears amidst the green groves and other tiny blue Kumaoni houses – all dappling in the sunshine. Admiring the panorama, it occurs to me why it is called Dev Bhoomi, the land of gods. And how Tridiva completes this frame.