Deoghar, a small town in Jharkhand, India, known mainly as a Hindu pilgrimage centre, for me has always been a place for great food and adventure. The Tapovan hills located 10 km. from the town is one such destination. There are various legends and myths associated with this place. One of them is that sage Valmiki, who wrote Ramayana, the Indian epic, came here for penance. Raavana, the demon king of Lanka, is also believed to have come here for Lord Shiva’s boon, but remained unsuccessful as Hanuman broke his meditation.
Although many people come here to see the temples of Taponath Mahadeva or the place where Sri Sri Balananda Brahmachari attained siddhi (enlightenment), we loved the place more for the adventurous descent down the rocky hill. There are steps to reach the hill top, and, if visiting the temples is your only interest, you can come down the same way. But the real attraction of this place is to take the tougher route and face the rocky way down. You need to hire a guide before you start your climb, as without them it is not possible to find the way down if you are not taking the steps. The guides here are extremely friendly and they literally help you take every step.
On my last two visits (16 and 13 years ago), I used to walk all the way from Deoghar to Tapovan and back. I just loved the early morning walk through the rugged countryside with vast fields and small villages in between. The road was broken and dusty when I first visited, but on coming back for the second time, found it improved a lot.
This time we took a car. The road was great apart from the last few hundred meters where some work was going on. But as soon as we reached Tapovan we faced the only irritating thing about the place. The place is full of monkeys. Monkeys who would otherwise never disturb you. But some locals have trained them in a way that they would hold your hands, sit on your shoulders and surround you until you buy packets of peanuts for them. These locals would then force as many packets as possible in your hands before you come out of panic mode. Try to stay calm as the monkeys will just take the peanuts and not harm you.
With the monkeys satisfied, we were approached by a guide, and few minutes later finally began the climb. The hill top can be reached easily as there are proper steps throughout. From here you will get a panoramic view of the surrounding area. Vast fields, ponds and huge rocks. There was a man selling candyfloss and few people running around with cameras. For 10 rupees you can get your picture snapped and printed by them.
After clicking some photos we entered the place were Sri Sri Balananda Brahmachari attained siddhi (enlightenment). Permanent structures have been build here and inside are idol of the Yogi and his images. We saw two skulls in that room too and were told those are of the tigers, which used to guard the Yogi.
Coming out of the room, the guides asked us which way we want to take down. Of course we rejected the easy way. Earlier I used to enjoy this part of the trip. This time, though I enjoyed a lot, it was a bit difficult, as I was ridiculously overweight. I was loosing balance whenever there were slopes. But with the help of our friendly guide we managed to easily face the challenge.
Half way down, there is a huge rock, which, going by the myths, was cracked open by Lord Hanuman, when he came to break the meditation of Ravana. The inner walls of the crack have images of Hanuman, though its impossible for someone to carve something there as the opening is not that wide. This miraculous place is worshiped as a Hanuman temple.
After leaving the temple we climbed a bit, had to squeeze ourselves through rocks and then leaned on our backs to find a way under a big boulder. The closer you follow the instructions of the guide, the easier it would be. I thoroughly enjoyed the whole descent, the only regret being not able to take enough photos while coming down as for most of the time our guide was carrying my camera so that I could get some extra support. Next time I wish to come back fitter and enjoy a tougher route down.
You can hire auto-rickshaws or cars from Tower Chowk, Deoghar.
Being a holy place you need to take your shoes off before climbing the hill.