Nandpur Bhatoli to Maharana Pratap Sagar - Day 4
The day trip from Nandpur Bhatoli to Pong Dam Lake
After having some scrambled eggs and toast for breakfast with thanks to Puja Guleria, we scooted towards Maharana Pratap Sagar, also known as Pong Reservoir or Pong Dam Lake which is in Sukhnara & quite close to Nandpur Bhatoli.
The drive was quite alright with mostly unbumpy, metalled albeit narrow roads. It took us through several villages and brought us to a huge welcoming gate at Sukhnara pointing us to the Pong reservoir, an international Ramsar wetland.
Pong Dam Lake Wildlife Sanctuary is located in Himachal Pradesh at the Pong Reservoir which is an artificial reservoir created by the construction of the Pong Dam on the Beas River in the Shivalik Hills’ wetland zone.
It was created in 1975, at a time when wetlands in northern India were getting reduced due to extensive drainage & reclamation, the avian habitats formed by the creation of the Pong Dam assumed great significance.
A Ramsar site is a wetland site designated to be of international importance under the Ramsar Convention, also known as “The Convention on Wetlands”.
Given the site’s location on the trans-Himalayan flyway, More than 420 bird species, with 54 species of waterfowl, belonging to 56 families have been recorded in the lake.
Pong Dam or Maharana Pratap Sagar is often hailed as one of the world’s premier Bird’s Paradises.
The catchment of the lake spreads up to 12562 sq. km and the total geographical area of the lake is 207 sq. km mainly up to 1410 ft.
Hydrological values include monsoon-season flood prevention, both in the surroundings and downstream due to water regulation, groundwater recharge, silt trapping and prevention of soil erosion.
Electricity is generated for neighbouring states of Himachal Pradesh from here, and irrigation water is channelled to fertile areas of the Punjab and Rajasthan deserts.
This wetland area caters to the diverse interests of children, students, authors, poets, saints, environmentalists, anglers, tourists, adventurists, and sports enthusiasts.
At Maharana Pratap Sagar or Pong Reservoir or Pong Dam Lake
Twiddling our thumbs adventure at the Pong Dam Reservoir
Maharana Pratap Sagar, also known as Pong Reservoir or Pong Dam Lake was sparse when it came to humans while the gulls controlled the abound spaces.
The reservoir has a total length of 42 km and a maximum breadth of 19 km. The area varies seasonally, and the water level recedes during summers to about 384 m MSL.
Outflows are the highest in July and the lowest in February, hence the dried spell and favourable for hosting local cricket matches on the banks of the lake. A few occasional foxes come here to umpire these matches.
Initially, the humans that we saw were two men in a boat who were maybe trying to poach fish from the reservoir and another solitary one trying to chop a dried lumber trunk.
I know the fishing bit since last night Ankur Guleria and I had feasted on fresh singhara (catfish – Sperata seenghala) from the reservoir gorgeously fried by a local Dhaba owner at Nagrota Surian.
To fish, you need to get a permit from the fisheries department at the dam mouth for Rs 100 per person per day.
Not even a single person from the dam authority was visible there. Only the signboard on the barrier cabin welcomed us to the Pong Dam Wildlife Sanctuary.
We entered the dried-up wetlands and paid no price for that even though a ticket was prescribed for the same.
I drove in and parked at a barrier being repaired and we entered the dried wetlands on foot. No water or birds were visible from this point.
After walking a kilometre or so, the huge lake of the wildlife sanctuary and a few high machans for bird watching became visible and so did a lot more humans and their cars & bikes.
Some of them were playing cricket and I wondered how they do this in a wildlife sanctuary.
The Avian Magic at the Pong
Scattering Flights of Birds in the Wetlands
There were hundreds of bar headed geese flying, walking, chatting and feeding all over the wetlands with their shrilly music.
For a safer haven and food, these amazing birds fly thousands of miles over the high mountains from as far as Kazakhstan, Mongolia, Russia and other Central Asian countries to the wetlands of South Asia in winter.
These bar headed geese at Pong were feeding in large groups. I tried to get closer for better pictures, but the birds were too smart and kept a safe distance.
Despite walking slower than usual, the moment they sensed I was too close, they would fly off. Beyond this except for us, there were several foxes prancing around & searching for food in my opinion.
Just when we were about to return to Nandpur Bhatoli, Ankur after speaking with his father declared we had to proceed to his Kul Devi (Clan Goddess) Mata Bala Sundari’s temple close by
The visit was for her Darshan and Prasada in the form of a Kangri Dham in a Bhandara (the free community feast). The Bhandara was attended by hundreds of people even though it had started raining.
We parked the TATA ka Chota truck across the railway line and trudged to the Bhandara only to find that another road leads right to the temple entrance.
We went for Darshan of Mata Bala Sundari and walked to the Bhandara venue right outside the inner sanctum. The devotees were busy serving the Prasada, Dham, which was filling and delicious and we had our fill.
Post having the Dham we returned to the car in pitch darkness and started for Nandpur Bhatoli.
The Itihasa Behind Mata Bala Sundari
Mata Bala Sundari Temple
Mata Bala Sundari Devi, an infant state of Goddess Mata Vaishno Devi, is the Kul Devi of ‘Guleria Rajputs’.
The original Bala Devi temple is believed to have been established by Raja Hari Chand at Panalath, the first ruler of the Guleria clan, in 1415.
Harsar Dehri railway station is the nearest railway station to Ancient Mata Bala Devi Temple, Panalath. It is nearly 0.99 kilometres away from it. We took a shortcut from Pong Dam and reached Nagrota Surian.
Thereafter, the winding and bumpy roads started.
The original temple is located in the Pong Dam and is managed by the Bhakra Beas Management Board or BBMB.
Land acquisition for the Pong Reservoir and flooding in these flood plains by River Beas often leads to the temple being flooded during monsoons and the release of water from the dam.
This made the devotees build another temple in Harsar Khas between 1961 to 1974 for ‘Kul Devi Mata Bala Sundari’ where the original idol is located now and both temples are equally revered.
The Story Behind the Temple Construction
What Inspired Raja Hari Chand to Build this Temple?
The main and old temple at Harsar (Now in the Bhakra Beas Management Board, BBMB area) is the Temple of Bhagwati Tripura Bala Sundari which depicts a beautiful childhood image of Goddess Durga.
The temple was built by Raja Hari Chand in the 15th century. Legend says that it was a time when the king of Haripur-Guler Riyasat Hari Chand went out hunting all by himself.
Accidentally, he and his horse fell into a dry but deep well. This water well in Harasar was covered by shrubs and could not be seen by him. Raja Hari Chand tried to come out but couldn’t.
As time passed, he prayed continuously to his Kul Devi Mata Bala Sundari. He promised that if he came out from the well alive, he would construct her temple at the same location.
As per the legends, Mata Bala Sundari listened to his prayers and miraculously led to Raja Hari Chand coming out from the well alive.
Raja Hari Chand to fulfil his promise decided to construct a Temple at the same spot. He invited some artisans from Rajasthan (Jaipur) in the 15th century to take on this pious project for the glory of Mata.
Thereafter, the Temple of Mata Bala Sundari was constructed and the Divine Murti (statue) of Mata Bala Sundari jee was installed at Harsar.
After the temple was completed the regular worship of Mata Bala Sundari became a tradition in the Royal family and the residents of the area.
The temple is an example of the exquisite workmanship of artisans from Rajasthan and every year thousands of devotees visit the temple.
If you like this article, you can let us know in the comments below or on social media using #gosumitup and tag @gosumitup on Facebook.
I am always happy to read your feedback and if you liked the dish or if you made the dish. :)
Better still, take a picture and post it on Instagram and tag it as #gosumitup
And, keep visiting us for more of such awesomeness. Do bookmark gosumitup.com into your web browser now or simply subscribe to our browser notifications.
Thank you for visiting GoSumItUp! I hope you enjoy the reviews & recipes found at www.gosumitup.com.
This page consists of disclaimers regarding the recipe, its outcome, nutrition, and food handling safety decisions.
The recipes have been cooked and compiled by me for general information only and should not be used to diagnose or treat any medical condition/s.
This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease as well.
GoSumItUp.com has used all reasonable care in compiling the information but offers no warranty as to its accuracy or its use in any possible form.
Consult a doctor or other health care professional for diagnosis and treatment of any medical condition/s. For more details please refer to our disclosure policy.
GoSumItUp is a personal blog written and edited personally by me. All opinions expressed are my own which are honest and have not been influenced by any means.
My reviews are dependent on the visits at the time and revisits will be reviewed again as they may have a different experience or the same.
I am not a food critic nor do I consider myself as one, this platform allows me to write and review my own personal dining experiences, may they be good or bad, delicious or not, all are honest and truthful opinions.
Suppose you disagree or agree with me at any point or do not receive the same experiences as I have. In that case, I do not hold any responsibility as everyone will have their own experiences that they will encounter themselves.
I pay for all meals. However, if any meals or product has been sponsored or compensated or if I was an invited guest, it will be clearly disclosed at the end of each review.
All images on this blog are my own unless stated otherwise. If you wish to use any of my photography for any purposes, please do not use it without any written permission and give credit and/or link back to the website.
If you would like to send a product or any sponsors/endorsements, it may or may not be published and reviewed on the website.
If you wish to send any products or invitations for any media, press or collaborations etc., consider if it is something related to the content of the website and if you see fit, please visit the Contact page for contact details.