Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Hide and Seek

Rohan, a school going child has many non human friends and he can converse with them. One of such friend, the school-bus took him and all other school mates to a forest to enjoy the carnival and sports event of the inmates of the forest. However, the guardians and the teachers of the children trace them in the midst of the carnival and took them back.  The disappeared school bus was granted a shelter in the forest by the King of Forest Shri Modhusudan who is also a friend of Rohan- his Modhu dada.

Strange things would happen today and what a fool I am. I could not follow the advanced information of it as told by Modhu Dada or from the chirping of the Morning birds.
It hit my mind as our school bus instead of crossing the bridge on the river took U turn and moved towards the bumpy meandering road of the reserve forest.
Except me, all other schoolmates in the bus panicked and screamed “Has the Driver become crazy?”
“The steering, brake nothing is working. The bus has become crazy.” The driver and cleaner ran out from the cabin and shouted at us to jump out from the slow moving bus. They did not wait for us and slid from the bus one by one.
Our school bus continued its slow but steady movement in the forest road. By then all my school mates stopped panicking and got the smell of funny things ahead.
 We saw the fat bus driver skidded and fell on the ground. His tummy appeared like a live hairy hillock heaving up and down.
The baboons from the trees on either side of the forest road giggled and roars of laughter from us encouraged them to continue further.
Our bus also joined us in the laughter and then broke the long silence to me.
Normally we greet each other everyday as I ride on the bus but today we both forgot. He frequently used to tell me that he got bored in plying from going and coming from the school daily and want to get rid of it. We also feel none the less but dared to do anything.
Believe me, all objects around us talk in their language and they understand and talk our language. With few days’ effort, all of you can understand their languages easily.
Our school bus said “Rohan, are you afraid or enjoying my actions”
“We all are enjoying buddy but what are your plans?
“Soon I am going to stop just near the bank of the river.  Your fun world is just there and waiting for you.”
The bus stopped on a flat ground just near the bank of the river. Some of my school mates were scared to spot few bears hiding in the bush.
We saw a big black bear came out from the bush with two leaf cones in his hand,
“Hey friends, Welcome to our forest. Come out! The bees sent these two leafy cones full with fresh honey to all of you.’
My friends saw me to embrace the senior bear and they all came out from the school bus and snatched the Leaf-cones from my hand.
I was surprised to hear the fluent but with a different accent Hindi that the entire Beer family can speak. However, we all could follow their Hindi nicely.
The family of bears ushered us to a big banyan tree and we all sat comfortably under the cool shed.
 The senior bear told “We are glad to have you on our festival day. Soon our king shall arrive to inaugurate the day long sports and carnival. Although he is visible to those who love and believe him but for today all can see him”
One of my friend said in a trembling voice “Shall all the animals of forest take part in the sports? Are there any ferocious and dangerous animal?”
The senior bear frowned and said “Not animal, better call friend instead. This is King Modhusudan’s area and nobody can be dangerous or ferocious. Due to his blessings, all our friends understand and speak each other’s language including yours also. For your kind information, our big cat friend’s family lives on milk donated by Bison friends.”
One of us said in a hushed voice,
“Big cat means Tiger.”
Everyone forbade “Shhhh! Shhhh!”
 My heart thumped and hair’s raised on hearing the name of King Modhusudan. My Modhu Dada is   also not visible to all.
Once I missed my way from the tutor’s residence to my house. It was getting dark and soon I started weeping. Someone, a little elder to me and with a flute in his hand wiped my tears and showed the path to house. He told me “I am your friend. Call me whenever you want me to help you.”
I looked at him, his honey colored complexion, a friendly ever smiling sweet face with thick jet black curly hairs on his head was very soothing to look at.
 I   said “Your voice is so sweet and may I call you Modhu Dada?”
“Yes please.”
Since then, he meets me whenever and wherever I call him or need his help and nobody can object to his presence because none can see him or hear our talks, not even the whispers between us.
 Our friends of the forest started arriving. The Members of Monkey and bear family were the volunteers of the carnival and they arranged everything for the guests as well as the participants of the sports.
 Various types of birds started landing from the sky followed by squirrels and monkeys through their tree route and the herds of Bison, impala and Jackal from various parts of the forest.
A snob Tiger family arrived with fresh creamy milk smeared on their face but it appeared that other friends of the forest might take more time to accept them.
The Elephants were the last to come and we heard from the whispers of our new friends of the forest that this time the Elephants got the chance to become the official carrier of King Modhusudan.
A family of Parrots opted to look for us and in fluent Hindi they were telling us the various events of sports.  The participants may take part in any game but it must be out of their comfort zone. Impalas can not take part in long jump or race, they and elephants may compete with each other in swimming.
Our class monitor laughed and pointing towards the chubbiest boy in our class said, “Include his name in the Swimming.”. There was a roar of laughter but the head parrot cautioned us.
“The yellow birds spotted the Tusker carrying Our King. Today the King is visible to all, he wishes so.”
Within minutes, Yellow colored birds came down at bush height and a sweet melody from flute filled the entire big field. All said in their hushed tone “He is coming, the King is coming”
A Tusker appeared at a long distance flanked by baby elephants on either side. The flute player was on the Tusker back.
The Tusker stopped in front of us, the King of Forest got down and all my schoolmates saw him clearly.
In his royal dress; a light yellow royal gown with gold embossing and a gold headgear with Peacock feather on the top, he was looking little different but the smile on his honey colored  face with flute in his hand, he was none but the same Modhu dada.
The volunteers were about to usher him towards the small hillock type podium but looking at us he shook his head and said
“I shall better be with my new friends”. The monkeys immediately tied few cane sticks with the hanging roots of the banyan tree and made a cradle for him.
The bear and Monkey heads approached him to inaugurate the sports and Carnival. Modhu Dada said
“We shall begin with the dance item. Tell everybody to prepare for the community dance.”
Modhu Dada looked at us and said “I shall play few dance tunes but how many of you can accompany me with supporting music”
Nitish Said “We shall manage. but right here….”
Modhu Dada said “Tell me what you need”
“We need dholok, big drums, bongo, guitars and accordion”
“And here they are, just pick them up, possibly they are tuned also. Anyway have a look.”
He played a tune and we quickly tuned up our musical instruments. It was quite a team,
As soon as we started, the peacocks hopped in and started a Chhou with a loud applause from the entire audience.
The squirrels could not sit anymore on the tree tops but joined the peacocks with jumping up and down matching with the tune.
The chain reaction started first in the group of impalas followed by the bison and the tiger family leaving their respective places and joining the dance arena. Finally, the Herd of Elephants standing at the outermost of the ellipsoid gathering, joined and the tremors were none the less than earthquakes.
Now the entire community started dancing raising their limbs up and down and continuously chanting “Hey Modhusudan! Modhusudan!”
Modhu Dada from the beginning remained at the center playing his flute with tunes after tunes.
The pleasure we got erased our all nagging, boring and ruthless monotonous daily routines and the immense joy filled our mind and we did not know when we also like others started dancing and chanting raising our hands.
We heard heavy shouting from a crowd approaching us. We recognized these anxious voices calling us are from our Parents, Teachers and also our Principal madam.  So much of human voice scared our friends of forest. Modhu dada raised his hand and with a smile forbade them to worry.
Pointing to us he told them “Let these kids go back to their worried teachers and parents. We shall continue here but shall be invisible to all of them.”
Our school bus stared weeping and said” Hey Modhusudan! Save me from them. My owner shall tow me to garage and there the mechanics shall torture me for today’s behavior.”
Our parents and teachers located and hurriedly reached to us. Most of Our Guardians, our Principal Madam, some of our teachers along with the school bus staff came.
Seeing us unhurt, they were relieved. Our Principal Madam said “From a long distance, we were hearing the calls of many wild animals. Thank god all of you were safe.” Raising her voice she rebuked the Bus staff, 
“You people better replace that bus. I don’t want that bus again.”
“Yes Mam. But that bus disappeared, we are trying to locate it. Perhaps, it has gone down the gorge.”
“That’s your headache, we are leaving right now.’
We checked our smiles as we knew where the Bus is. Our guardians ushered us to a brand new bus. We were both sad and happy.
We were sad because we won’t be able to see our Bus friend and happy because Modhu Dada has allotted a new location for him. From now onward, down the gorge, our Monkey friends shall have a good place to play hide and seek game. This bus has many places to hide, no one else knows better than us

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

A Trek to Dev Bhoomi for the Devas –part-8

                      MIRACLE STILL HAPPEN
From the roof top of Devlok hotel we saw the snow capped mountains and the outside view of Badrinath ji temple. We stood in the Kilometer long queue for the Darshan. Meanwhile, we heard folktales from Prof Nanda and her students about Lord Badrinathji. It is believed that Badrinath ji fulfills the sincere prayers. I prayed to him only for a heartfelt Darshan as long as I want. However, the devotees were allowed for a spilt second Darshan. During the turn of our Darshan a  miracle happened.  

Hotels, Markets, shops and food shanties, grown more than mushrooms, obstructed the view on the opposite bank of the Alakananda and the temple. Previously from the Hotel of GMVN, one could view the golden yellow gate of Badrinath Temple.

At the GMVN reception, we were delighted to get a temple visit ticket at a scheduled time of 6.30 PM.   We were unaware that this is just a farce and meaningless thing and wasted few hours in the hotel for freshening up and looking around the whole place from the rooftop, instead of saving the time by standing in the queue.

From the roof top, viewing from our telescope with 100x zoom,  both of us saw snow capped  Nar and Narayan Parbat, Badrinath and Nilkantha peaks beside the exterior view of    bright yellow painted around 15 m tall Badrinath Temple with a small gold cupola on the top.
Focusing on the broad stairways leading to the tall arched gateway of the main entrance  and the bright yellow painted facade with arched windows she said “ The over all appearance and the bright painting of the exterior of the temple may have  influences from Buddhist vihara   architecture. 
But tell me one thing; are the cupola and the golden colored roof made of gold?”
I said, “I heard the cupola is made of gold but the roof is made of gold gilt.” 
We crossed the incoming bridge on the Alakananda and bought flower and the packet for the Puja from a shop. The shop owner pointed his finger to a long queue about a Kilometer long from the main entrance.
Mrs. Nanda called us. She along with her students was standing in the queue at a little distance away from the tail end and said in a hushed voice, “You may stand behind us. I already talked with others that we were all four. It is allowed here.”
Reluctantly, we agreed. The queue sometimes stand still and sometimes moving slower than  snail’s speed  might take at least two to three hours to reach near the stars of the main entrance. We need some known face for at least talking and spend the waiting time.
On the opposite side of the queue, there are benches and other sitting arrangements for giving some comfort to the pain of knees and ankles.
Moving Vendors selling from tea to Gems were making a brisk business among the waiting visitors.
 With people from all parts of India, speaking from Assamese to Tamil, it was a mini India. People were also  in a big to small groups.
Mother in laws of various states, sent to pilgrimage tour by sons and daughter-in-laws, were sharing the various tricks and rounds of power play overs. Invariably the husbands from both the sides were either poor umpires or spectators in the gallery and declared as cowards and useless. Husbands of them were either busy in paying up the moving vendors for endless articles purchased by their wives or discussing the unknown medicines or treatments for ailments like blood sugar or pressure.
Altogether, it was a solid entertainment.
Japanese Research students of Prof Nanda standing along with us were brilliant scholars. They are collecting the Folktales from various countries and trying to correlate them in the light of various respective socioeconomic conditions.
The youngest of them, dressed as a “Sanyasin” is a Krishna devote, active member of ISKON, has just completed an advanced course of Bhaktiyouga at the Mayapur ashram of ISKON.

They narrated few folk tales of Garhwal in Northern Himalayas and few from Sikkim in Eastern Himalayas and their correlations.
Legs started paining now, we requested mother-in –laws standing in the queue before, and after us to permit us for a tea break and they gladly agreed, as it would make bigger review group discussions on their family problems.
 We, all five of us, sat on a bench and got earthen cups of hot tea from a moving vendor. Hot Tea relieving the pains of muscles never tasted so good.
A big group with wet clothes crossed us to become the last persons in the Queue presently half a kilometer away from us.
All of them had a holy bath in the Hot Kund (spring) believing that it sanitized them from all the evils and sins made by them before coming here.
Looking at them, Prof Nanda said, “This Hot spring is very holy. The folk tale here is that Adi Sankaracharya found a “Saligrm Shila” in the riverbed of Alakananda. Later on as a reply to his prayer, he discovered this hot spring and a cave. He placed this holy Saligram Shila in this cave and only few persons knew this. In the Sixteenth century, King of Garhwal saw a dream and as per the wish of Vishnu thereby he built the present temple of Badrinath ji.”
The eldest of her Japanese student told, “This was built as per the prevailing temple architecture of South India. The temple consists of a “Gopuram” i.e. front tall gate followed by large pillared hall i.e. “Mandapam” which leads to “garbha griha” or the main shrine. There are intricate carvings of other gods on the Mandapam.”
Prof. Nanda added, “Here the one meter tall black idol of Vishnu is in meditative pose. On the right of him, there are idols of Nar and Narayana and on the left of him are the idols of Kubera and Narada. In the temple complex, you may also see the idols of Laxmi, and Ghantakaran, Hanuman, Ganesha, uddhava, and garuda
The younger Japanese student with a sweet and calm voice told us in fluent Hindi “There is another folk tale here.
Vishnu became very much anxious for the sins made by “Nar” i.e. human being. 
Vishnu arrived here from the heaven, was in the dual form of Nar and Narayana, and meditated hard in a Mountain, which is now known as Narayan Parvat.  The sins and evil powers were all terminated by his divine power. But Luxmi, wife of Vishnu, seeing the long absence found her Nath (husband) here and became a Badri (berry) tree to provide shed over Vishnu during meditation. So this place was named as Badrinath. Even after cleaning the Earth from the Sins (Kalusha), Badrinath ji was not satisfied. There were still trails of the Sin. So he requested Mahadeva to release “Kalusha-nashini” Ma Ganga to erase the trails of Sins. But the Earth was not capable to hold it. Lord Vishnu divided it into tributaries like Mandakini, Alakananda, Kandakini, Dhauli and Sarswati.”
Meanwhile we rejoined our queue and continuing our discussions. People, standing in queue before and after us were listening to our discussions, stopped spitting on their own near, and dear ones.
Prof. Nanda said, “Some learned gentleman told me that if you submit to Lord Vishnu totally, he shall pardon all your sins and your heart shall be filled with eternal joy. There is another great thing about him. You ask anything from him with full faith in him; he will fulfill your sincere desire provided it is not meant to harm anyone.”
Our queue started moving and this time with a good pace. People now started concentrating on their prayers and many were reciting continuously “Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna”
Susmita saw my lips moving but in silence. She whispered “What are you going to ask from Prabhu Vishnu?”
I whispered back “I want a l heart filled darshan of him and nothing else.”
Susmita heaved a deep sigh “The queue is moving fast and the volunteers inside won’t let you more than a second’s glimpse of darshan.”
I said, “I am confident that he will definitely fulfill my prayer.”
We were about to enter into the steps to the main entrance but suddenly all people standing before us including Prof Nanda and her two students were allowed to enter. The rest of the queue might move as and when the clearing signal would come.
After almost quarter of an hour, the sentry at the gate allowed only five persons including two of us and told us to enter the main temple as fast as we can.
As we entered there, a volunteer told us in hushed voice “Maintain pin drop silence and remain here until I signal you to move.”
We both keeping our eye opened have a heartfelt darshan with our prayers possibly more than five minutes and left after being signaled to leave. But by that time we were unable to see and stand as eyes of both of us were filled with continual flow of tears and we were shivering.
We believed that he would grant our prayers and it happened so miraculously. The place was so much crowded only few minutes before and no one was allowed a “Darshan” for more than few seconds. But lord Vishnu allowed us to have a darshan as long as we could, as long it would take to fill our mind.
The pleasure of being near to him really washed out all our accumulated sins, sorrows, insults, neglects, and deprivations and this ecstatic joy shivered us even after leaving the temple complex.
Prof Nanda was waiting outside for us, ushered to a food stall, and ordered hot milk. We narrated the entire incident, they were silent for few minutes, and finally Prof Nanda spoke to us “Try to calm down. I still say miracles do happen but it could be coincidental with some regular events of the temple in which you were allowed.”
Her  Sanyasin Japanese said “Right now I remember one important event of Mahabharata. The inevitable war was about to start. Arjuna and Duryodhan both went to Sri Krishna to solicit his help. Left to choice, Duryodhan opted for the Narayani sena of Sri Krishna but Arjuna liked unarmed Sri Krishna to accompany him and move his chariot.”
I shook my head “are you trying to….”
“No I only wanted to say you wanted only him and he answered your prayer. Even now if you close your eyes, you will see him in front of you. That is enough for anyone to be inspired for any work to begin”
Next morning we departed from Prof Nanda and his team at Mana village. 

This is the last Indian village, nearest to Indo-china border. In one of the cave here, Baisdev wrote the great epic Mahabharata. Even now, lot of “Saadhus” live in the caves here.
Prof Nanda and her team would stay for few days in Mana village, interview the Saadhus of the caves and village folks, and look for few old manuscripts written on Palm leaves.  
This was our quest for “Him” but dormant inside us until this visit. In this trip to Dev Bhoomi we felt “ He “ is not enclosed only in Temples but spread in the nature all around us. Before starting the “Puja” we first clean the place but why not the Nature polluted by us?
For Part 1

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For Part 6
For Part 7
For Part 8

A Trek to Dev Bhoomi for the Devas –part-7

          On the way to Badrinath and  unknown folktales
While crossing Karna Prayag, I told Susmita the folktale about this Prayag. Prof. Nanda Kaushal accompanied by her two Japanese two students doing research work in Folktales  joined our discussions and we learnt a lot in this discussion.
On the way to Badrinath, our vehicle stopped for lunch break after Karnaprayag and we opened our eyes. We learnt to sleep comfortably even in bumpy roads.
Other co- passengers on the vehicle were leaving for Lunch in the adjoining dhaba.
Susmita shook her and took out two packets of Biscuit, one 100 gm pack of Roasted Kaju and few dry fruits. It was only my advice not to take any heavy food while going up or down in a hilly road.
As we finished our dry lunch, I said “Aha! We crossed Karna Prayag, the confluence of Alakananda and Pindar Rivers.”
She said, “I heard about Pindar Glacier, below the Nanda Devi range.”
“Right you are. This river originates from that.”
She said “Then why the name is Karna Prayag?”
I scratched my head “Now I remember. Karna of Mahabharata meditated here for long and finally was successful to meet his actual father Surya dev.  Surya dev rewarded him with Kavacha (amour) and Kundal (Ear ring) which made Karna formidable.  However, just before the war of Mahabharata, Karna donated them to a Brahmin as he promised to that Brahmin.”
She heaved a deep sigh “In Mahabharata, I have a soft corner for him. I also heard Swami Vivekananda also meditated here for eighteen days.”
“Unfortunately, last time, during the feasibility survey for Hydro power  I did not find any place preserved here in his sacred memory.”
A middle-aged lady with a scholarly and university Professor Type look joined our discussions “There is a temple built by ADI Sankaracharya known as Karnashila where besides Karna there are idols of Parvati, Mahadeva and Ganesha.”
 I could not stop myself saying “The birth of Karna and Pandavas were from a similar process of act of kindness from the Devas. This part of Himalaya is   Dev Bhoomi. I heard that in historic past, the some of the people here used to have a common wife as Draupadi of Mahabharata. There was also a system of sacrificing life by the elders of the family by jumping from the Hills similar to the “Mahaprasthan” of Mahabharata.  From all these may I make a wild guess that Pandavas might be related to People of Himalayas.”
 The lady said “I teach comparative literature and I do know not anybody did some research on it. But what you thought is interesting.”
We saw a small rivulet with deep blue waters flowing at very high speed.
 I said, “That may be river Nandakini. We are about to see Nandprayag, the confluence of Nandakini with Alakananda.”
The Lady said, “I heard a popular folktale about this Prayag”
Susmita said “Oh go on please.”
Lady resumed “Nanda Raj and Yashoda meditated for long and finally Bhagwan Vishnu was pleased and agreed to born in their house as Krishna. However, he already promised the same to Devaki and Bosudev. So he amended that he would born first to Devaki's but Nanda raja and Yashoda would become his foster parents from the same night.”
At the outskirt of Joshimoth, our vehicle stopped and stood at the tail end of the more than Kilometer long queue of the stranded vehicles.

Meanwhile after initial exchanges of introduction we requested the lady to have tea with us in the adjoining tea shop.
She is Nanda kaushal and Professor in Hindi literature and now on a fieldwork with two of her Japanese research students on a project of Folklores of Himalayas.
Susmita became her fast friend and I said, “You two would get along nicely because Susmita’s nickname is Aloka and yours Nanda and both in combination make a great river Alakananda.”
The vehicle started moving and I said, “Soon the last of the Prayags Vishnu Prayag, the confluence of Dhauli Ganga and Alakananda can be seen.”
Nanda shook her head “Further upstream there is one more Prayag. Just near Mana village, Sarswati river meets with Alakananda and after this Alakananda flows near Badrinath Temple

We were just a few kilometers away from Badrinath town and crossing a bridge. Actually, there was a Glacier here. The snow line receded back to few Kms away and now we could trace it from here in the slopes of the adjoining mountain.
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For Part 8

A Trek to Dev Bhoomi for the Devas –part-6


            Night halt of Siyalsaur and a memorable Night.

There was everything to celebrate the most important occasion for two of us, solar candle lit dinner on the bank of  hills surrounded meandering Mandakini, self-composed music and dance by a young couple. This was our night-halt at Siyalsaur on the way to Badrinath ji.

Guptkashi appeared to be a big place on the way to our
Night halt at Siyalsaur.  The sound of traffic and glares of light from the shops and houses broke our sleep.
Bade papa gave us a tip and accordingly we soaked our feet for hours together (until our vehicle reported) at the hot spring waters of Gourikund. This worked better than analgesic tablets. Before getting inside our vehicle, there were no more pain in the legs or joints and we slept comfortably in the vehicle, even on the bad hilly road with jerks from the potholes and bumps.

Our scheduled night halt was at Tourist Village of GMVN Siyalsaur. From this place, Tunganath via Chopta is only 50 Km. The picturesque Deoria Taal is just 35 Km (2.5 Km trekking from Sari village.) 

There about 35 cottages on the bank of Mandakini at the “Tourist village,” provide all the comfort that a tired mind and body deserves.

From the outskirt of the Siyalsaur town, the vehicle traversed more than half a kilometer on a spiral hilly road, and stopped at the “Tourist village” of GMVN.
As soon as the headlights of our vehicle switched off, a blanket of darkness as if sprang upon us neglecting the weak attempts of the dimly lit lanterns from the Reception lobby.
However, within moments, someone with a magic wand lit a series of lanterns unveiling the rows of cottages. We only learnt later on that these were badly charged solar Lamps. The continuous flow sound of the river current indicated the presence of Mandakini just below the cottages.

The cozy cottages were meticulously cane furnished with weak solar lights not the smelly kerosene lanterns. I quickly finished my bath and came outside to have a look at the dark outside.
However, by that time there was dim moon light and the hill surrounded meandered Mandakini made a soothing atmosphere. I had a brainwave.
I whispered something to the waiter boy who came to collect the orders for the dinner. With an obliging node, he vanished in the darkness.
Just beside the barbed fence, at a lonely corner, he nicely laid a small table, two red chairs, and two medium sized Bonfire of charcoal for us. He also managed two fully charged solar torches looking like lighted candles at the both ends of food tray of Hotpots.
Susmita just loved it and looked at me. With cleavages on her forehead, she said, “Well if you want me to begin then thank you for remembering the day and giving me a surprise.”
Emotions now engulfed her, tears like pearl rolled down from her blinkering eyes. I scratched my head in vain and surrendered “I do not get you. I just arranged a dinner for two of us. Our anniversary is….”
She looked at me and heaved a deep sigh “You know, the thing which I like the most in you is that you never lied to me. Well! This is the day..”
I said “when a sophisticated girl said Yes to a very simple boy”
“Better correct it, a naughty but nice..”
I said “Thanks for the compliment. I am hungry”
Menu was simple: Hot tawa roti, dal, bengan bharta, Mixed Veg. and a small plate of Rosmalai for the desert. She was busy in distributing the food items on two bright plates except the desert a small plate of Rosmalai.
I took out my mobile and put on a song: my lyrics, music composed and  song by  Susmita. It was a waltz biased tune on a college fest but hummed and danced by many on that evening and brought us together.
                                  “Hold her hand
                                              On your Palm,
                                    Tell your heart
                                                  To be calm.
                                     Have, have, all the fun,
                                 Only with her charm
                                    Hold her hand                                               
                                         On your palm                  

She sat beside me. We gazed at each other and started traversing back, down the sweet memory lane of both of us. 
The background of dim moonlit Hills on the bank of the meandering Mandakini with rhythmic flow sound of the high river current kept us mesmerized.
The music continued and we saw a couple who   came up the stairs from the bank of Mandakini, stopped near the lawn to hear our music. 
Holding each other’s hand and with a matching step, they danced for a while and after waving to us, they quickly ran to their room. That night we discovered that time could make us oldies in appearances only.
For Part 1

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 For Part 5
For Part 6
For Part 7
For Part 8

Monday, September 2, 2013

A Trek to Dev Bhoomi For the Devas –part-5

We were shocked to learn that it was possible to avoid the long queue for the Darshan and Puja provided we were ready to part with some money illegally. We declined and waited for our turn to enter the temple for Puja and darshan. Why this holy place is at such a difficult place?  We overheard the most possible rational and convincing reply from a team leader which is very similar to our recent learning at the Pamarth ghat of Rishikesh.
   LINKS TO PART 1 TO 8 ARE GIVEN AT THE END.                         
                                      At Kedarnath

We stood in the long queue, about half a Km away from the main entrance of the temple. The queue with intermittent stoppages was advancing less than snails speed.

It was 7.30 PM, and to be very optimistic, we would be near the main entrance not before 10.30 PM.
Two well-built persons whispered something in the ears of a group of elderly persons in the queue and whisked them away.
A thin person came to us and whispered in fluent Bengali “Uncle, May I help you to have a quick darshan?”
He signaled me to come out of the queue. He did not look like a tout but proved soon.
As I came out, he said, “I am known to the Pujari. Why should you stand in queue with Aunty for hours together after this daylong walking when I am here? Uncle, just pay only four thousands for both of you to that Shop owner. He shall give you a ticket and show it to my friends at the gate and your darshan and Puja shall be arranged.”
Hiding my anger, I managed to say, “Is that a special darshan ticket?”
He replied, “Do not bother about that.”
 There are no special darshan tickets from the Temple authority side. The temple authorities should have arranged that. At least the money would have been spent for the temple but not in the pockets of few persons through their touts.
To lure me further, the tout fellow said, “You spent so much, just spend a little more few thousands only and see the Maha Arati, otherwise you may not be able to enter, before midnight.  After half an hour, the temperature would go down to very cold. Choice is yours; I only wanted to help you out as you are from Bengal
I pushed him away and joined back the queue. By that time, another person was negotiating possibly in south Indian language to a big group of south Indians in the queue.
 I do not know whether these persons are connected by any means to any Pujari of the temple but this is certainly a racket running trouble free and   successfully.
The touts could convince many others and many temple visitors, standing behind us in the queue, superseded us.  This activity kept the otherwise standstill queue moving and it was a tricky game similar to booth jam technique during elections.   

We were unable to see the Arati but went inside the temple and amazed to see the ancient work of sculpture, temple architecture and a Puja much to our expectation.     

At early Morning, the snow capped mountains look different. The road was calm. Possibly  the horses, Palkis, dolis and persons on foot for up and down journeys were yet to start. 
But few people like us  could not keep themselves indoor but preferred to enjoy  the festival of Holi.

This is the Holi of the Nature and we saw the white snow tops of the Kedar Mountain were smeared with Aabir by the morning Sun rays.
It took us only two and half hours to walk down to Ramwara and with a comfortable margin time we decided to have breakfast with hot fresh Pakoras, Roti and coffee.
A group of young men and women sat ahead of us centering an elderly man (called by them as Bade Papa) possibly the family head who was replying to the queries of the member.
An young lady of the group said “What if could Bhimji could have seen Mahadeva at Rishikesh and then this temple would have been there. We would not need to do so much walking up and down the Hilly tract.
People in her group giggled and before they start teasing her, Bade Papa rescued her in his baritone voice “Can any of you answer her query?”
 White trouser, Kurta, and shawl clad Bade Papa with a tall figure, French-cut beard, and a baritone voice resembled like Amitabh Bachhan.
The baritone voice continued, “ Kedarnath ji Temple at the Foot of Kedar mountain  enlightens the Yatris to know about both the Rudra and Meditating “Roopa” of Mahadeva with illustrations from the surrounding nature.”
The group was listening to him carefully and an young man said in a low voice” I am afraid, if you may clarify further”
Bade Papa turned to him “You must have noticed that some part of the trek was hot, some place was pleasant with shades of tall tree and cool breeze. Some stretch was steep with broken hill slope and some was very cold with cold waters from freshly melted snow. These are the various “Roopa”s of Mahadev Shiva as found in nature. Yesterday at the onset of the evening all of us saw him.” People in his group were now surprised, but before they could speak out, his baritone voice was heard again, “Did you not see him when the sun rays of the setting sun were falling on the white Kedar dome? The entire white Kedar dome appeared to me as Mahadeva and   the pale yellow color at the top of the dome was his tangled hair.”
We kept on walking along with that group and after some times, Bade Papa invited us to join his group with warm welcome from others of the group.
Discussions and walking down to Gourikund continued simultaneously. If you love nature, you may feel God. So, do an act against pollution. That is the actual “Puja” of God. 
We learned similar things from the small but thoughtful talk at the Arati of Ganga at Parmarth ghat of Rishikesh.
For Part 1

For Part 2

For Part 3

For Part 4

 For Part 5
For Part 6
For Part 7
For Part 8

Friday, August 30, 2013

A Trek to Dev Bhoomi for the Devas –part-4


Diminished or vanished snows on mountaintops and valley, thin forests on hill slope  and dried up fountains indicated a relative rise of   temperature as compared to my last visit, about ten years back. However, a partly melted and slided huge ice capping at the road attracted the Yatris. At about 3 Km from Kedarnath, the Arati of the falling setting Sun rays on the Snow capped mountains kept us spellbound. I told her the Folktale about Kedarnathji. We were very eager to Visit Kedarnath us but unaware of the shock and disbelief waiting for us.
(links to other parts 1to 8 are given at the bottom of the page)

With two backpacks on our shoulders and sticks on our hands, we started climbing up the narrow road with hair- pin bends from Gourikund to Kedarnath.

The traffic jam from Rampur to Gourikund delayed our planned start off from Gourikund by four hours.
Although failed to manage incoming vehicle parking, the state govt. made nice arrangements of prepaid Horses, Palkis, and Dollis ending all the bargains. 

Depending on the weather clearance, there are regular helicopter services throughout the day, which takes about 14 minutes to reach

Like our population, every other thing on this road such as the no of Pilgrims, Horses, Palkis, tea shops etc increased exponentially since my last visit on the same road about ten year’s ago. However, the width of the road remained the same because of slope cutting restriction.
Keeping in mind, the altitudes, and the total climbing distance on a hilly road of average gentle gradient, we planned our halts at every 1.5 Km with fruit juices, dry fruit, and Biscuits and occasional coffees.

We plan in a similar way while exploring for minerals on a hilly terrain and I worked in both the Eastern and Northern Himalayas.
Susmita accompanied me on those trips and we both were used to climbing up for longer distance in tougher Himalayan terrains.
However, this time the plan based on the entries of my own diary failed badly as the entire set up of climate changed abruptly.

To make up the loss of time we skipped two halts but compelled to take rest beside a semi dried up hill spring. Our light woolen garments and the raincoat were wet not by the usual occasional rains of early May, but by our own sweats. We kept them in the backpack in a plastic bag and wore Jeans and T- shirts.
 We trickled into Zigzag ways amid  the crowds to walk faster but the incoming and outgoing Horses coming continuously along with the smell of their urine and heaps of stools made the traverse     real uphill and tricky task.
We reached Ramwara, just at the middle of the trek, before our expected time, wiping out the loss of time. This place with no. of restaurants, Dhabas and few Hotels appear as a small town.   
Unlike other Pilgrims, we avoided any lunch but consumed only a pack of date, roasted cashew nuts, and coffee to keep us fit for the remaining trek of six Km, steeper than the rest.
Just lifting my head from the map I did not find Susmita and a cold wave ran in my spine. The valley side here is very unstable.
She called me before I could yell. She was there, about 50 m up, just near a culvert on a tiny hilly tributary. A big hard icecap from the mountain probably rolled down the slope few days ago and became standstill just before that culvert. The ice melted partly and now appeared as several ice caves. 

When I reached there, she was already inside the cave and busy taking snaps.
I had to remind her that till then,  we were doing excellent progress and only if we keep it up we might reach before the evening Arati at Kedarnath.
The last words as if brought her back to reality and she said “Arati at Kedarnath! We must see that.  Let’s move then.”

Completing the last steep part of Garud choti, we both looked at the watch and felt comfortable.  Kedarnath is just a Km away.

We were in a valley surrounded by snow-clad mountains on all sides. Within another hour, darkness would set in.  The flow of Pilgrims reduced to trickle making the valley silent enough to hear and enjoy the resonated duet sound of, cold wave blowing from the Ice capped mountains, and the flow sound of Alakananda.  

Covering us with woolen garments and Jackets, we sat comfortably on a culvert for the last two cups of coffee. Susmita picked up a bunch of wild flowers and I tucked it on her long black hairs.

Right then the dim sun rays appeared for a moment. The snow-capped peaks changed color from white to Pale orange red but we maintained the silence, clasped hands of each other, and saw the Arati of the nature.
As we started moving towards the bridge on Alakananda she broke the silence with a mild voice “Dear Pundit ji, Tell me something about Kedarnath Temple
I said, “I know very little, mostly from the Kathak thakurs narrating Shivpurana through their lyrical performance and something from the Net.
It is so said that Bhimji of Mahabharata was meditating hard for a darshan of Shivji who appeared in the disguise of a Buffalo and disappeared at Kedarnath. Bhim ji could only touch his divine curved shoulders. That Divine part is one of the “Jyotirlinga” The original temple of Pandavas were reconstructed by Guru Sankaracharaya. The temple is located at the foot of Kedar parvat and Kedar Dome from which the chorabari Glacier came down. A part of the melted water got trapped in a depression forming the Gandhi Sarovar at about 6 KM up from the Kedarnath temple.( This lake flooded by cloudburst triggered the Flash flood of 14.6)”
We checked in at GMVN’s Devlok lodge, took a refreshing warm bath, and left for Arati darshan at the Kedarnath Temple.
Possibly, there is an invisible halo of divine attraction, the moment you see the top crest of the Kedarnath temple and many persons including us felt it.
We were unaware that at the same place shock and disbelief were waiting for us. 
links to other episodes from 1 to 8 are given below.
For Part 1

For Part 2

For Part 3

For Part 4

 For Part 5
For Part 6
For Part 7
For Part 8