Thursday, June 30, 2011

Vegetation changes from shrubs scattered across the slopes to cacti to alpine as we reach higher altitude and the slopes get steep. A splash of golden yellow Amaltas flowers breaks through the green cover, it is like a chandan tilak across the vast rocky forehead of brooding mount. Mamma monkey clasps her baby close to her chest, scampering across the road. There is a puppy excitedly pressing its paws, ready to greet his master, all these scenes I take in. One moment there is drizzle and sunlight filters timidly through wet leaves, the next, clouds travel with us and mist rises spreading like a sheer fabric from the vales. Glaciers have been grating the mountain sides for millions of years creating deep gorges. We had visited these mountains almost six years back, there were dry patches and nude peaks crumbling landslides spilling onto roads, now the peaks are lush green. The sharp peaks look gentle with the green forest cover. Traditional houses build with stones stacks plastered with mud and supported by wooden beams are ideal for the delicately balanced Himalayan topography. During earth quakes, these houses survive the swaying Earth where the cement and brick houses crash trapping people inside.

On Saturday, 18th June, we traveled from Ghangaria towards Hemkund, the History of the place traces back to Ramayana period, which some say was 1,750,000 years ago. It is said that Lakshman meditated here on the banks of this frozen lake 'Hem Kund'. The lake is surrounded by seven peaks. During summer months, snow melts a little on the shores and thousands of pilgrims endure the difficult climb to reach this holy lake and take a dip in its holy waters. All through the trekking people help each other, there are sikhs offering glucose to tired pilgrims, encouraging them to take a step at a time. The climb is so steep that one is out of breath in a few minutes and then these is lack of oxygen at this altitude. It is deep wisdom that is instilled by the ancestors that inspires such devotion and determination. HemKund was discovered by an army officer who had read mention of a similar place in Guru granth saheb, the religious book of Sikhs, this pilgrimage is a recent phenomenon compared to the ancient Lakshman temple. The pilgrims chant satnam waheguru throughout the difficult climb, some climb bare feet, there are palkis for old people and those who find the climb impossible. Four men shoulder this tiny wooden structure holding the human body and treading through rocks, glaciers and boulders. I admired their tremendous strength that propels them through struggling pilgrims to reach HemKund at the altitude of 15200 feet.

It is a collective force that pushes men and women to forsake comforts and take up this difficult task. I observed that this collective pilgrimage teaches humans many values-beings together as one people, taking care of other's needs, putting the collective before the individual. Somehow it effortlessly motivates people to work towards the good of all, and that working towards collective goals can be enjoyable. When a rock is dislodged and hurls down a slope, people eagerly warn others climbing up to move fast and away from the stone's path. Strangers sweet talk you into keep moving-it is just fifteen minutes away-and that fifteen minutes is actually an hour! Nature absorbs most thoughts and there is a state of thoughtless awareness, you slip into meditation just observing the blue sky, tender shoots breaking through glaciers. When you fill up your soul with meditation, you preserve your peace and balance. Introspection is like churning, it allows solutions to surface. There are analogies that you stumble upon during this arduous trek, interpersonal relationships stand stark naked, you know when you have to stand by what you believe, what needs to be prioritized and when to take a firm decision and say no to pressure. It is learning experience, this difficult trek. Ancient brooding mountains silently witness the procession of humans comforted by the gentle beauty, there is humbling down of ego. That which is irrelevant blows away and the grains of wisdom settle down, bringing about self realization. There is not much we humans need to be contented, and that which is the core of existence comes to us. Himalayas are indeed 'Deva Bhoomi' land of the saints and Gods.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Walk on Ganga Shore

A million nights this milky moon has flooded these Gabnga shores. The river moves, her sinewy bulk slithers across the deep gorge. Moonlight and Ganga water blend on rounded boulders and pebbles strewn across the sandy shores. There are huge black shaligrams, these smooth stones polished to perfection by the powerful flow are worshipped as lord Vishnu. A new story about their exisitence was told to me by a vendor, I was buying these attractive stones and he tells me that these grow under the tulsi plants and are brought to the hills from all around the country where old tulsi plants grow. I found this impossible, he told me that these black stones where used in marriages and the closing of fatings. A Shaligram is married to Tulsi plant as tulsi plant or vrunda is worshipped as Lakshami. In a way it is respecting the nature's valuable resources and keeping this medicinal plant in each household, just today I made tulsi tea to calm the cough.

It was a moonlit night and silver ripples on the river Ganga were like flowing silk, as if Mother nature was indulging us, pick up as many as you fancy, these beautiful gems, coloured smooth pebbles are for you! Water laps against the shores as I sit down on a huge boulder allowing my feet to be cooled by these glacial water. There is this melody of night rising with the soft murmer of the river's movement, a night bird breaks into this symphony and I dip into meditation as cool breeze licks away the tiredness of travel. Gray clouds scatter above the rising dark peaks, lit by the gentle moonlight, it is magical, this night, I feel blessed to witness this magical world, is cosy like a womb in its intimacy.Soft sand beneath my feet and firm smmoth stones press against my feet as I walk, to walk these shores is to heal, it is as if some one is firmly massaging my feet. Night dissolves into morning as kids sit in clusters telling glost stories, I am also with them till two AM, sharing my experiences. We don't wish to miss a moment, I wander about settling on the boulder to meditate, as the sun warms up the sand, we swim in the river, soak our bodies and soul in these holy waters. Ganga is revered as Mother, Ganga water is fed to the dying, it is said they are liberated from the circle of life and death if they drink a few drops before the soul leaves the body. We are like children in chilly wtares of this beautiful river, the sand rubs against the dead skin, water moves with a force cleansing our skins. I remeber the words' har har Gange!' My mother used to bath me with these chants, I utter these words as I take a dip. It is as if all my sins are washed away in these live giving water. Hidu's beliebve that a dip in Ganga washes away your sins. I used to laugh at this, now I agree it feels as if one is lighter, pure and cleanesed. If only we could lean the Ganga as it cleans us...

Wednesday, June 8, 2011


Today I observed a wasp moving with his reflection in the mirror, was a curious wasp. They are building a nest outside the bathroom window and Jayu has been asking me about their little nest, do they make it big? Will they have many babies in it? Will they bite us? She was playing with the black kitten , this one is always starved of affection, the kitty was so overwhelmed that she took to licking Jayu's feet and mine too. I often observe that how children have their attention completly in the present, there is not a worrry of past or what lies ahead. Sometimes when I look at old pictures it feels as if we humans have many lives rolled into these phases, how completely conditionings alter our perceptions. Often I wonder what we would be without conditionings? Most probably we would then posess an innocence like animals, who live from moment to moment. When I see the troubles and complecations that this identity, ego and conditionings bring about, I really question their importance.

Sometimes when I have woken up after deep dreamless sleep, I have sensed this, before the sense of self comes back. Those moments are without thoughts and then we grab the ropes of ego and identity, the moment dissolves.
I often wonder why people take to alcohol and drugs to relax? I cannot understand reliance on these toxins for being your self-relaxed, free and happy. In a way it shows how helpless we have become, how we have to drug the senses to get rid of the constant pressure. Whatever it is, it is farthest we could drag our selves from what is natural and what is balanced. When I write this, I remember once someone told me that in a hilly area, elephants had located a depot that had alcohol stocked, they would not disturb other storage places for food but attack this place, they would drink the alcohol and raid the villages around. Humans are capable of creating contageous vices!

Image: These parijat flowers drop to the green carpet of grass in early mornings, they are like thoughts falling genltly one-by-one. The beauty and silence lies in the moments between their silent rain...