Let us become nobler

Sanskrit word 'Arya' or 'Aryam' stands for nobility. Let us implore everyone to become noble, the Arya or Aryam. Christians, Muslims, Hindus or Jews, communists or capitalists, rich or poor, clever or dumb, weak, meek or bully. Uncomfortable perhaps are they with other, threatening peace. Ray of hope for the world is ‘include-all’ ideas of ancient Indian wisdom popularly known as Hinduism. Only they knew how to celebrate individuality of each person. Aryas respect ideas of others, respect way of worship of others, help others and become a noble citizen of this wide and varied world. Idea behind this blog is to bring out those ideas and help each of us become better than what we are. 'N' in the 'Aryan', by the way, was a mistake made by colonial 'experts' who wanted to underplay and undermine the culture and religion of those who they clandestinely enslaved.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

15- Kailash, Kathmandu and Kashi – A story of Shiva and me.

(A decade ago after a trip to Tibet, Nepal and India, I wrote down my impressions. It was not meant to be a book, however after it was read by some, it was suggested that if it gets published, interested persons can use it. However I thought (and still think) that the narration was more of a personal quest into Bhagavan Shiva and that it may not interest a wider audience. Therefore instead of commercially publishing it, I thought of placing it on a website of Publishing house Harper Collins’s website known as Authonomy.com. It remained on their website for people to review my narration for many years. However, last year, when Harper Collins shutdown Authonomy.com and I realized that some people still wanted to read my account, I decided to place all 26 chapters of that travelogue on this blog. Reader views and comments are welcome)

Chapter 15.  Darshan, the base camp for Mount Kamlesh

After a short drive of 30 km on good road we reached town of Darchen, a small township where all roads from all sides converged for the tourists and pilgrims alike It was the base camp for Mount Kailash. Darchen is on a junction connecting three roads; westward (Chinese National Road Number S207) to the Tibetan town of Takalakot on Tibet-India border, northward (Chinese National Road Number S206) to Aksai Chin in Kashmir, eastward (Chinese National Road Numbers S206-G219-G318) to Kathmandu and Tibetan capital Lhasa.


The town had restaurants, utility item shops, souvenir vendors, telephone shops and also some Chinese governmental offices including an Army establishment. As compared to other towns and villages encountered by us, this looked fairly more developed in terms of shops. Even our guest house had better furniture. From the hotel one can have an unhindered view of Mount Kailash if weather permitted. No sooner did we enter our rooms; we were followed by souvenir selling Tibetan women. They had hundreds of colorful bead necklaces, wristbands etc made from colorful stones. Many people bought bead jewellery, including us.


From the day we entered Tibet from Nepal, we had noticed that women played a big role in the day to day activities. They appeared to be the shopkeepers, telephone and internet suppliers, sales women, animal herders, chefs in the restaurants and in short the ‘wheelers and dealers’ of the Tibetan economy. It was as if they ruled. How true that was!

Stree-Rajya: Government by Women


Predominance of women in business in this part of Tibet need not have seemed unusual. It stands to reason. Ancient historian and travelers such as Magasthanese, Xuangzang, and Alberuni have recorded ‘unusual’ practice of polyandry and government run by women in this part of the world. Area of present day Ladakh (Eastern Kashmir) and its neighborhood was known as Kuru or Uttarkuru. These territories and that the governments here run by women find their mention even in the epic ‘Mahabharata’ which contains a lot of pre-3000 B.C. history. It has clear reference to ‘Stree-Rajya’ (Kingdom of Women) and their legendary independence. Polyandry is still practiced here.


Chinese government had outlawed polyandry in 1959 and had tried to enforce new law. However after the flop of government enforced communes, the Chinese government returned and redistributed animals (taken away forcibly) to Tibetans. It can be said that they tolerate violation of anti-polyandry laws and even look away when one-child-policy is violated in these territories.

Mount Nandi, Ashta-Pada and Jain Connection

It was around 11 am, when we reached Darchen. We had good two hours before lunch time - an ideal opportunity to visit the Jain holy place, Ashta-Pada. Therefore soon after checking in and leaving our bags there in the guest house at Darchen, we once again took to our Landcruiser and were on our way to Ashta-Pada.


We were brought to the foot of a hill in the Landcruisers and from that onwards, we had to climb up on thin trail marked by foot-steps of tourists. It took us about an hour of climb to reach Aashta-Pada, the place where Jain’s first Tirthanker, Aadi-Nath merged with Kailash. We had one of the best Darshans from here, perhaps being the nearest than any other point to the Mount Kailash. But this was not all.

Tears Miracle

Oh, what an experience! Sitting there, meditation comes natural and easy. Many of us spontaneously wept and felt very light and happy. We have no doubt in our minds that this place is spiritually extremely active. In front of Mount Kailash is a smaller single mountain of unique construct, unlike any other mountain in its vicinity. It is known as Mount Nandi. Just as the legendary Nandi-bull, the vehicle of Bhagavan Shiva, who always sits facing the master to be at his beck and call, this peculiarly shaped mountain similar in appearance to a sitting bull is facing his master, the Mount Kailash. It was fascinating to see both mountains and relate the shapes and stories. Unlike a usual conical mountain, Nandi-mountain is an elongated triangular-prism, as if a sleeping or a prostrating mountain or as Hindu stories suggest, a Nandi-Bull sitting in front of his Master with folded legs, head in the front followed by long straight spine that abruptly ends with a tail sloping vertically down.


As the Mount Kailash is indeed very close from Ashta-Pada, the inner-trekking of Mount Kailash begins from here. Inner-circumambulation is considered very tough and not encouraged for the beginners. Only seasoned trekkers and experienced pilgrims generally take part in those trips. However, some members from our group had taken to feel of elation, so much so that oblivious of any danger or regards for rest of the pilgrims, kept walking further towards Mount Kailash, unnoticed by most of us, beyond the permitted area. There was a sudden panic once we realized what was happening, as those pilgrims disappeared behind distant rocks, beyond shouting distance. As they did not seem to either hear us or did not heed to our calls, Gautam, our group leader frantically pursued them with a bunch of young and tough trekkers from our group, who still had some energy left in them in this oxygen depleted atmosphere. Not an easy task! Rest of us had no other option but to wait and spend time looking at mountains, sky, ever-shifting clouds, flora and fauna, at the base of Ashta-Pada. Sun was penetratingly scorching and painfully bright, light white clouds covered Kailash making it invisible in minutes and making it visible again. A game that clouds played hundreds of times while we sat there. On the ground, we came across huge rodents going in and out of borrows dug near water streams among the tufts of grasses. Its shape and color was of a rat but had the size of a large hare. We tried to take their pictures, but met with only a limited success. In the mean time search party sent in hot pursuit of pilgrims going astray returned successfully, albeit very late. If we had not gone in hot-pursuit after them, surely they would have been lost in the wilderness of Tibet or may be arrested by Chinese soldiers for straying from the permitted course. At last when we reached Darchen base camp, our lunch had to be warmed again, it was almost an early dinner!


Condition of our sick pilgrim had taken turn for the worse. He became breathless. He was administered oxygen from a bottle. A transparent plastic mask covered his mouth and nose. He appeared very restless and in pain. The decision to send back the couple or to let them continue can not wait anymore. Darchen was the last chance for returning. If one was to go any further, returning was impossible until after Parikrama.


Darchen is the most important place for every tourist aiming for Kailash trek - their fate is sealed here one way or the other. One needs to ultimately decide here as to what one would do in the course of next three days. There are three options open to pilgrims; A) go for Parikrama, B) skip the Parikrama but wait there for 3 days and then return to Kathmandu with the same group or C) just head home directly.


Heading home from here involves additional expenses and usually never chosen unless there is any medical or similar urgency. Our sick pilgrim had no choice; he had to accept the last option. Reluctantly, he and his wife turned back from here in a Landcruiser, specially hired for him along with a Sherpa and a bottle of Oxygen. Sad.


Many from our group thought the Parikrama to be too demanding and skipped it. They were provided three days of stay and meal facility at Darchen. However this option does not need any extra payment. I too had to consider state of my knee after Nyalam accident. I knew, I was on the road to recovery, but task ahead can not be taken lightly.


Once decided, whatever the decision be, the fate is sealed. We sympathized with the couple who had to abort their trip on health ground. Next day in the early morning, we would have to say good bye to them and also to those who would opt out of Parikrama and choose to stay back at Darchen.


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