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

16- 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 16.  Mount Kamlesh Trek, Day 1, Derapuk.

Next three days were for trekking around Mount Kailash, the holy-most ‘Parikrama’ or ‘Pradakshina’; both mean the same, the circumambulation. It is a total distance of about 40 km. We had to carry our own stuff on our backs for next three days. The tour was organized in such a way that we could safely leave our heavy duffel bags in Darchen, take with us only bare necessity stuff, trek for three days and return to the same base camp hotel to retrieve bags left behind and return to Kathmandu from there.


We, those who had to go further to Mount Kailash, had now, therefore a new task: sifting through our duffel bags, carefully sorting items that should be carried and those should be left behind. One pair of clothing, toiletries, medicines, high-energy eatables (dry fruits. Chocolates, Glucose Powder), Torch, extra batteries, diary and a thermos flask formed part of the backpack. The pullover, jacket, raincoat, hand gloves, cap and walking stick were other items that we carried on us, outside the bag. After a good night’s rest we set out to our ultimate journey, the final destination, the pinnacle of the trip. We bade good bye to those who were now left behind and in turn they wished us good luck and prayed for our welfare. We also left behind the sick pilgrim, wishing him quick recovery, who would be returning to Kathmandu. Our group of 45 had now shrunk to 30 for next three day’s rigors.

Yama-Dwaar (Death-Door) ! !


After bidding these pilgrims good bye, we sat in our Landcruisers for a short hop until ‘Yama’s gate’. Yama Deva is also known as ‘God of Death’ who is ultimate controller of humans, keeper of our Karma and responsible for deliverance of divine justice to everyone.  As a custom, everyone first comes here to an arch, a symbolic gate, known as ‘Yama-Dwaar’ (Yama-Door – meaning, Door of the ‘God of Death’, Door to the ‘God of Death’ or ‘Door of Death’). People first pray to Yama Deva before entering the arena of circumambulation. This custom is very telling and prepares one for the rigors of Himalayan trekking at high altitudes, far above Alpine heights acknowledging acceptance of whatever ‘Death God’ dispenses to him. This idea may be frightening to some however; there is one more explanation which is loved by everyone.  As per the Puranic description we are living in the territory that is controlled by God of Death and therefore anyone coming to his territory has to eventually die But Kailash is Bhagavan Shiva’s territory (“Kailash-Loka” or Swarga-Loka, The Heaven) where Yama Deva does not have authority. The ‘Yama-Dwaar’ marks the boundary. Hence once one leaves our world and enters Kailash-Loka from the Yama-Dwaar, he should not fear death as the God of death has no power beyond Yama-Dwaar. He can not exercise his powers while he is on circumambulation around Kailash. Celebrate! When you cross that gate, fear not, you are now in the deathless region!! What a fine reassurance.


After symbolic passing through the arch of Yama-Dwaar, pilgrims are ultimately dropped off a little further, where we now have to say good-bye to our Landcruisers and take to feet. There are four ways to perform the Parikrama: (1) Walk carrying your backpack (2) Walk without backpack while the backpack is carried by a porter. (3) Ride a pony with backpack on you (4) Ride a pony and hire a porter for carrying the backpack. Except option number 1, for rest of the options, one needs to pay extra. This decision has to be made once you cross the Yama-Dwaar. Tour leaders insist for early decision in this regard, as they can keep the concerned Chinese agencies well prepared with sufficient number of ponies and porters well in advance. This is the final point where a pilgrim once again seals his fate. There is no to way to change the decision during the 3-day circumambulation. The reason being: in this uninhabited area, there is no help possible as no one lives there. Pilgrims are all alone there. Even communication (except for satellite phone) is impossible thus precluding possibility of summoning any outside assistance. Even if help is somehow summoned, reaching help there is difficult due to very harsh terrain. We understood from some people that, of late, citing security reasons, the Satellite phones are also not allowed by Chinese authorities in this area, bordering India. Thus the circumambulation is that area where you can not find any external help and truly you are in the God’s hands.


Some of the group members chose to ride ponies, a few decided to walk but use a porter for backpack, but overwhelming majority chose the most difficult of the option of walking with own backpack. Every walker was provided with a walking stick by the organizers. A group of yaks with their Tibetan minders was already waiting there. Yaks were to replace the truck that had so far followed us with food and water. Tents, emergency oxygen cylinders, kitchen items, foodstuff, drinking water, gas stoves and cooking-gas cylinders were unloaded from the truck and loaded on the yaks. Covered in pitch black rough and long hair, yak looked like a huge black bull with pointed short horns and seemed to be a very moody animal. It can be very quiet but can suddenly become ferocious. Yaks were restrained by ropes and their front legs were tied to their necks or rear legs so that their movement can not go out of control. Despite the ropes, some of the yaks did show their ‘extreme’ displeasure at being loaded with heavy objects by animated jumping up and down and creating a ruckus and a cloud of dust around them. However these yaks appeared to me to be very descent once loaded and once on their way. Quietly, slowly and steadily they treaded on. Oddly I found them to be always choosing that trail which was harder than the relatively smoother trail we were using. Perhaps their hoofs preferred that kind of rough terrain.


As soon as the green signal was given, our colorful troupe of 30 followed by a fleet of about 10 Yaks marched ahead. We were currently in the south of Kailash and our destination was Derapuk Monastery facing north face of Mount Kailash.



It is usual to find a certain one or two varieties of stones in a given terrain; however what was striking here was the presence of several different kinds of stone at the same time. A medley of blue, grey, orange, green, maroon, black, white, shining, non-shining, smooth, monolithic, serrated, stratified and so on, loudly announcing presence of many different minerals there. (Chinese government has recently identified over 600 sites for mining minerals in Tibet). I picked up a simple grey-brown stone that resembled 4-sided pyramid, approximating peak of holy mountain Kailash As a souvenir from there.


 Today there were no steep hills to climb. However, it was the lack of enough oxygen that was tiring us out quickly. Periodic sipping Glucose-spiked water and smelling Camphor proved useful. I was also worried about my sprained knee. It was not fully cured just yet. It used to pain until yesterday upon longer walks. But thanks to Bhagavan Shiva; today, it was as if I had no knee injury at all. After a walk of a couple of hours, we found a stream, water filtering through rubble of rocks, stones and pebbles that was flowing directly from Mount Kailash. We were tired and were waiting for a good excuse for a breather. Stream served us well. We spent some leisurely moments there, gazing at Mount Kailash. View from here showed multiple-serpent-heads like structure on the mountain. A few of us sat there and filled our water bottles with the holy water. Blazing sun was warming up the atmosphere and we were now uncomfortable in the jackets and hand gloves. As day got warmer, we had to discard sheathes of protective clothes one by one. In Himalayas, the climate can very rapidly change from sunny to cloudy and snowy, however it did not turn hostile, that is, until we reached the destination. After seeing us safely nestled, it poured and snowed.

Fire Accident and a Brave Sherpa

Hardly had we entered the guesthouse and were just removing our backpacks in our rooms on first floor, a drama was unfolding very below us on the ground floor. We heard frantic shouts of fire. Also they were shouting that gas cylinder was leaking. All of us who had just entered our rooms, scrambled out. It seemed a small fire initially but within minutes it became big and had covered kitchen-room. There was nothing available to put out the fire. No water, no sand, definitely no fire extinguisher or foam. Nothing was to be done but watch the guesthouse along with our bags go up in smoke. However, we were saved by a brave Sherpa, who rushed inside the inferno disregarding fire and who with his bare hands, shut off the gas valve. His palm was burnt, but he saved everything. The cylinder, heated up by fire, was in eminent danger of bursting. So, now the attention was shifted on how to cool the cylinder. Sherpas brought buckets of water that was reserved for washing and poured it over the cylinder. They had to do this cleverly, recycling the same water again and again, as there was no other water available, except potable water in limited quantity. We thanked that Sherpa and the Shanker Bhagwan with a sigh of relief.

Darshan Miracle: Bhagavan Shiva and Mata Parvati

In this fire-fighting ruckus, we had no time even to have a glimpse of the majestic Kailash. However, once at ease, our full time attention was on Mount Kailash and hardly anything else. We had wonderful views of the abode of Bhagavan Shiva, who lives here with Mata Parvati. The moment I came out of our room, and hardly had I put my eyes on the Mount Kailash, there appeared Mata Parvati and Bhagavan Shiva looking directly at me. My joys knew no bounds. I had my miracle. I hurried back to call Poonam, she came out to look at the spectacle I was describing excitedly. She could not see what I was seeing, but in that the fault lies with me because, I was not expressive enough and the words were not coming easily to me. I thought, I must capture this momentous event in my camera and I succeeded. Now I have a permanent physical record. (Reaching home, exchanging notes with other pilgrims, I found that coincidentally but unintentionally some others too had captured that spectacle in their cameras but they could not perceive what I did, till pointed out to them. Their cameras were much better than mine and hence image too was much better and more vivid than what I had captured. Poonam too realized what I had seen there when those pictures were seen by her.) Mata Parvati with her beautiful face, the way, I have imagined her all my life, was straight in front of me and to her right (to my left) was Bhagavan Shanker, slightly hiding behind his matted hair but almost completely visible, with even little Bhasma (Ash-dust) on his eyelashes. This Darshan is now fixed in my mind and I see it anytime I think of Him; I do not need to look at my album to refresh the picture. Still in awe, I did not realize that clouds were gathering above Kailash and above us. Just in a few minutes after that moment, Mount Kailash hid behind thick clouds. It rained heavily and it also snowed heavily on the mountains. Mount Kailash became absolutely invisible in the clouds and in the rain till next morning. Next day morning first thing I did was to take a Darshan of Mount Kailash, however this was a new Kailash, completely different. Images of Bhagavan and Mataji was not visible, ice cap had expanded and many streams were seen flowing from the mountain. Glaciers too had descended a bit further. Surrounding mountains that had no ice yesterday evening had significant ice caps on them today morning. I realized the truth in the claims of previous tourists who have so often stated as how Mount Kailash changes from moment to moment.


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