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.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

26- 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: 26. In acknowledgement, In confession, in Miracles and in recommendations for potential tourists.
Thank You, O, Bhagavan Shiva for the strength you gave us.

In Acknowledgement

Uncle Labhshanker Gaurishankar Shukla who lived in Gujarat, was visiting us in Mumbai. He expired in our home on May 7th 1972 at an age of 59. He was eldest brother of my father, Madhusudan Gaurishanker Shukla, elder to him by 15 years. Papa spent his spare time doing a lot of social service, helped bringing about ‘Ghatkopar-Local’ (Additional terminal on
Mumbai’s suburban train network) and ‘Sarvajanik High School’ (a large school in Ghatkopar, a suburb of Mumbai) into being. A cheerful individual who tolerated my impudence. Retired at the age of 53, spent time roaming India, visiting holy places and meeting holy men. He expired on 1st March 1997, at age of 69 during a surgical procedure in Mumbai. I am thankful to uncle for setting me up in the quest for Bhagavan Shiva and my dad for keeping the worship practice alive in our home.
I thankfully acknowledge help and cooperation of Sunita Kapadia and Jawaher Kapadia, Our dear family friends. Sunita Ben being veteran of Kailash trip provided us with most vivid information that was biggest help during our trip. Harish Bhatt (Dr.), my cousin, a cardiologist who provided us with necessary medical certificates and advised on what to stock up in our medicine chest. Harish Trivedi, Managing Director, Travels company. Gautam, the group leader. Kami Sherapa, an Everest veteran. Our co-tourists: Devout Mistry family of Rugby UK (Jyotsna Ben, Ramanik Bhai, their son Prakash and daughter Nimisha, all of them were extremely friendly and helped us at every stage), youthful devotee, Kanaiya Galiel from Mumbai who works at a fashionable Mumbai gym as a fitness trainer, and Shiva Radhakrishnan elderly devotee and retired IT hardware engineer from Canada, Jugal Kishore Vyas, an elderly gentleman from Guna (Madhya Pradesh in India), who helped us all the way till we were comfortably seated in the train to Varanasi and Dr. V P Sharma, MD Medicine also from Guna.
Personally for me, Poonam was the biggest help in every way. I must record here the incredible story of her change of mind. She was not prepared for trekking around Mount Kailash, due to her fear of knee pain. It was a precondition to the trip that pony was to be hired for her. I am unable to fathom as to what happened at the last moment that she undertook the Parikrama on feet along with me. Believe me; I did do no goading. That she changed her mind and that nothing happened to her feet despite a demanding trek was a miracle.
In the end the most important, to Revered Pandurang Shastri, who gave a true perspective of Bhagavan Shiva, idea behind pilgrimage and the method of putting in practice the ideas that can change a man to be a better man with dignity by meaningful method of Shiva worship. It was he who told us who King Divodas was. Winning a war is easier than changing a man to be a better man. King Divodas bettered not one man but thousands of them. It was greatest of the great feats. Human upliftment, making a man into a good human. Pilgrimage is for communication with God, for spreading God’s love, for confession, for saying thank you and for showing  gratitude to great people who paved path for us and finally for two promises, one: not to repeat old mistakes and two: for committing to do good work. All these in the august presence of active deity and haloed by several other great beings!
The inspiration was of Pandurang Shastri behind my promise.

In Confession                            

We must record here that Ganga in Varanasi appeared so much polluted that we had to only content ourselves by placing a few drops of Ganga-Water on our heads in gesture of actual dip. In hindsight, when we were in a boat, we could have chosen a mid-stream point and could have taken a dip in the cleaner water. Readers can take a note and not miss what we missed. The dip. 
There were a few other noteworthy places which got omitted due to our inadequate pre-tour research and preparation. These were some interesting spots that we could have easily visited, as they were either on the same road or were in close proximity to our trail. As guidance to any future tourist who takes this trail, I want to list these places here, hoping that they do not miss as we did. Lumbini, the birthplace of Bhagavan Buddha and the town Kapilvastu, his kingdom were just a 30 minutes ride away from Bhairahawa in Nepal. Kushinagar, where Bhagavan Buddha breathed his last was just an hour’s drive away from Gorakhpur. Ayodhya, the birthplace of Bhagavan Rama and Chitrakut where Bharat came to plead with his brother Bhagavan Rama to return home, were just a couple of hours drive away from Varanasi.
Last, but most important, the ‘changes’ that I have listed as having come in me should not fool anyone in assuming me to have been metamorphosed into a sensitive, kind and a peaceful person; that I am far from. I am still flawed and even flawed at that promise I made.

In Miracles

Escape from sliding rock
Flash communication from departed
Continuously resonating Om Namah Shivaay’
Darshan of Shiva-Parvati on North face
Sudden disappearance of Pain from Sprained Knee
Escape from Fire
No vehicular breakdown of our Landcruiser
Fair weather most of the time, ensuring almost uninterrupted Darshan, free from cloud, mist and rain
No altitude sickness
Poonam’s change of mind and her decision to do Parikrama on foot
No other sickness or pain to both of us, not even knee pain in the aftermath of trek.

In Recommendations


Gather knowledge of religious aspects of Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism, also read historical, geographical, political and topographical information on the areas that you would cover. Persons who are familiar with stories surrounding Bhagavan Shiva and Mata Parvati will derive greater joy. A good Camera and a binocular can increase your joy manifolds
Be fit with daily Yoga and Pranayam (Breathing exercise) well before even planning this trip. Strong lungs are fundamental to trekking at high altitude in oxygen depleted atmosphere.
Choose a reliable tour operator (ours was a par excellence), Take all the necessary things as suggested by them (but keep to absolute minimum). Ask tour operator beforehand as to how much free-cash would be required (Amounts charged for pony can change from time to time depending upon season and demand. Also the exchange rate of Yuan varies from time to time) Credit Cards are no help in Tibet. Check with them seasonal peculiarities, wind, rain, snow, hail-stone and temperatures (during our trip, temperature varied between 4° to 25° Celsius)
Take with you all the possible medicines that one can need - regular medicines as well as emergency medicines. Good walking shoes (ensure that they are not new, but slightly used, so as to not give shoe-bite)

During Trip

When in Tibet, keep your expectations very low, remember it is desolate ‘roof of the world’ and not a picnic spot.
Do not shy away from abundant use of, sun-block cream, thick cotton face mask (to filter fine dust from entering your nostrils and mouth) and warm cap that covers both ears. (Failure to do these would surely blacken and warp your skin, especially, you should be lucky if skin on the tip of your nose does not blacken and start peeling by the time you are back)
Eat as less as possible during the trip, but do take energy pills, multivitamins, dry fruits, nuts and energy drinks. Do not believe even your best friend if he advices you to ‘eat well’ and stuff your stomach.
It is a convention to warn overseas tourists about dangers of drinking tap water.  However, in my view tourists need not be overly worried about drinking water, although some precautions are necessary. I am not a resident of south Asia but I used tap water almost everywhere (including at railway stations even in the ‘most dangerous’ monsoon season) without any adverse effect. (I do use bottled water if I am in a humid-warm territory that can be a fertile breeding ground of germs and in certain other ‘obviously unhygienic’ places.) In drier places, far away from sea, such as the places we visited, tap water seemed to be fine. At some hotels, they provided tap water via normal commercial cooler with inbuilt filter.
Tibetans are yet uncorrupted simple people.  Their children appreciate small gifts such as pencils, sharpeners, erasers, scales, colors etc and their small girls are very fond of ‘bindis’ to decorate their foreheads. I highly recommend tourists to keep a good stock of these inexpensive yet useful things that would bring cheer on their lovely pink faces. If your vehicle was to stop anywhere on the route, soon enough you would find children of Tibetan nomads, grazing their animals, surrounding you. This is a good time to hand over some of those goodies.
In and around most temples and holy rivers, you are likely to find filth, dirt and pollutants. If you find filth, no need to remark, grumble, criticize or shout as if it is only you who cares. Everyone knows, and every Tom, Dick and Harry does just that-idle grumbling. None have succeeded in bringing about long-lasting improvements by that technique. Do something different, perhaps more effective at the end of the day. Find some time, talk with someone, anyone, about the great heritage that he possesses; about the haloed significance of the place where he is fortunate to live; do not complain that the temples and rivers are filthy; let it dawn upon him by his own mind that his surroundings, the holy temples and holy rivers that people come to from all over the world, travel thousands of kilometers in their reverence, deserve a better ambience. And if you happen to meet a person who does not care about heritage but who is more ‘practical’, tactfully talk to him that good ambience encourages longer stay and consequently more business and more money coming from tourists.
Try to meet trustees of temples, social workers, hospitals, other charities. See their working, understand them, and appreciate them and if felt like, make donations to deserving institutions who are engaged in upholding true values.
It should have been first, but purposefully, I have kept following recommendations as last: Please, please, please, spend as much time possible in meditation and Godly thoughts. Do not vile away time in meaningless discussions; having come all the way to Kailash, Pashu-Pati-Nath or Kashi-Vishwa-Nath; do say something to God. He listens. Be perceptive towards any changes that you may observe.
All said and done, if for some reason, Kailash-Manasarovar Darshan eludes you, do not be upset, no one can help it. Just pray; truly only God can help here.  I have personally known cases of pilgrims who had to turn back due to avalanches and excessive snow or hail storms even after having reached all the way to the Darchen base camp and even after being physically fit.

After Trip

You may want to thank God for everything done by Him. Your relatives, friends and acquaintances would appreciate if you were to share tour Prasad with them when they visit your home; the holy water of Manasarovar, the Bilva-Leaf (from Pashu-Pati-Nath or Kashi-Vishwanath) or any other items such as flaked sugar etc. that you may have brought from there. Also if they want to know, do share your tour experiences and pictures.
Om, Namah Shivaay, indeed. “O God, I reverently bow to Bhagavan Shiva”


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