Thursday, August 27, 2015

Pages from my Yamunotri travel and ruminations

It has taken years to understand the real meaning of traveling, still I believe I am not fully realized the impact of my wanderings. We humans are very utilitarian, especially our class of people who always want to get something out of everything.  I am not sure about my planning and that creates utmost difficulties, both mentally and physically while traveling.

August 14, 2015

Rishikesh (Om Guest House)

rishikesh lakshman jhula
Lakxman Jhula in Rishikesh
Without understanding where to go, I hopped on to a bus to Rishikesh. This is a very typical method of mine, whenever I feel doubt where to head on, I ride on to Rishikesh. The place is always being my stopover juncture, though it’s been a long time I hadn’t visited this bustling Himalayan foothills.

I thought of getting into a different guest house this time, but most of them were expensive despite of the fact that it was not exactly a tourist season. So, I had decided to head for my familiar Om Guest House whose owner instantly recognized me, even after 2 years. 

“ Room with river view Rs. 400, and without the view Rs. 300.” He said.

“ Just give me Rs. 300, I will go and see the river.” I retorted with a smile.

The room and washroom were clean; though bed sheet was not new. Personally I don’t mind in anything as long as there is a clean washroom.

ganga beach near rishikesh
Ganga Beach near Rishikesh
I cleaned myself, paid the rent for two days and went out for a heavy breakfast in German Bakery. Rishikesh was so familiar, it seemed a home to me. I knew exactly where was what, so I wasn’t a tourist at all, still I didn’t explore much in this town except a few familiar places where I could sit tight for hours without any disturbance.

I liked the way shops were lined up to till an end to Swarga Ashram road. The road suddenly became desolate and then I started finding a place to take a rest nearby the river. I sat near on the lonely ghat where a sadhu was attentively writing something on his notebook. I deliberately looked at him, expecting him to see him, but he seemed totally absorbed in his writing. There were one young boy and two girls playing in the water. It was very calm but humid morning and I was trying to absorb in the surrounding. There were plenty of thoughts gushing into my mind and my deliberate attempt to stop my internal babbling seemed futile, so I looked again to the sadhu who was still absorbed in his writing. After sometimes, two more sadhus came to this place with their food and asked that writer sadhu to join them. There was a sense of calmness in the face of that sadhu and it was perfectly fitted with the meandering river and silence.

Read More about Rishikesh Travel

Spiritual Journey to Rishikesh

August 15, 2015

I woke up early with loud jingoistic uproar in the street. Then the thought surfaced in my mind that it was Independence Day. I went for a bath in Ganges, the chilling water of the river instantly refreshed the whole body, preparing myself for Devprayag’s journey.

Devprayag and Ramkrishna Sharda Math

I first met this rather young sadhu of Ramkrishna Order in 2012 when we both were traveling in the same compartment of the train. Second time when I went to Rishikesh in 2013, I had gone to meet him in Devprayag. He then welcomed me full-heartedly; at the time he was working to build the monastery, staying in two small rooms with one disciple. He invited me and asked me to stay overnight. I listened to him attentively and talked a lot about my life and general way of living. He asked me to stay and do ashram’s work, but I left the next day.  In 2013, Uttarakhand tsunami crushed the whole state, particularly mountainous regions. I once thought to call him but my innate nature of indifference and certain personal circumstances didn’t allow me to call him.

This time I went to Devaprayag to meet him with a hope of gaining certain insights. First he didn’t recognize me but later on when he did, he asked me to have my lunch. I had finished my food in complete silence while looking at him attentively. I instinctively felt he was not at all affectionate as he was in the earlier times and the feeling was fortified when after lunch he bid adieu by saying “come again”.

August 16

Every time I think of one place and land up in a different one. I thought I would go to Kedarnath, but I went to Yamunotri. It’s rainy season so there were very few pilgrims in Janki Chatti, the last stop from where trek to Yamunotri starts. For the first instant, I fell in love with the place. There were very few people, some hotels, small village named Kharsali and thundering Yamuna river passed through.  

In the evening,  I went for a leisure stroll in nearby Kharsali village. I was amazed by the cleanliness and exquisite village houses. People were simple, but extremely poor, small children wore torn pants and shirts but all of them were smiling. Most of them didn’t have any occupation, solely depend on pilgrims. There were small houses when men and women were living their lives in hope and certain air of despondency. 

Life is cruel for poor, especially those poor people who want to create a family, raise their children, educate them, proper food, clothes and basic stuff. Nevertheless, those innocent village eyes didn’t reflect despair, unfulfillment and impatience.

A Yugoslavian monk and living in present

There was an ancient temple dedicated to Lord Shani (Lord Saturn) where I met this lanky, tall and mysterious Yugoslavian man. He was immensely tall, sported a beard and long hair. He was thin as matchstick, wearing a full sweater and old sleepers. The thing that attracted me was his broad smile and Hindi fluency.

He spoke with me very little and too my surprise, spoke in fluent Hindi. When the priest of the temple sported tilak on our foreheads, he uttered some Vedic slokas fluently. Later on he told me that it was a special slokas from Vedas on Tilak Ceremony. 

I met this man once again in the nearby village. I was told he had become a monk in Ukimath, but when I met him, he seemed to me a lost soul. When I told him there was a very good Shiv Temple nearby, he suddenly became defensive, enumerating his exploration of thousands of temples. For a few seconds I saw a disappointment in his eyes and his face reflected despair. When I asked him what his plan was for the next day, he said he didn’t know.

“ में वर्तमान में जीता हूँ, भब्यष्य काल में नही है ”

( I live in present time, not in future.)

August 17, 2015

Trek to Yamunotri

I started early in the morning with empty stomach. I never anticipated that it was so exhausting to climb just 5km but the path to Yamunotri was too steep. I had started at 7am and thought to reach at 9 am but it took me 3 and half hour to reach Yamunotri.

However, the journey towards the temple had overwhelmed me with the natural beauty. I stopped numerous times at various places to see, to observe nature’s magical passes through roaring waterfalls, verdant forests, unknown chirping of birds and mysterious atmosphere all around the valley. 

The trek route is probably the best with smooth cement paved track all through the bridge at the entrance of the temple. However, it is also the steepest I have ever experienced till now compared to my earlier treks. 

The distance from Janki Chatti to Yamunotri is mercifully 5km but it takes lots of energy to reach the temple complex. After reaching generally pilgrims do a bath in hot water that comes through the mountains. It refreshes the body and prepares people to do rituals in a calm way.

August 18 and 19

I stayed in Janki Chatti for next two days and spent some time in the village. It was a fortuitous event I met the most extraordinary sadhu in my life. This monk called Ram Das Mauni Baba (silent monk) was 80 plus, staying there for last 40 years. He was not even concerned about people around his temple, most of the time engaged in his daily work. He only ate fruits and dry fruits and never cooked anything for last 40 years.

I will take a separate chapter of my visitation with monks in Yamunotri.

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