13.08.2019

A very personal account of my trek to the Sikh pilgrimage , Hemkund Sahib,this year on 13/08/19.

I started at 6, it was still dark ,was planning on earlier but,had breakfast at my own natural pace ( i remember being laughed at by my cousins for eating very slowly that made me change my habit and i started eating quickly), told Sumit sir that i was leaving already as he would have anyways covered the distance.

I started with the babies of our group Divas and Nabaraj ,both agile 19 yr old boys one a dancer another a rock climber and i knew i wouldn’t be able to match their pace,and that is what happened as soon as we reached the diversion i was panting ,as they looked back ,i gestured to continue.

This was of the day before ,on our way to the valley of flowers.

Meanwhile Preeti,Mansij da and Bhavna crossed my path on their ponies.

I remember a boy and a girl who i had seen the before on our way to valley of flowers,i smiled at them and they smiled back,who knew they would be with me throughout the hemkund trek, the boys name was Anshul (the girl was faster and she would frequently shout at the poor fellow,Anshul!! Chalo!!).

I decided i would do this one slowly and steadily taking my own time , thinking and introspecting,this was the third day of our trek and i was scared ,more because i had a fall the previous day and had hurt my left leg badly (somehow it felt more bad when i came back to Ahmedabad and it was all blue and sore), i wanted to be alone in this one.

After walking for about 1 km I saw Sumit sir coming up,sir and i had bonded on our first of trek from Pulna to Ghangaria.So seeing him made me feel a little more confident and relaxed,he somehow gives me these guru like vibes ,he is straightforward and doesn’t encourage non sense will listen intently ,and will somehow make you believe in yourself. It was because of him that i could gather all the strength i had and get up after that terrible fall the previous day.

Valley of flowers

When i think of him i can clearly hear his laugh .So we trekked together for about 45 minutes and then i asked him to go ahead i wanted to just soak the fatigue in.

On our first day of trek to ghangaria

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I was sitting on a bench besides a middle aged gentleman ,he must have been around my father’s age,he wore a long cloak like kurta and a worn out bandana ,he was struggling for air ,when i offered him some water and camphor ,he smiled and took the bottle ,he said he had done this in 2013 but it was way easier back then. I told him ,he will be able to do it this time as well and bade good-bye.Later i saw him on a pony and he wished me luck and strength to complete the trek.

After walking another 500-600 metres jayanta da caught up.

Jayanta da is the sweetest of them all the quintessential bengali with a jhola and a black umbrella loosing the cigarette though ,we bonded the day before on our way back from the valley to ghangaria ( after i had fallen twice i was feeling nervous in getting down,he would walk ahead and then wait for me).

Back from the valley of flowers.

He walked with me for a quiet a while,i remember him climbing and jumping over rocks to take pictures of the rare Himalayan Poppy. (I did not take my phone out during the whole trek except for once ,when i crossed the glacier and was playing ik onkar ,the whole way up).But,since i was moving on my own pace that day in no matter of time i could see him marching ahead with the black umbrella in one hand and a wooden stick in the other.

The only picture of me on the way to hemkund

It was about 9 o’clock by now,i had stopped looking at how much i had to climb more and set and alarm for 10 am .All this while Anshul and the girl were walking almost at my pace , sometimes i would overtake them ,sometimes they would walk ahead,then there came a short cut and they took that,i decided to walk straight .

Glacier on the way to Hemkund Sahib.

I saw Jazz and Prajakta walking along with a few men.Who were helping them, another short cut was there and the guy asked me to take that i started climbing it was steep and slippery ,by now the altitude was already high and i was a little short of breath,i was nervous because people were following me,i have always been like this, getting nervous when i lead people feeling scared i might let them down,or because of me they will slow down.i was about to breakdown and fall ,then i heard jazz say waheguru shakti de loudly ,and that was it,i gathered all the strength i had and climbed up, another gentle man held my hand and helped me get on the road. Later he told me he had come all the way from Pakistan for this pilgrimage.

Anyway Jazz and Prajakta were resting for a while ,i decided to not stop now ,they said only 1 hour was left , another hour felt both close and far at the same time.i walked for 15 mins and i could hear the gurubaani, apparently, I was closer than i expected and met Anshul and his girl again,we had a few peanuts and chocolates without speaking just smiling at each other and kushal on his pony crossed us ,it felt good to see a familiar face.

After that there was no stopping i can still feel that soft cold wind on my face ,which was similar to the one I had felt in Dainkund last year.
I knew i was close ,i reached finally and my alarm started ringing it was 10:15, i had reached on time. I was relieved and overwhelmed did not know how to react stood at the entrance for about 5 mins and then saw Mansij da.

Mansij da was the quirkiest, smartest most diplomatic of them all,he is funny and gave me proper elder brother feels especially on the last day when he put his hand on my head lovingly and said ,you are a talented kid Sarandha,bachi hai.

At Auli ,dada had yet again cracked some joke .

I still laugh at the instance when i was rushing down he said ,wah you have got so much energy and bang i made a fall

On our towards vof ,after my first fall.😊

He was telling me something ,i couldn’t understand,i was feeling numb,like one feels when one is hypotensive,may be i was hypotensive or may be it was the hypoxia,or may be my psyche was playing its part and then i saw Preeti walking towards me and i broke down ,cried incessantly i could just hug her and cry ,she said u did it girl and i cried more.

I bonded with Preeti on our drive from Delhi airport to joshimath and while we shared our room and while she told about her spiritual journey and why she was there at vof and a lot many other things oh yes whenever i listen to this song oh mahi ,i can visualise her grooving and singing,and In a very short duration i connected with all these wonderful people.

Day 1,after the massage session
On our way to the valley.

12/08/19 on our way to the valley.

I cried my heart out,she took me to the place where we had to keep our shoes,i removed my socks only then i realised how freaking cold it was there,it was all foggy and one could hardly see anything,she took me to the kund where i sat and started crying again, washed my face took a marble from the kund kept it in my pocket and went into the chamber downstairs and felt the strong vibrations and cried again,then went upstairs covered myself up with the mattress and cried alone for a long time,yes only later did i realise that i forgot to buy anything from there i was busy crying , crying and crying i feel extremely stupid to have cried so much without any reason.

Amit bhai and Jigna Ben are couple goals for any trekking enthusiast. The guy in grey was our guide for the trek Ashik

I the upper chamber i saw Anshul and his girl again,we greated each other had our kada prasad and went downstairs,Preeti guided me to the langar ,i had my bowl full of khichdi and a glass of tea, though i never take tea or coffee but that day i did.We ate clicked a few pictures and then decided to meditate for a while in the lower chamber ,and we did ,all i could do now was think of all my worries,my parents getting old,my brother struggling for his job,my husbands health ,my loosing a few very special people from my life forever and many other things and i have them all up then and there and felt liberated,even though for a short while i felt free ,i felt like trusting the almighty and letting it all go,why do we hold on to so much,why is it so difficult to let go?am i the only one who thinks so much? Am i the only one who has difficulty forgetting things? Is this because of my obsessive features ? So many questions and just one answer .An answer that helps me till date.

Picture credits go to Dr.Mansij

And that i how my visit to Hemkund Sahib was half done. Down the hill was easy with Preeti and the two babies of our group by my side.

She and her beyond…

She leaned back,leaned back against the rock.

She bent and saw the stream below glistening,

floating over nothing at all…

She leaned back , leaned back again , against the rock…

She felt the wind,the moist cold wind,

It played with her hair, gently … making her aware,

aware of its presence…

She leaned back again , leaned back against the tall…

Thinking, thinking how far she could have gone…

Thinking, thinking what was the point of doing it all along…

Now laying down,she thought how far she could have gone…

Watching the clouds, hiding the sheen beyond

She thought, thought what if she did not fall…

She thought what if ,what if it had not ended at all…

Feeling the droplets flowing out of her eyeball …

She thought,what if ,what if she had it all…

She stood up, stood up against the tall…

Went up to the edge, planning to make a fall…

She heard a voice ,a song

“This is it,you cannot go beyond…

Because these are the heavens,the heavens where we all belong…

You cannot go beyond…”

The voice was familiar, she thought she had known…

It went beyond, beyond her soul… somewhere she belonged…

She knew ,she knew now…

she could never have it all…

It was not for her…,not for her to go beyond …

She smiled and sang

Sang the song along…

Knew how good it felt to not have it all or at all…

The trail less taken-Dain Kund, Himachal

Date:7/08/2018

Venue:pohlani mata temple,dainkund,dalhousie,Himachal Pradesh.

approximately 10 kms from Dalhousie.

dhaulandar ranges

getting a 360 degree view of the Dhaulandar and PirPanjal mountain ranges.

Well, i feel extremely grateful and privileged, to have experienced something, i never did before, something that i will never be able to forget, something which i felt was my own, somewhere, where i felt i belonged. The day i witnessed all my senses becoming gateways of enlightenment.

I don’t know how many of you have ever experienced something like this. But, i hope many of you do. Those who have will totally get what i am trying to express.

After a very pleasant stay of 6 days at McleodGanj,we(me and my husband)hired a taxi and took a trip to Dalhousie,stayed at the Grand view hotel after reaching on 6th of august(8pm precisely),the journey was exceptional,which is beyond the scope of this blog(cannot help ,sorry for the technical language ),in short we experienced the richness,unpredictablity along with stability of the mighty himalayas ,from the kangra valley to chamba valley,there is a slight change in culture.we also chanced to experience a land slide amidst fog ,which delayed our schedule by around three hours.finally we reached our hotel,decided to take the night off and dozed.Woke up to clear skies(which we hadnt seen for the previous 3 days),Had our breakfast and took off for the day that changed something in both of us!!.

After visiting the picturesque Khajjiar valley(i wouldn’t demean i by calling it mini Switzerland because it has its own beauty and charisma) and trying a few adventure sports in kalatop, we decided very, fortunately, to go to Dainkund, like any other traveler I got interested in the etymological origins of the word.

The mountains are always full of unpredictable turns and paths,they are full of mysticism and ofcourse folklore and plenty of eerie stories.The people surviving there are’ far above the rest of world so high’ have their own set of beliefs and values and like many of them Dainkund has a special story.A rather interesting one,and there is something about the place that makes you believe it. p.s.We did not know it before be took the trail.

Dainkund=pothole/lake/water reservoir of witches.

The local folklore suggest(source:an old shopkeeper ,who was coming down the trail while we were going up) that this hill and the adjacent ones were inhabited by many witches once upon a time,who troubled the villagers and made it difficult for them to take their cattle for grazing and hampered their work .

so,they prayed to their ‘Mata,’ or deity “pohlani mata”(the wrestler Goddess).

She eventually got impressed and defeated the witches in a bout of wrestle,freeing the pond and adjacent hills from them.Therefore,it is called ‘Dainkund’.

sadly we couldnt go to the kund ,as it is located inside the airforce establishment and entry is prohibited.

Due to the windy and cloudy weather that day and previous 3-4 days, we did not find anyone except for two couples near the trail.

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empty chairs and lonely trails, the trail less taken.

We started around 5 in the evening and unaware of the magic that was awaiting us and tired of the days traveling, were not very motivated to take the trail, even our driver did not seem very enthusiastic about it.

But, we are very thankful to the two couples we met in between, one which encouraged us to go up(and see a glimpse of Manimahesh Kailash mountain)and the other one who said that they were retreating because they felt it was unsafe. nothing could stop my risk-taking husband now. am glad nothing can.and we took the plunge.

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the mighty Mani Mahesh mountain can be seen from here, where lord Shiva resides apart from our minds

We carried on the scenic 1.5 ridge walk, amidst the loud sounds of crickets and the very chilly yet moist wind blowing on our faces,with the smell of moist wood and soil,and a sight so picturesque and refreshing that i will be using it all my life for relaxation and guided imagery,my happy space.
The trail goes through a small patch which was dark ,slippery and adjacent to deep ridge as well,which looked less dangerous ,than it actually was due the the tall pine trees and other temperate flora and fauna.

we reached when there was nobody, not even the priest of the temple, only the three of us and it was so peaceful, we could hear our own thoughts, though covered with clouds we could not see the Mighty Manimahesh Kailash mountain. But, we suddenly saw a figure on the adjacent hill, and were taken aback, at the same moment, a man came from almost nowhere and said that there is no need to be scared, “that is an idol of pohlani Mata, you will be able to see it when the clouds go,but you should leave soon now, as it is getting darker and bears and other wild animals might harm you on the trail back” . Without waiting much now we started our walk back downwards, but the best part of the experience was yet to come.

THE Splendid sunset:

while coming down ,we halted for a while,just trying to absorb what we experienced and unknown to the fact that mother nature has yet another surprise planned for us.

The sky all of a sudden got clear and turned red, we could see the pretty orange ball, watching over us,the mountain around us seeming to celebrate the light , glowed , turned all bright and beautiful.We decided to play along and all three of us , without being under the influence of any substance experienced a feeling close to ecstasy.

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a sense of an unknown ,yet pleasant presence around me.
unending floating clouds and mountains
looking at the unending floating clouds.
dainkund trail
no filter glow
high on nature
high on and by nature

i started singing, both the boys started dancing we had the most gala time ever.

And yes we finally got to see Shiva’s abode, the mighty Manimahesh all glowing like fire, fierce yet comforting

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We understood that the time we had would not come back ever, and that nature is absolutely bizarre and unpredictable, you never know what you will experience next,it is possible that no one else finds this place as special and as intriguing as it felt to us,

“because it is the experience that heals not the place,and experiences are subjective”.

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no filters used

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we glowed along everything around us

The next day we took out time again and visited again, and while driving back could hear the mountains singing as they are called, bidding us goodbye and hoping to meet very soon.BEcause we belong to them and they are a part of us.

buddhism and I

Whether it was Kushinagar (a pilgrimage town near Gorakhpur,Uttar Pradesh) or Mc leodganj( also known as mini Lhasa, Himachal Pradesh) or reading ‘buddha charit’ in school, Buddhism has always attracted me, because of its philosophy and temples/shrines, because of the monks and nuns.

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the dalai lama temple

It is not that i don’t approve of my religion (Hinduism/Sanatan Dharma), But being brought up in a very tolerant and open-minded environment (both home and school), i have been taught to be accepting of different cultures and taking the best out of them,i have been trained since early childhood the importance of acculturation and tolerance (maybe because we are migrants).

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Buddhism for me is making empathy a basic practice, channeling the force of mind i.e. meditation, practicing love and compassion, patience and the concept of death, nirvana.

Well since this is meant to be a travel blog i would not go into the theories of Buddhism in detail, would jump to the Mc Leod Ganj directly.

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Mc Leod ganj according to me is not just a place ,it is an experience,

it is a suburb of Dharamshala ,situated in the Kangra district and is situated on the Dhaulandar (mountain)range of himachal pradesh.

It is called mini Lhasa ,because of its high density of Tibetan population,the tibetan govt in exile has its headquarters at Mc leod.

one of the major attractions isthe Dalai lama Temple.Also known as thekchen choling temple.Dalai Lama visits this temple about 3 to 4 times in a year,therefore its name.

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If you want to visit mc leod ganj ,during around his visits you can check his schedule of teachings on the following site link.

https://www.dalailama.com/schedule

I unfortunately could not visit during his visits.

the temple is open from 8 am to 8 pm.

once one enters the temple, one enters a different world altogether

i remembered a song when i entered the premises, of a hindi girl band
‘jahan ho pyaar ka mausam,jahan sab dilon ka ho sangam,jahan miithi ho sab logon ki zubaan,
mujhe aise nagar hai jana, mai aisa nagar dhund lungi kahin na kahin.’

you can always see a number of maroon or yellow-clad monks with allot of peace and contentment on their faces, such sweet mesmerizing smiles they carry, always address you with folded hands ,i was totally impressed.

we saw them chanting one day and debating the other.

inside the main temple their stands a magnificent statue of Buddha,

pilgrims, and tourists from all around the globe flock the corridors of the temple, rotating the temple wheels and chanting ‘om mani padme hum’.

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during the 7 days of my stay at Mc leod i visited the temple 4 times,everytime it was a different experience,whether it was meeting the old tibetan granny or greeting the very sweet japanese baby along with his handsome father,or playing with two naughty tibetam girls ,everyday at the temple or mc leod is different .

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Therefore i say Mcleod ganj is not a place it is an experience a culture in its own.