Here i am again,with lots of love and happiness in my heart,my heart is full and overflowing ,i don’t how know long this will last ,but i will try my best to keep feeding this joy.
Kedarkantha Post 1
This trip was not just any other trip to the mountains.
It was a test for my faith in nature, goodness, love and myself.
It was a test of my intuitions,judgements and special friendships,and for a change i was prepared to fail ,happily, because there was nothing to loose.
After a lot of confusion, contemplation and skepticism,i confirmed this one in my head just a week prior to departure, though i was preparing physically i wasn’t prepared mentally until the last 7 days.
As a child i was very dreamy ,some of my dreams were creative some cliche,one of those cliched dreams was the dream of seeing, touching and playing with snow,may be i was manifesting this since then,because once i recieved it,i recieved it in abundance,lots and lots of snow, enough to gratify my need,to recieve something after years and years of yearning is very special and cannot be expressed in mere words,i am very grateful ,i could not believe my eyes for a while i still cannot believe at times i could do this, experience this, I’m still awestruck and intrigued in the way nature functions,good things happen, when one is least expecting.
All of it still seems to be a figment of my imagination,like a far fatched dream,which very momentarily slid into my conscious being.
The ecstacy of seeing /doing/experiencing something for the first time,is and will always be unmatched,that is the reason, which makes me go back to the mountains again and again,each mountain is different ,each one of them makes you experience something unique and authentic.
As a dear friend and co-traveler says ,the mountains let you see and experience their beauty only if they want to and you have to work hard for it,they take a part of you and give back changes some times big sometimes small but something within you always changes,isn’t this analogous to our experience with life?same working hard reaching a goal , enjoying then coming down,but don’t we all forget this?isn’t this what we should remind ourselves again and again?
I am truly inspired, hopeful and my heart is full of gratitude upto the brim.
Also i plan to build new dreams .
New dreams of spreading love, being more kind, accepting the things that i have and being thankful for the same.
Yes i have found the purpose of my life,yes i know this will also change,but i am ready i know now nothing in life is meant to be permanent,i am freeing myself of expectations of forever ‘i am letting my cows go’ .I am content for the time being and excited to see what life has in store for me .
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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 .
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
Venue:pohlani mata temple,dainkund,dalhousie,Himachal Pradesh.
approximately 10 kms from Dalhousie.
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.
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.
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.
that faint image u see over the hill,scared us,it is an idol of Pohlani mata.
mist all around us
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.
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
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”.
no filters used
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
If you want to visit mc leod ganj ,during around his visits you can check his schedule of teachings on the following site link.
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’.
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 .
Therefore i say Mcleod ganj is not a place it is an experience a culture in its own.
after meeting all my co trainees at the office along with our trainer , all of whom came from a diverse background ,two pretty young girls from haryana ,two beautiful gujarati ladies from Mumbai,and one from all the way south, Hubli.
But, there was one thing, that i understand common amongst us and that was our willingness to learn RECBT and along with that ,i think all of us somehow needed a change from our routine lives,and at the end of the journey we all took back very fond memories and have grown in someway or the other.
so, after the introduction,we started back to our guest house ,the jogiwara road ,i.e. the road straight down hill from the main market is very steep , it was easy for us to go down but, very tough to go up the incline,so we took another route,via the temple road.
the temple road here ,refers to the road connecting the dalai lama temple (also called Tsuglakhang temple)(i will write a seperate blog to describe the temple).
it was around 6:30 and i was hungry already or should i say i was craving for momos!!.Earlier this year when we went to Assam we could not have momos so i anyhow had to have MOMOs!!,my friends Reshma and BHavika recommended a small stall that had steamed momos and so i took it to my room and devoured on it!!
(This was my first day so i wasnt very confident to eat alone or even with my new friends at a restaurant ).
it was a tiring day so i slept at 9:30 unlike my daily routine.
for the next day Reshma and i planned to go to the kalachakra temple and the church before our workshop begun!!we decided to leave by 7 am!.i slept all excited.
I woke up all excited,this was something i always wanted to do,to explore the mountains undisturbed and not with a pressure of clicking pictures or rushing to work, i was very eager to see what this place had to offer us! i was thrilled!!
so we took off at the time we decided and went to the kalachakra temple first.
yes!! this is what i wanted ,i thought ,it was the best start we could think of.!
kalachakra temple .mcleodganj
(i plan to have a separate blog for both the temples,so not elaborating it here).
from here we went to the main market square ,asked for directions to the church and began!(all on foot).
yay! 1 km only we thought.
But,on the hills whether it is downhill or uphill , the distance is deceptive,all distances seem farther than their number.
anyways we had allot of time in our hands and we went around looking at the exquisite foliage and mountains on our way down.
fortunately the sky was clear and we could enjoy the warmth of early morning sunrays!
the weather couldn’t have been better .
and on the way to the church i realized i was really enjoying Reshma’ company, may be this was something i was missing,making new friends who don’t know and dont judge you because of your profession,may be that is what i was missing all these years.(Being a doctor and being in the same place since last 10 yrs,at a position where all people senior to you have been there since you’ve been there or longer,and all new people are juniors,who inadvertently see you as a senior more than a friend.)(this i would say is an occupational hazard of medical profession, since our early day we are taught that a senior is always right ,so you being the part of the system tend to believe the same,feeding into your narcissism,which hampers the development of genuine heartfelt friendships)(my personal opinion). Anyways we went slow ,giggling around sharing our life stories ,our interests,our likes ,dislikes,clicking random pictures without us in them,awing together over the picturesque scenes ,we finally reached our destination.
The St. John’s Church, around 1 km from the main square (mc leod ganj) is located at the most isolated , untamed by humans place!!Set amidst the magnificent Deodar Forest, this Church is archaic in every sense!unfortunately when we reached the church was closed ,so could not see it from inside ,But the surrounding,the location and the eerie cemetery near it was more than satisfying in itself!( at every instance i was thanking the almighty to have blessed me to come here).
Well, I was extremely skeptical about this trip for a very long time since it was my very first solo trip far far away from home, it gave me jitters!!.
But, somehow since I really wanted to attend the workshop on RECBT (rational emotive and cognitive behavior therapy) and my husband persistently urged me to do so(on a lighter note, he had his hidden motives in sending me away I guess!!) I gathered all the courage I had and took the plunge.
I began my journey on 27th of July, from Bhavnagar( a small city, approximately 170 km away from Ahmedabad, known for its kayam churan by Sheth brothers and a lot of other things) where I am working and stay with my husband (We’re both doctors by the way).
I took a bus (Rajdhani travels) from there to Ahmedabad, reached home in about 5 hrs.
I had a flight to Delhi the next day, I took an afternoon flight as I was extremely scared of being all alone in Delhi at night, and my mother reinforced the fear,anyways i reached Delhi safely,took a cab to Isbt Kashmiri gate and waited for my bus(himachal road transport volvo bus, direct delhi to mc leodganj, u can book it online from the hrct bus website or red bus website) the wait was long for about 2 hrs, in those two hours I encountered an unclaimed bag lying around on the station ,reported about it to the authorities,bought a book called emotional intelligence first copy just for 100 rupees,talked to an old couple who were going to Dharamshala in my bus and finally the bus arrived(6:00 pm sharp,so it was exactly on time),it was a really good bus with facilities like a charging point near the seats,blankets , a common Lcd screen (watched the movie raid ,3rd time in a bus!!),they served bottles of mineral water sealed,and good recliner seats with proper leg space(not an issue for me, cause im short) and cherry on the cake was my next seat passenger was a pretty blonde girl!!(though I could gather courage to talk to her only by the end of our journey,so from myself being the damsel in distress,became the helping local co passenger(helped with translating english to hindi and vice versa), I felt awesome!.it was a 12 hour pleasant journey,though not sleep as the roads are all curvy . I was up early to see the sunrise and I cannot express how happy that made me.
I actually could not believe, that I made it so far all alone, in one day I came all the way from the mostly dry low land in Gujarat to this mesmerizing picturesque place!!
This wasn’t the first time that I visited a hill station during monsoons, ‘ve been to Mahabaleshwar, Lonavala, Matheran, Saputara, Munnar and Mt Abu and I loved all these places for their own beauty, But this place, brought out a new energy in me, I felt like i belonged here,i have always wanted to see Himachal after seeing it on screen ,in the movie Highway and a documentary called ‘when hari got married ‘ on Netflix,and my dream was about to come true!! maybe the air in Dharamshala is so pure and peaceful, it brought out the new spiritual being in me!!.
I reached the main bus stand of mc leod ganj and took a local cab to ‘takhyil guest house'(they pronounce it as takhil),this was my first experience of staying at a guest house(apart from ONGC guest houses), nd it was much more than expected. The location is prime and the manager is very cooperative, he let me check in way before the usual check-in hours with no extra charges.I had my breakfast at the neighboring cafe called ‘the peace cafe’ nice, cozy cafe welcoming me to the cafe culture in mc leod ganj!
the view from my room was of the marketplace, seeing people of all races, watching maroon-clad monks walking in sneakers and bikers on their enfields Tibetan flags gave me a hint of how the next 7 days of my stay were going to be!
It rained heavily at noon, and the scene from my window was beyond explanation!!
the mountains were all covered with clouds,the sound of the drops of rain masked all the other noises of the marketplace, i could see people below running and looking for cover, i saw people below helping dogs to come under shelters,oh i knew i made one of the best decisions of my life of coming here!
In the evening our trainer had organized a pre-workshop introductory session, so i got ready went out , own the road had my cinnamon rolls at the BUdan cafe and walked up to the workshop office that is the altmind shift office, ocated at the jogiwara road, near the illiterati cafe. on my way to the office i got confused, at’the y junction, (Vodafone network at least prepaid is not very good in mc leodganj) as the map thing on my phone was not working properly, i had to ask the locals for the way(very unlikely of me!) they did not know where i wanted to go, so a young Tibetan monk helped me ,and i went all gaga!! finally,i reached the workshop and met with all my co-trainees and our trainer and all the first impressions were so good!!