Sri Gurubhyo Namah
Sri Ganapathaye Namah, Sri Subrahmanyaya Namah
Sri Matre Namah, Om Nama: Sivaya
My parents, Uncle and Aunty (Mother’s Sister – Kunjamma and Chittappan) had gone to a Chardham trip back in 2009. Due to heavy rains and land slides during that year, they were unable to finish the trip and had to come back after having darshanam only of Yamunotri. So when the trip was again called for by Venuji (who arranged the tour program), Amma had pulled up the team for the same. Ani Maman and Mami also were there for this trip and another relation of ours from Trivandrum were also present in the final list. I got my leave sanctioned some time in March and added myself and Malini also for the trip. As things turned out, Malini could not make it for the journey due to some personal reasons at home.
I had traveled directly from Hyderabad to reach Delhi whereas the full tour party had come directly from Kerala – most of them in train till Delhi and some by flight. I went to the Delhi Railway station and joined them. The tour group had two buses and one mini bus – a large contingent indeed – 60 of them.
We proceeded from Delhi on 9th May afternoon to Haridwar where we were put up in a Hotel. The actual trip was to start from the next day. We all rested in the Hotel which was on the way from Haridwar to Rishikesh and were expected to be ready by early morning the next day.
10th May 2012
Early morning we started off to Rishikesh which is basically the entrance point for the sacred Char Dham trip. We had to take a pass for carrying on with the trip which the drivers would arrange. During this time, we went around Rishikesh.
|Lakshman Jhula & Ganga flowing underneath|
This is one of the most popular pilgrim spots in India. The Lakshman Jhula is normally seen in all poster frames and naturally more pilgrims were present around this area. The Ganga could be seen in full flow under the bridge. On the other side of the bridge, there were some temples and a particular one, which normally captured in the Jhula photos, had representations of all the 12 Jyotirlinga Siva temples in a multi level building.
We also went to the Rama Jhula about 2 kms away from this location. Sivananda Ashram is located here. We went around the Ashram for some time, its temple, library and more importantly the Samadhi Peetham of Swami Sivananda. He was one of the more popular Spiritual persons during his time, who devoted his time for Learning, helping the sadhus and other people and being a medical practitioner himself, attending to people’s medical needs when the place did not have any modern facilities. His books are famous and are available at various places, which continue to be an inspiration to ardent spiritual seekers even now. His disciples who later formed the Bihar School of Yoga also have put up a great lineage in Spiritual Learning and Sadhana Maargam. Some of the books which have come out of these schools directly talk about the supreme Yoga Vidya and some important Yoga Sampradayams including Upasana Kramams and Bhakti Maargam.
Route to Barkot
We traveled through Dehra Dun and Mussorie on our onward journey to Barkot. The overnight stay before reaching Yamunotri – our fist Dhaam – was planned at Barkot. On the way we also saw The Swami Rama Tirtha Mission Ashram which is located at Kotal Gaon Rajpura, near Dehra Dun. However since this was not announced separately we couldn’t go inside the same. Saw the Ashram from outside as the road winds through its boundary wall, while the journey continued.
Even though the travel to Barkot was only about 225 kms, it took a lot of time to reach there. This trend continued for the entire journey, where we found that even though the distance looked small, the actual time to reach was always much more than normal. This is because of the nature of the Himalayan terrains. Some have sharp climbs where as some are comfortable plains. Some have narrow and dangerous roads where as some are comfortably wide. Some of the roads are well laid where as some others look like freshly laid with mud. With land slides, falling rocks and sudden gush of water making itself into a stream, the roads are always on a continuous mode of getting rebuilt.
Snowy peaks were seen here and there and this being the first sight of an actual snow covered mountain, the excitement was naturally visible among many of us. We reached Barkot hotel late into the evening.
Yamunotri (11th May 2012)
The first of the Dhaams were to be visited today. As early as possible, we started for the Base for Yamunotri. This was about 30 kms away from Barkot. Upon reaching the base, the entire team had to choose between trekking, horses (basically mules / ponies), palkis (carried by four men) and dolis (carried singly in a basket, a person needs to sit cramped in it – ideal for kids, persons of small physical stature, and if required your luggages). Seeing the big team landing there, there was enough commotion among local agents to get the people for rides on all the options. Meanwhile those who were planning to go on foot started the trek straight away.
Myself, Amma and Kunjamma decided for the horses and it took a while when this was arranged for. We started our climb to the Yamunotri Dhaam with the boys controlling the horses (ponies) besides us.
To be simply put – it was difficult. The path was narrow and the crowd was unbelievable. “Jam Lag Gayaa Sahib. Thodi der ke liye Uthar ke Khade ho jaiye” – “There was jam due to the crowd. So please climb down the horse for some time until this is sorted” – The path which we could see for atleast a kilometer was stuck with people, carriages and horses, every thing being on a stand still. Such was the crowd that we also had difficulty in the journey even if we were on the horses. Every now and then we had to bow down due to the low hanging rocks, keep our legs tight and close to the horse’s body so that it did not get hit with other items or someone coming in the other direction. Due to the wet conditions, the horses were also slipping in between and we needed to be careful and vigilant while we sat on them.
After almost three hours of climbing the 6km trek, we finally reached the Yamunotri Dhaam. The entire place was full of people. The snowy peaks were allowing slight drizzle and cold winds in between. Most of us had sweaters / jackets on so that the cold breeze could be adjusted to. The approach area is also full of shops and merchants who try and get the maximum sales done during this time. I thought of having a dip at the hot spring which is said to have therapeutical and spiritual value thus soothing both body and mind. The place was swarming with people and it was difficult to enter the Kundam in that crowd.
We decided against it. Then bowing near the springs and the bathing ghats built separately for men and women, we sprinkled some water on us and did our respects. The bathing ghats were covered with a roof – one for men and one for women. This rule was not specifically adhered to in the crowd when we went there. The water is nice and warm for anybody to get in and get absolutely refreshed. Once done we went and saw the “Surya Kund” which is the actual hot spring from which the hot water comes out and is let into the bathing ghats along with the Yamuna water. People put grains in small cloth pouches and show them close to the pond where this gets cooked quite fast!!! This is taken as ‘prasadam’ by the pilgrims. It is said that during Sri Adi Sankaracharya’s visit to the sacred spot, he understood the difficulty faced by his disciples to have a bath in the icy cold Yamuna water with its near freezing temperatures. Upon his ‘Mana: Sankalpam’ the Surya Kund manifested itself which has served as a boon for the world as a whole. In view of technical terms, the water could be hot due to the various tectonic faults and the outpouring of the internal heat from the earths’ immediate surface and may be due to the sulphur content etc. Which ever way we understand this phenomenon, the whole situation is so very fulfilling to the mind that the Lord’s manifestations are for the benefit to the mankind.
We entered the Devi Sannidhi at Yamunotri where the idol is kept and the Pooja is done. Naturally there was a big crowd there also and I was wondering how to see her Vigraham. Suddenly an opening came. Just outside the inner pathway, I saw that no particular crowd was there as people were thronging either to get into the inner sanctum or were having special poojas done with different pandits. We saw HER in full glory and noticed that her eyes were peculiarly piercing with wide open eyelids. Those who are well versed with the Antara Yoga Sampradayams may very well relate to the significance of this depiction.
Devi in her manifestation as Sakamabari and in form of Vrshti helps the Srishti, Sthithi and Laya of the manifested world which is her own Vibhuti –
‘Aham Vibhutya Bahubhuriha Roopairyadasthita’ Devi declares in Devi Mahatmyam (Durga Saptashathi) – I by manifold manifestations, stood here in many forms (Ch.10. Para 8).
Goddess Yamuna is Surya Putri. The water solidifies as ice in sub zero temperatures and gets collected on the mountain tops directly from the clouds, which is the optimum method of utilization of water directly from the ‘Prakriti’ and which also gives full Amrita like benefits. Though these methods of collecting ice directly from clouds were used by some previous generations, the same seems to be lost among the general public now. The water thus collected is enriched by the supreme qualities by exposure to the ‘Surya Deva Amrita Prakasam’. Due to the Sun’s rays and subsequent life force, the water slowly melts from these ice blocks, forms the stream and thus rivers are formed.
The Sapta Sindhus which are revered in the whole of Bharatavarsha – Ganga, Yamuna, Godavari, Saraswathi, Narmada, Sindhu and Kaveri are those which manifest in these forms in the best possible way – both in material ways and also for spiritual upliftments due to the subtle vibrations they carry. The special vibrations of these rivers is due to the special places which they come from carrying various vibrations of sages and saints, the special effects received at these places due to the Sun’s benevolent rays, the therapeutic and uplifting effects of the special flora and fauna around these places and of course by the divine plan. These rivers’ which descend into the places of man’s reach, is generally venerated by the saints since the purest of prana sakthi in its highly concentrated form are present at these locations due to the above reasons. It is of special importance to note that man is capable of getting the sustenance energy in its purest forms directly from Prakriti – which includes Sun’s rays, the Atmosphere, etc…
It is due to this importance, that the river origins are praised and sung as Devi Pratyaksha areas. I had always wondered why the rivers / their origins were given this importance by the great sages. Our great Rishis and sages are never wrong. Knowing this fully well, I was probably in a mind to accept this without properly understanding the meaning. However with Devi’s Anugraham, the real import presented itself directly for our inquisitive self, here.
We started our ride back to the foothills which was equally difficult as the climb. We needed to be so alert in maintaining balance on these horses that by the time we reached back our hands, shoulders, thigh muscles, and knees were aching. We reached back at the hotel for a well anticipated sleep and rest at Barkot.