Peace Is the Way - Deepak Chopra

Teej festival - Pashipatinath nabij Kathmandu

Pilgrimage to Kailash and Mansarovar

Kailash-reis met Encounters Nepal (Nederlands)

AN ABODE OF GOD KAILASH MANSAROVAR

My friend Patrick (an American tour leader) and I headed for the high plateau one more time leading a pilgrimage, one drizzly dawn in Kathmandu. My previous few days had been maddening, full of sightseeing, briefings and frantic packing. Finally as the trip was underway and I was able to sit back and have a moment to relax. There were 20 of us in the bus while a 5 member catering crew has already gone ahead in a supply truck. Patrick glanced at the glossy new Eco Trek brochure and, muttered out the small note by the ancient port Kalidasa “The Himalaya is a great Devatama, a great spiritual presence, stretching from the west to the eastern sea like a measuring rod to gauge the world’s greatness.” Deepa, a knowledgeable 19 year lady and Patrick started talking about the significance of this ancient mountain range. I summarized their profound discussion in my diary that evening, which is as follows: “Eastern culture has for eons revered the mountain ranges as the nexus of earthly and divine forces. They stand as the pinnacle of temporal substance, the prodigious residences of the gods. The Himalayas of Himachal as it is called in the ancient texts, stands as the holiest range of them all. A 1,500 mile stretch of ice and rock, the range includes the highest mountains in the world, notably Mount Everest. It is their awe-inspiring height and snow-capped splendor that has inspired South Asian music, architecture, artwork, dance and literature for as long as they have stood.

However, only one mountain earns the distinction of holiest. The bearer of this title stands at an unremarkable height, thousands of feet below Everest, yet is revered steadfastly by five religions: Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, Sikhism and the indigenous Bon tradition of Tibet. In the remote parts of western Tibet, admits the jagged rocks, stagnant clouds, and sheer space stands the holiest mountain on earth- Mount Kailash. The name itself conjures images of splendor, intrigue and myth.”

The crowd was disquieting until we had breakfast at Dhulikhel. Then each of them was busy contemplating the countryside. The drive is stunning with outstanding views of the Nepalese country-side. The waterfalls tumble down from the sky high rock towers of different shades-red, brown and sandpaper. Greenery frolics through the countryside leaping over stepped plains, twisting around mountains, swooping through fences, interrupted only briefly by color-scattered beet red leaves, an explosion of purple and yellow flowers. The Sun Koshi River, famous for its river rafting possibilities, topples angrily over the boulders and rocks that dares to splinter its course. The Bhote Kosi river roars over the multi-faceted rock while the dew shimmers on the trees casting various shades of olive, emerald, sea green, jade and a myriad other counterparts.

The friendship bridge is not only a transition between two countries but conjures a transition between two culture and landscape. Once the custom procedures were finished, we were shifted to the brand-new Land cruisers waiting on the other side. As our sojourn trudged forward, the scenario changed imperceptibly from vibrant, intoxicating green to the barren and brown, parched land, sparsely verdant with thorn bushes. The mountain shed their covers and morphed into rolling brown hills dotted by harsh black rocks. The air was clear and the sky was punching blue. In some ways, these mountains were more beautiful then their predecessors. They possessed a stark appeal as nature in her most intimate form. They represent the bare architecture of nature, a celebration of form and shape.

The journey onward was embedded with excitement as well as panic. As our sojourn leapt forward some started to feel the effects of the altitude. The machine unremittingly creaked and wheezed on its way up a vertical distance beyond the limit of mere human being’s ability to persist. Reminding me of the different night at Nyalam (3,750m) Deepa’s Grandmother Jay Shree described the experience in an e-mail she later wrote to me “That night I got terribly ill. It is a nightmare to be sick during an extended trip to the remote regions of the world. Needless to say, I slept not a wink that evening. But I felt lucky to be with Eco Trek. The gregarious staff monitored my physical condition throughout the night. Our cook, Loka, was only ready too ready to prepare anything I wanted. Likewise, other members of Eco Trek were friendly and understanding. They were even helping me pack my gear in the morning. I couldn’t have imagined continuing from there without their support and help………

Jay Shree had been to the base of Kailash two times already with another company. She was stopped twice from accomplishing it – once for a swollen ankle, the other time due to rumors (that proved to be false) that someone had died due to the impassable trail conditions. Coincidently, I was there at the base camp leading a group for Eco Trek. We knew the trails extremely well and what conditions to expect. We became the first ones to prove the rumors to be untrue. Our experience, perseverance and determination helped our group over the Dolma pass, despite bad weather. It gave me a real sense of satisfaction to see all of my clients on the Yatra complete their life’s dream of circling Mt. Kailash. But it also made me think about the disappointment and sadness that comes when tour companies don’t take their responsibilities seriously. I was wondering how some agents don’t take pilgrims’ long waited dreams of pilgrimage to Kailash seriously. Our experience and honesty is what always motivated our rational decisions. Our team leader (and owner) Jyoti Adhikari is dedicated to give all clients the best possible travel experience available. His liberal governance over us has always privileged us to make an autonomous decision, if required. Jyoti belives that the supportive and responsible team environment that he has created among his staff is the key to providing safe, enriching and sacred experiences in Tibet.

Uncongenial weather, extreme isolation and scuffle for breathing is nothing less than penance for this woman had already persisted through two Yatra attempts in past. This was the third time for this courageous woman and analyzed her passion for the holy circumambulation. It was way more than her passion for life, more than any secular desire. It is a most sacred challenge that you have to overcome to undertake this kind of pilgrimage. I also knew that it would be a challenge for me to keep this woman safe and secure on her pilgrimage. My friend Patrick, who has lot of knowledge on wilderness medicine, was preparing her for the ultimate challenge that she failed to break through in previous journeys. We both knew how important our preparation would be. We checked our equipments: PAC (Portable altitude Chamber) inflated once more, oxygen pillows refilled and oxygen can distributed.

Later that day Jay Shree shared with me a dream she had about this Yatra. In her dream, there is Lord Shiva himself in a manifestation of Kailash. His forehead is smeared with ashes across which his third eye falls vertically, latticed hair wrapped atop; the god is steadily pondering with an immanent grin in his face. Jay Shree finds herself struggling up the rocky terrain in a attempt to circumambulate the celestial being. Each time she propels herself up she lags behind with great exhaustion. As she tries to stand up from the ground for the third time, she is distracted by the huge shadow that falls upon her. It is a giant golden peacock coming towards her. Before she can yowl with fright, it snatches her by shoulder and flies her around her life sacred mountain. Upon completing her cora she suddenly wakes up. I just smiled when she told me her dream.

The first day of Cora was enjoyable as we traversed 18 km to Derapuk. The drive up to “Valley of God” is pleasant as get an over all view of the massif with Kailash’s tantalizing crest. The most sacred monolith that soars above others with its distinct characteristic appearance is accompanied by its subordinate apex model into a fantastic shape by wind and snow over thousands of years. The cora gets more thrilling as Yatris provoke their inner self with chanting and prostrating at the entrance of the Valley of God (Yamadwar). Then some of the Yatris start to walk as others hopped on the yaks and we headed towards the journey of absolution. One more time I looked at Jay Shree, the frail, flimsy woman had persuaded the path of reparation. Looking around, her eyes scanned the group to make sure that her granddaughter was ok and she requests that I keep an eye on both of them. Giving them few words of confidence, I looked at the exonerator who was now gazing at us over the vertiginous western rock face with an incessant smirk.

The north face of Kailash is a phantasmagoria of a giant boulder with evening light. One dilapidated edifice and few tents hidden in the rocks is what accommodates Yatris. But the scant ground appears as a carnival with pilgrims gathered around a hearth chanting and hymning, yaks grazing over the ridges and the yak herders pitching tents all over the place. It was yet another typical day for Patrick and I, making sure that everybody is doing well, got their belongings and forcing them to take some soup despite their loss of appetite due to the altitude.

We started early next morning, as to reach the top of Dolma La pass in time to escape potential weather hazards. The cold, frigid environment of the morning was suddenly warmed up with intoning sound of an exodus as it was hauling up to Dolma La. It was quite difficult for those of us walking to catch up with the yak and horse caravan due to the thin air. Helping push the Yatri’s, who were riding on yaks and horses back to their proper position takes an extreme effort up here. Jay Shree barely had enough strength to hold the horse. The last part of climb was more steep and rugged. She suddenly slid off her horse and dropped to the ground. “I can’t ride on this animal. It’s too uncomfortable.” She said. She was half conscious with her fatigue. We supplied her oxygen that we have been carrying in a tank, made her to rest enough and then encouraged to carry when she felt better as it was the last part of the climb. We could see the crest of the pass white with snow and the maze of prayers flags and bunches of people as well as the rest of our group solemnizing their religious sanction upon reaching their goal.

As Jay Shree, Deepa and I reached the top; we decided to hurry down to comfort Jay Shree. She was so out of energy that she was struggling to stay on her feet. We were left behind by all the others as everyone was heading down to the valley. In the intricate geographical terrain of rocks and ice, three creatures Deepa and Jay Shree and I appeared insignificant. Time was escaping quickly as we were ambling, with every successive step becoming more difficult than the next. This is the most difficult day of entire yatra as we have to traverse 25 km to Zutulpuk. I could see that the poor woman was struggling, so I decided to carry her on my back. It wouldn’t be easy, but ir was the safest decision. Now it was my turn to make frequent rests, setting her down whenever possible. But with Deepa’s constant verbal support and our perseverance, we finished the most difficult part of the cora. The rest of the journey was easy as well we had to do was descend on horse and drive back. Jay Shree was too week to feel the excitement at that time. It took about couple of days for her to recover.

Once the rush of the Yatra season was over, I came back to Kathmandu. It was mid autumn. From where I live I could see crystal clear snow peaks glistening in the sun beneath the green frontier of layered mountains. A sweeping view of Kathmandu looked beautiful, bedecked with various festival colors. As I walked to the office, I felt like I really missed this hustle and bustle of Kathmandu being in an empty land for long time. I received a parcel that Jay Shree had sent me when I arrived at the office. It was a golden peacock with a small note that said I was the golden peacock that snatched her by shoulders and took her around Kailash in her dream. I smiled at her dream one more time.

 

Kailash-reis met Encounters Nepal (Nederlands)

 

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26-01-2016

 

 

 

 

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