Endless Song continues
Trip Start Aug 19, 2006
21Trip End Sep 13, 2006
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The eastern sky is flushed with subdued golden glow as the sun is about to rise. It is hot and sultry. The sky is overcast and air is heavy and suspended. Occasionally a faint morning breeze stirs the leaves of the roadside avenue.
We are assembled here outside the Gujarati Samaj Sadan, New Delhi. A large number of family and well-wishers have come to see us off
For about four weeks we will be a family of thirty four yatris. For this duration we are the guests of the mighty mountains and will be at his mercy and therefore, no one is to take undue advantage of their generosity. We are expected to treat them respectfully.
A cherished dream comes true for me as the bus rolls through the green paddy fields in the Gangetic plains which sway in the air as if waiving bon-voyage to us. And my endless song begins to unfold.
Yatra literally means travel but it usually refers to religious pilgrimage to holy places. It had been an age-old tradition among Hindus to go on pilgrimage to Holy places like the four dhams (Gangotri, Jamnotri, Badrinath and Kaidarnath), Kailash-Mansarovar, Pashupatinath (the lord of beast), Amarnath and so on. A yatra to these great mountain shrines is performed with great devotion and austerity and is considered a most virtuous act. Often, these holy places are situated in inaccessible and difficult terrains and the yatra is done on foot. Earlier there were no defined routes to guide one nor bridges to ford the foaming rivers. These had to be negotiated by crowbars piled on rocks and single wire ropeways. In-spite of all these nerve wracking hazards, the call of the mountains and of the mountain shrines was strong and the faithful responded in large numbers to visit them. For some it was a pilgrimage of faith and for others wanderings in the silence for peace and tranquillity. The yatras performed in earlier times were saga of valour. Many perished on way and those who came back home to tell the long story of their heroics received tumultuous welcome. They were considered holy men and treated and revered as such.
Today performing Yatra is more comfortable and less arduous than what it used to be. Human ingenuity is daily improving the facilities. The pilgrimage to Kailash-Mansarovar by the traditional age-old route via Pithoragarh is still quite difficult though the route via Kathmandu is now considerably easier.
The journey which we are about to take is far from ordinary and is fraught with hazards many. It is as tough as any mountaineering expedition. It exposes us to inhospitable conditions in high altitude which involves serious risk to the person or property of the yatris. We have to cross several hills within hills. We will negotiate tough and strenuous climbs and descends, face many extremes of weather and climate, trudge in heavy downpour in muddy narrow trails, ford many rivulets, streams and waterways, walk on snows and face snow blizzards in high altitudes and be under extreme stress at times. And is therefore, not taken lightly. We are accordingly well-equipped with essentials equipments like trekking shoes, woollen shocks, gloves and jackets, windcheaters, raincoat or waterproof suites, solar shades and sunglasses to protect against the sharp glare of the sun and so on.
For me Yatra is more important then the destination, because of the thrills associated with it. There is abundance of joy, suspense and thrill as we move along the Nature's beauty and sacred places that lie in the lap of Himalayas. Yatra; is a process which invites you to be near Him. There are so many beautiful places, valleys, snowy mountains, lakes, rivers and beautiful people in our green planet. Travel or pilgrimage provides us an opportunity to see these places and delightful landscapes, meet unknown people and befriend them; learn and get refreshed. There is something special about hills that attract people to them. Once you have been there, you crave to be there over again. The lure of mountains and love of wilderness is my main reason to be on this journey. I am carrying heavy load of years on my back and yet my spirit of adventure has not waned. It is still as youthful as when I was in my twenties and I did many difficult treks in Himalayas. That young boy is still inside me and bursting with excitement. I only want to be just me in the lap of the nature like a child in the mother's lap - happy and contented. It is my great solace and joy of my life.