The feeling of
non dual consciousness
becomes a reality
as twenty of us
inside a small tent.
Some have taken off
to their abode of bliss
with a fleet of noisy engines
waking up every one
but themselves -
a journey of awakening.
Apart from paying to the Pithoo, the other expenses we incurred on the way were just nominal – Rs. 20 for a bed for one night in a tent, expenses on occasional coffee, tea, or a bottle of soft drink. Had there been no free food on the way, expenses on food for the yatris could be very high because of the high infrastructural expenses on setting up commercial food courts in such difficult terrains.
Secondly, such free food Langars have a positive impact on the environment. Had there been no Langars, majority of people would have depended on packaged food, littering the way with disposable packing material. The situation would have been like the Everest Trek where garbage has reached the tipping point even though the number of people going upto the Mount everest base camp is far less than that of the of Amarnath Yatris.
The morning sun
a wakeup call.
Blood streams rebel
they need all the pushing
pulling and cajoling.
After dinner each of us needed a dose of disprin before slipping onto the cosy mattress inside the tent. In the morning you don’t feel like getting up. Legs feel unusable. But as you begin your journey with fellow yatris, after some time every thing feels normal.
Now a days the Shrine Board sets up toilets at selected places. Those days there were no such facilities. So in the morning you followed the rituals of ancient times. Of course, then the number of yatris were less.
Legs surrender to the inertia of the road
narrow, winding, up, and down,
horse hoofs scattering dust and snow.
The young and the old and the
gun totting army men join the chorus
Har Har Mahadev.
Meanwhile, the stoic lake Seshnag
of tents and human beings.
The other day when I saw a video of last year’s yatra, somehow it reminded me of Bengaluru traffic. But, it is good to see that the governments, the Shrine Board, and the volunteer organisations are putting their best efforts to provide all facilities to the yatris in spite of all the dangers the yatra poses in terms of security threat, the weather, and the terrain.
Aziz belonged to one of the nomad tribes of the area. For people like him who struggle for their subsistence, Amarnath Yatra is a good source of income. When we stopped for tea he narrated the tragic incidents of 1996.
Unexpected snowfall took everyone by surprise. Many people who were not near any resting place perished before reaching any. The small tents became so crowded there was no place even to sit down. He had to spend the whole night standing.
Worse was yet to come. In the morning people had nothing to eat and drink. And they did not know where to go because the snowfall had obliterated all the tracks. Hundreds of men and animals perished. Aziz was one of the lucky ones to survive. Being accustomed to local weather and skipping regular meals might have helped him.
After Sheshnag lake Panjtarni is an important landmark. Five mountain streams join here. The view here was breathtaking and a few minutes’ rest here rejuvenated us. Lord Shiva is said to have shed his material body made of five elements here and proceeded with Parvati to the cave for deep meditation. However, with my material body of five elements intact I hurried with my wife to the cave so as to come back here before sunset for the second day’s rest.
From Panjtarni to the Amarnath cave it is about 5-6 km journey. With the destination near we felt renewed rushes of energy and walked the distance without needing any rest in between.
Before entering the cave people take bath in the stream running nearby. As I have mentioned earlier there was no arrangement for makeshift toilets and hence at some places beside the stream the scene was not so holy. This was like a mild put off before the climax. Moreover, I had been already in a grumpy mood. I don’t remember exactly what it was, but something had happened after panjtarni that had made both of us upset.
But as soon as we began to climb the steps to the cave all the unpleasant memories faded away and we were eager to have a glimpse of the divine.
We were second time unlucky. The first time was when we missed the spectacle of Sheshanag. Those who come early in the Amarnath season have the good fortune of witnessing the ice lingam in its full glory. We were late.
But we did not have any regret. So what, if the form had decided to become formless. The world of maya is after all a play of form and formlessness. We soaked ourselves in the the divine vibes inside the Amarnath cave.
to be concluded ... ... ...
P.S. – According to wikipedia, the earliest recorded mention of Amarnath Yatra is found in the travel accounts of François Bernier, a French traveller to India during the Mughal Era. The anthology – Beyond the Three Seas: Travellers’ Tales of Mughal India – includes interesting accounts of his travel with the caravan of Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb. You can read my review of the book here.