தென்னாடுடைய சிவனே போற்றி
என் நாட்டவர்க்கும் இறைவா போற்றி
மானக் கயிலை மலையாய் போற்றி
Salutations to Siva, the Lord of the Southern Land,
Salutations to Him, who is the Lord of the those of every country,
Salutations to Him, who resides in Kailasa Mountain!
– (tiruvAcakam of mAnikka vAcakar)
परम रम्य गिरिवर कैलासू, सदा जहाँ शिव उमा निवासू।।
रचि महेस निज मानस राखा। पाइ सुसमउ सिवा सन भाषा।।
Supremely enchanting is the best of Mountains, Kailasa! Eternally, where, reside Siva and Uma!
Siva composed (Ramacharita-maanasa) and kept in his Maanasa;
And when the auspicious time came, he conveyed it to his consort, Sivaa (Parvati)!
– (Goswami Tulasidas in Ramacaritamaanasa)
“You are crazy!” was the unspoken reaction of some of the folks when they heard that I was setting out on Kailasa-Manasarovar Yatra. The floods and the terrible tragedy of Uttarakhand had just happened, and anyone who wanted to go at that time to anywhere in the Himalaya, and that too for a Teerth-Yatra was justly considered “crazy”. But the call to visit the most holy abode of Siva had come a month back, before all floods of Uttarakhand… And although the route from there to Kailasa – Manasarovar was blocked, the Nepal route (which we were taking) was open…. So, the way was there, it was but a question of will… A friend wrote in saying – “Wow! I have heard that kailash yatra is not an easy task even for the ones who are in top physical shape. I think you already know this, and would have taken the necessary steps… Take care..my prayers are always with you.jai pashupati nath!”… Some others gently warned of the altitude problems (watch out for fluid in the lungs… If that happens you are done for, unless you get back to lower altitude pronto … etc)… And so it went….
But the heart felt the call… The call of Siva, who the great Tamil Saiva saint Sundarar had addressed as “Pittha – The Crazy One”, and so all this craziness was a family affair, and the yatra was on…
Father, here I come…
Shall we begin our journey with the lines of Sundarar…
piththA piRai sUdI perumAnE aruLALA
eththAn maRavAdhE ~ninaikkindREn manaththu unnai
vaiththAy peNNaith thenbAl veNNey ~nallUr aruL thuRaiyuL
aththA unakku ALAy ini allEn enal AmE.
“O Crazy One!
Adorned with the crescent moon!
O the great one
Who bestows Grace-Blessings-Compassion!
You have chosen to reside in my mind,
I contemplate you constantly,
Without any forgetfulness!
O, the one who Graces
From (the temple of) Thiruvennai-Nalloor
That is to the south of river Pennai!
O, my Father!
Knowing who you are,
Can I ever say,
That I am not your slave!”
Oh yes, it is His grace, His call, His compassion, that takes one to Kailasa!
So how did this particular Yatra of mine happen to happen? It began sometime in end of May this year, when I was in Bengaluru, and Usha Shankar, a family friend of mine, told me that she, her husband Shankar and son Dash were planning to go for Kailasa Yatra the next month. And she was keen that I should join too… And I said ‘yes’, instinctively. Less than a month to go, hardly enough time to prepare… I just left it all to Usha, and to Lord Siva, the son-in-law of Himalaya!
Usha and family had just returned from a trek to Roopkund in the Kumaon mountains, and so they were pretty well prepared for further ascents. “Get a good pair of hiking shoes” she advised me as the first thing to do, and told me to internet-order a Quenchar. Which I did, and God bless all, the shoes were invaluable… Stone, rocks, water, slush, snow, ice… The shoes trod them all…
Quite a few people ask me – ‘how does one prepare for the yatra… What stuff does one take for the trip?’ Etc
Well, for one thing, try and get to do lots of walk… And do some climbing (stairs is a nice place to start). As regards items to carry, tour organizers give you a list of stuff.. So get that…
My experience is, “Keep it simple. Keep it minimum…”
Absolute must are:
- A good pair of trekking shoes, which you need to get used to, well before the yatra… Your regular walking shoes won’t do. You need to get good hiking shoes that hold your foot above your ankle…
- Some good socks… Sounds trivial… But its not…
- A pair of good quality Sun goggles… At high altitudes, you need protection from UV rays… There is risk of sun burn and there is a lot of glare out there, reflected by the snow and ice… Also get some good quality sunscreen cream for your face….And do not forget to take lip balm…
- At least one rain-proof trekking trousers.
- Inner thermals… Take at least two pairs of uppers and lowers… Layers matter when it comes to dressing for the cold…
- A good (North Face type) thin warm jersey
- A down jacket (you can also hire this from the tour organizers)
- Warm gloves, muffler, woolen cap… A summer cap as well…
- A poncho raincoat (with hood)
- A nose mask or two (even the local folks, the porters and guides, cover their nose when they walk in the cold)
- A trekking pole
- Some ready eats (dry fruits, kismis)…. More about food later….
- A little bottle of sandal oil (useful fragrance when you are fighting mountain sickness)
- Your regular medicines and first aid stuff…
This is but an indicative list. Tour organizers give you an exhaustive list…
btw, much of this stuff can be bought later on.. In Nepal or even in Tibet… And it may be less expensive too… So if you forget something, no sweat… You can pick it up later… Our tour organizers also gave us a duffel bag, a backpack and a woolen cap… So just take minimum must-haves from where you start….
Well, lets come back to the yatra…
Our trip was via Nepal. So here I was in Delhi, a few days ahead of flying out to Kathmandu…
I was out walking with my friend Roy, who told me that his mother had that look “He must be crazy” when he told her of the yatra that I was setting out on… So there we were… Late evening time in Vasant Kunj… Walking near the Biodiversity park (wildlife reserve)…
Gently came the dark. It was a full moon night… Roy took me around a quiet area in Vasant Kunj, and we came upon two Peepal trees. People had lit lamps around one of them, and the scene was enchanting.. Roy is a Pranic healer, and he has insights into energy… He told me that the tree was special, and that he would invoke some special connection with the energy-consciousness of the tree for me and for the success of the yatra. Standing near that tree, full moon night, oil lamps flickering around, and a healer logging on to nature.. It was magic…
After that he took me to a quiet temple of Siva… A nice large hall with paintings of scenes from epics led to the sanctum sanctorum, where there was a Siva Linga in the centre, and other idols around… Two priests were sitting in silence… There was no one else in the temple… Water for abhisheka was kept nearby. I poured that on the Siva Linga… Prostrated… Came out to the courtyard… And on an impulse, chanted Sri Rudram, the great Stotra of Siva, from the Yajur Veda… Felt blessed… A good start to the Yatra… The “crazy one” would grant me more opportunities to chant his hymn during the yatra…
Next day, went to Kamakshi temple at RK Puram, where the priest broke a coconut for Ganesha – for the success of the yatra. One also went to Sringeri temple in Vasant Vihar…. Prayed to Chandramouleeswara and Sarada Devi…
Ready now for Kathmandu…
**** To be continued ****