Blog date: 27-Feb-2014… Report of travel date 2-Jul-2013….
Swami Bikash Giri is a Sanyasi from North India who has deep experience of the regions of Maanas-Kailas. He has perhaps completed 108 Parikrama-s of Mt Kailash by now… He says that Maanas, which gets almost completely frozen in the winter months, begins to melt on Shivaratri… Writing about one of the periods of his stay, he says – “The first glimpse of the water of Manasarovar took place exactly on the day of ‘Sivaratri’ (the night of Lord Siva). It looks as if Brahma Saras is waking up from its meditation… Winds start blowing from the day of ‘Sivaratri’ onwards. It appears as if the creator of universe after waking up from his meditation is making himself busy in its work of creation. Aquatic birds and Swans start coming to Manas again three to four days after Sivaratri…”
Today, 27/Feb/2014, is that day… Mahasivaratri…. The great night of Siva!
The picture above is of a miniature painting that is now in Museum Reitburg in Zurich… This is from a Kashmiri prayer book… The scene shows Sadashiva, the eternal Siva, on Mt Kailash…
Switzerland, Kashmir, Kailash… Wonderlands of snow… And now that Lord Nataraja graces the facility of CERN Lab in Geneva, the three are connected by the immediate presence of the great God Siva!
Let’s get back to the travel date: 02-Jul-2013… The start of Kailas Kora…
Having had some good Pongal for breakfast (thanks to Usha), we are now ready to begin the kora. The bus has dropped us off at that start point…. Large plains at the base of the mountains that surround Kailash like petals of lotus around the pericarp… It is a gloomy day… Sky is completely covered by clouds.. .
The plains are ‘lovely, vast and deep’… And yes, we have ‘a promise to keep’… To walk around Siva…
At the start-point, for Soota it is like stepping into a time warp… Where space and time cease to matter… Where measurements do not exist… All that remains are raw feelings… And the unseen presence of Siva…
The group is accompanied by Chinese tour leader and Nepalese Sherpa-s and cook… Gas cylinders, food items, etc are being loaded on yaks…
There are no signs of horses (ponies) that we are supposed to hire. Are we to ride yaks?
Dasan, one of our coyatri-s jokes saying ‘what do you expect… Your next halt is Yamadvar… Naturally, you have to go there on a buffalo, the vehicle of Yama…’
But Indra. The Lord of Gods, is kind…
Suddenly, as if by magic, horses appear out of near nothingness… Brightly dressed Tibetan nomads emerge in the landscape, happily chattering, bringing ponies along…
At this start-point, the tour organizers allocate porters and ponies to the Yatri-s… They do this by picking lots – whose who….Which Yatri gets which porter, and which horse and horseman… Like all things Asian, I think there is some leeway here… The lottery is ‘managed’…A lady co-yatri gets a lady horse handler… They both hug each other happily like sisters meeting in afterlife!
When the allocation is done, we find that we have been shortchanged… The original rules of engagement were as follows… You have to pay separately for the pony and the porter. The pony handler will only handle the pony and will not carry your backpack. You need to hire a porter for that. You are not allowed to load your backpack on the pony… And oxygen levels being low, you would be hard put carrying it yourself. So you need a porter…
Having collected separate payments of pony and porters, the tour guides suddenly turn around us and tell us that the horse handler would double up as porter… But payment will be same….You pay as before… No change…The Chinese guide shrugs his shoulders and tells us “Not enough porters available… ab kya karein?” he says in Hindi…
Well that’s that.
With a prayer to Ganesha, we begin the kora…
From here on, it is each yatri for himself… The porter / pony man does not speak our language. We do not speak theirs… While us and them do dance to the tune of the same drummer, namely Siva of Kailasa, one quickly realizes that Siva carries one drum for us and another for them… He has many hands and many drums and he loves dance!
We walk along the kora, and the pony people come along in their own pace… We are walking in the valley of Lha Chu, the river divine…
The oxygen levels make walking a challenge… Some yatri-s are unaffected… Some are panting…. It is very cold…. We walk along, and soon arrive at our first port of call… Yamadvar – literally the ‘portal of the Lord of Death’.
The Yamadvar is in the south western direction of Kailas…. Known locally as the Kangnyi Chorten (the two legged gate), the pilgrims, as per timeless tradition, walk through the gate, to wipe of their negative karma… For Hindu-s, the idea is that one prays to Lord Yama as one walks through this portal, and one symbolically dies, and is reborn….
Below is a small gallery of pictures… Click on one and use arrows to browse… Esc to return
During our yatra, the sky is overcast, and we could not get even a glimpse of Kailas from here…
But on a clear day, this is what you will see from Yamadvar… A picture that I got from the net (Click here for source )
Beautiful isn’t it….
In some narrations, it is said that the yamadvar is linked in mythology with the place where Savitri dialoged with Yama, seeking the return of her husband Satyavan, whose life Yama had taken away…
Whatever it is, there is a symbolic death and birth experience that one undertakes by walking through the Yamadvar…
As I walk through I chant the prayer to Yama that is a part of the daily Sandhyavandana ritual… (Mantra)… When Shankar, my co-yatri follows me, he too chants it (with a little help from friends)…
Yamaya dharma rajaya , mrutyuve cha anthakaya cha
Vaivaswathaya kalaya sarva bhootha kshayaya cha
Oudhumbharaya dhagnaya neelaya parameshtine
Vrukodharaya chithraya chithra gupthaya vai nama
Chithra gupthaya vai nama om nama ithi
Salutations to Yama, the God of death
To Him , the controller
To Him who is the king of Dharma,
To him who is death
To him who kills,
To Him who is the son of Sun,
To him who is the devourer Time,
To him who causes destruction of all beings,
To him who is supremely strong,
To him who is called Dhagna,
To him who is of color blue,
To him who is worshipped by all,
To him who has the belly of a wolf
To him who is really awesome,
And to him of sublime secrets!
Siva is the one who overcomes Yama. It is He who kicked Yama on the chest when Markandeya was being taken by Yama. It is he who grants freedom of fear from death. It is he who is Mrityunjaya… Vanquisher of Death…
ॐ त्र्यम्बकं यजामहे सुगन्धिं पुष्टिवर्धनम् ।
उर्वारुकमिव बन्धनान् मृत्योर्मुक्षीय मा ∫ मृतात् ।।
Let us come back to the date of this blog .. Mahasivaratri of 2014…
Soota spends this night of Mahasivaratri in 2014 at Arunachala… The Mountain that is Siva….
He shall join thousands of pilgrims who shall walk around the mountain this night. Before he sets off on the pradakshina of Siva, he sees the first segment of Puja at Sri Ramanasramam … After the Puja, the priests proceed towards the Goshala, where they set about to make Vibhooti (sacred ash)… The Ash for the whole year is made this Sivaratri night…
Signing off this post with a picture of the chief priest setting fire to a heap that shall burn the whole night, and become transformed into the ‘sacred ash’ of Siva!
As the fire crackles here,
The ice of Maanas would be melting there,
It is the dance of Siva everywhere…
Om Nama Sivaya!