Here’s a photograph of the sacred rock of Dolma Devi ( click here for source) . This is where Dolma Tara Devi disappeared in the form of 21 wolves. Notice the offerings of hair of the departed, all around the base of the stone altar.
Talking of Tara Devi temple in Tarapith in Bengal, one of the unique aspects of that temple is that there is a cremation ground which is an integral part of this Shakti Peetha. The Wikipedia entry on Tara Devi says : “Unlike most Indian villages and towns, the smashan or cremation ground is not situated on the periphery of the village. As cremation grounds are seen to be polluting, most Indian smashans are located far from the center of town. Both the Tarapith mandir and smashan are very close (within 100 yards or so) to the center of the town. It is said that Tara Ma’s footprints are preserved in the smashan; this is a common theme in Hinduism, where deities or their especially holy followers are said to leave their footprints in rocks.”
Likewise, near the Dolma Devi rock is the shiva sthal (shiva tsal) burial ground. And not far from here is the foot print of the great sage Milarepa.
The Tarapith temple is also famous for its temple-tank whose waters are said to have healing powers. The equivalent of that at Dolma would be the Gauri Kund. Swami Bikash Giri, the veteran of Kailasa, says that bathing in Gauri Kund cures people of many a disease.
Here is a wonderful picture of Gauri Kund, taken by my co-yatri Shankar. Click on the picture to get a nice, large, view.
Incidentally, Swami Bikash Giri is evidently a yogi who has mastered the way to combat cold. Interested readers can see an account of Kailasa Yatra of Chitrapur Mutt Shankaracharya Shrimad Sadyojata Shankararashram Swamiji in 2001. (Click here to read the account ). To quote from that – “It was on the second day of the Parikrama that we encountered a bare footed wandering Sanyasi, Shrimad Vikas Girji.He had Darshan of Swamiji & accompanied us along the Parikrama. This was as if in answer to a quest by our Swamiji. Our Pujya Swamiji had a deep inner urge to proceed towards the inner reaches of Kailash & feel its vibrations.Swamiji had also been requested,during a visit to Mount Abu, by Pujya Swami Iswaranandaji to fetch the Atma Linga from Kailash. As if in answer to all this,Swami Vikas Giriji had appeared amidst us that day. Swami Vikas Giriji had had done the Kailash Parikrama ninety six times & was fully familiar with the terrain. Our Pujya Swamiji proceeded to Darchen guided by Swami Vikas Giriji,towards the inner reaches of Kailash. As we camped in M’sarovar for the night, Swamiji proceeded closer to the Holy Kailash at almost 20,000 ft & then at a particular point hugged the cliff & sat in meditation for a while till Plop!! something fell into the snow nearby. This was the Atma Linga from the Holy Kailash, an Anugraha from the Lord Himself. The Atma Linga was then brought down by Swamiji to be gifted to Swami Iswaranandji later.”
Swami Bikash Giri narrates in his book “Sumeru Parvat” how he spent three nights at Dolma La Pass. Imagine spending three nights in a place which can freeze a man to death in a matter of minutes. He writes “The place is also very terrifying and at night this whole place appears like a huge cemetery. The heart gets overwhelmed with the happiness on seeing the place on a moonlit night and one does not feel cold. It appears as if even the sight of Lord won’t be pleasing to heart as this sight.”
Isn’t that amazing…
Continuing our journey of the second day of Kora.
After the top of Dolma La Pass, one is off from the horse… All legs carry themselves. Swami Pranavananda writes – “There is a proverb in Tibetan that ‘ if a pony does not carry the rider during the ascent, the pony is no pony ; and if a person does not get down and walk on the descent, the man is no man.’ So one should get down the pony during very steep descents, for it would be advantageous to both.”
Well, there is no choice given nowadays. Any descent, you are off the horse. In any case, one cannot imagine how one can negotiate the down journey from Domla La on horseback without being thrown head over heels. So there.
After Gauri Kund, the descent is arduous, to say the least. Very steep, and the path is strewn with boulders. Looks like some snow kissed hill of another planet. Deathly still. And the other thing is the ‘aloneness’. Even if you are in a group, you feel as if you are all alone. For you have little time to do anything but watch your next step as you descend down this rock maze. And then in front of you, a large glacier presents itself.
Click on the picture to get a larger view.
You would get a better idea of the vastness of that landscape and glacier if you realized that some of the dark dots in the photo are people…
Pictures below, show zoom-view of two parts of the picture above. The first picture zooms in to the bottom-left of the above photo, and the next one to the upper-right..
Click on the pictures….Notice the people…
Just see the landscape. Does it not look as if the whole land has been aerially carpet bombed, perhaps in some mythological Deva Asura battle. Ravana and Kubera?
Click on picture below, to get a nice view of pilgrims crossing the glacier. And many more who are ahead…
Around the region of the glacier, somewhere to the right, one sees a peak that is axe or flag shaped. Lama Govinda writes : “As a last remembrance of past trials he sees a strange upright rock, in the shape of an axe, on his way down to the valley. It is the emblem of the King of Death, and it is called the axe of Karma. To the pious pilgrim it has lost its power through the mercy of Tara, the Saviouress, because mercy is stronger than Karma; it washes away our past deeds in the tears of compassion for all suffering beings. Sharing the suffering of all leaves no place for one’s own suffering, and finally results in one’s growing beyond one’s own little ego.”
Here is a picture of the Axe-peak, from the Net ( Click here for source )
Let’s go back a hundred years and more and join the Swede Sven Hedein, as he goes down from Dolma La. He writes “But time slips away and we must hasten on. We walk, slide, and scramble down steep slopes where it would be easy to tumble down head over heels. The old man is sure-footed, and these slopes are old acquaintances. But woe betide him if he turned round and went in the reverse direction.”
Coming to the present, here’s a picture of that kind of slope, from a nice Kailasa Yatra blog ( Click here to read that blog ) on the Net. As soon as I saw this photograph, I said “Yes! This is exactly what it was….”.
Now, here’s the picture. Have a look…
I guess the second day is the day of war stories. Whoever has done it, comes back like a survivor scarred by battle. And knows that he has survived because of some unseen force that has protected, guided, and goaded him or her along.
As far as Soota was concerned, he did it in a state of daze. The horseman was helpful, as were Sanjiv and the Bengali Babu. From the icy heights of Dolma La, going past Gauri Kund viewpoint, crossing ice patches and rivulets… Soota picked up a different looking stone from a rivulet. Turned out to be some seed… The glare of the low-angle Sun and the reflection on rock and ice is real hard on the eyes… His UV protecting sun glasses were an eyes saver….
As they clambered down the slopes, Soota would halt after every ten or fifteen minutes or so, and take some sips of water from a plastic bottle that the horseman was carrying. It was icy water collected on the upper slopes Dolma. Gathering one’s breath, one moved forward again. As he slid down, his toe nail would smash against the front of the shoe and that was a shade of a problem. Time for a tip, a simple one (perhaps obvious) for those who plan to do the kora. Cut your toe nails (esp big toe) as flush to the skin as you can. For in the mountain, when you hop, skip, slide, and do other foot maneuvers, you could get nail injuries. Soota had his left big-toe nail blackened as blood clotted. And it took months to heal…
Soota was far better off than many others.
Take his co-yatri Shiva. In his article “Kailasa Yatra – the Yagna” that he penned for the “Ramana Way” magazine, he writes: “As I was trekking, about a hundred metres below the 5,600 metre pass, I fell down from my pony, and I fell pretty badly. And this was not my only fall. I fell a few more times, on the cold icy rocks of the high mountain. And then after I reached the top of the pass, I had to give up my pony, which I had hired only for the up-mountain part. And from here it was a long trek, down a rocky path… Because of my fall(s), I was in serious pain. And the lack of oxygen did not make it any easier. Each step was an act of will, of mind over matter, of Self over mind. And I could take each step, only with the constant Japa of ‘Om Nama Shivaya!’. I reminded myself that this is my Yagna and chugged along with that excruciating pain without telling anyone about it. Holding on to my trekking pole, I chanted ‘Om Nama Shivaya’, with every step. And that enabled me to soak in the beauty and the spiritual atmosphere of this most holy of places – Mount Kailash…. Oh how beautiful was Gowri Kund… How beautiful the glaciers…. ‘Om Nama Shivaya! Om Nama Shivaya! Om Nama Shivaya!’, I chanted….”
Siva did not know that his injury was not trivial. It was only when he reached back to his home country, Australia, that he had a medical checkup and it was found that he had broken some ribs. It was ‘Shiva’, the Lord of Kailash, who had carried him along on that day.
The case of a lady co-yatri being abandoned by her horseman half-way up the ascent to Dolma La pass has already been mentioned in one of the previous posts. Imagine that. A lady, all by herself, abandoned to the elements of Dolma mountain. She had such a rough time. She decided to go back, which was just as well, because when she reached the Dirapuk camp, she found another friend co-yatri lady, who had been severely affected by altitude sickness, trying to make her way back to Darchen on horse back and was simply unable to hang on. She came to the rescue of her friend and after kicking some serious ruckus with the organizers, managed to get an ambulance van to take her back to Darchen. Who knows what would have happened otherwise. Shiva works mysteriously.
Vandana, another co-yatri, related her experience to Soota. She had brought along a large extended family, including her elderly parents. Much as a group may plan to stick to one another, it just does not happen that way. The group got split completely. After Dolma La, by some absolute miracle, her parents found each other. Lord Siva’s unseen hand again…. Both of them were in great difficulty negotiating the mountain, but at least now they had each other. When they came to the glacier, there was a point where her father just could not help his wife across. By some superhuman effort she managed to cross over. Lord Siva again…
And as Vandana walked, she found an elderly lady, quite knocked out of breath and completely lost. Her lady porter guide was nowhere to be seen. Somehow, she helped this lady along and somewhere along the way they found the porter lady. That porter was completely unmoved. She complained bitterly instead about her client, saying that she was absolutely unfit etc etc. It was evident that the porter was not going to be of any help in the long trek ahead. Somehow, Vandana managed to get some other Yatri to escort the elderly lady. But it was clear that the way ahead was never going to be easy, as the lady was hardly able to walk. Vandana tells me that somewhere on the way to the next stop, she spotted a hut, where two horses were harnessed outside. She took courage and walked in there and spoke to the people, local Tibetans, in Hindi. She requested them to rent their horses for two people who would be coming along this way. They refused. Somehow she persisted and managed to convince them and went her way. By God’s grace, the elderly lady and the escort did come here and the villager rented the horses to them, because of which they could make it to the next camp. Soota’s question to Vandana was, how is it that the Tibetan family understood Hindi. Except for the Sherpa guides, no one spoke Hindi. The locals and the nomads certainly did not. She thought back and could not explain. She had managed to speak to them and convince them. Lord Shiva again!
And then there was another lady, in her early fifties, perhaps. After Dolma La pass, she completely lost it. She could not move. Young Dasharath found her sitting in a state of complete shock. Dash came to her rescue. He cajoled her to get up, and step by step, he walked her down. She was ready to give up quite a few times. But Dash kept speaking to her, telling her not to rest too long, to move slowly, but to keep moving. She made it. At the end of the Yatra, she announced – “Lord Shiva came in the form of this young boy, Dasharath. Otherwise, I could never have made it today”.
So lets put it this way. The first day of Kora, you walk to Shiva. The second day, Shiva walks with you.
** Second day Kora – to be continued **