a Journey to Amarnath which changed my perspective for life
While taking sip of kaada, a kashmiri drink, me and my friend was enjoying the ambience of our tent with other 6 friends after full two days walk to reach here at the foot of the Amarnath Cave. It was cold and oxygen was somewhat less at this height which was making the presence itself a challenge. I was amazed to see the spirit of devotees to reach here after days of walk, some devotees were above 50 also. Yes it's the spirit which is the most important, hence making physical fitness a second preferred qualification for this pligrimage to see Adobe of Shiva the Adiyogi.
I wasn't aware of what I was going to experience tonight in bright stars out here which actually changed all my beliefs to believe in someone who is eternal. Before I illustrate about that avatar which enhanced my enlightenment, let's see how I started this journey.
Few days before this journey, my friend Rohit asked me to join them for Amarnath Yatra which will take 6-8 days including 2-3 days walk towards the cave. I was informed that it will be a group of 8 people excluding the driver of the cab(Mahindra Xylo) we hired. Few were devotees like my friend, some were just accompanying for some holiday tour to visit Himalaya. On other hand, I wasn't interested, so I made an excuse to my friend that 8 people will be difficult to accommodate in a cab and he promised that in last moment someone will sure drop out. So finally I decided to go, only to check my capabilities to hike one of the toughest track in India. On the day of our departure I was the last one to get picked up. When the cab reached my home, I was surprised to see all of them were there, no one dropped out of the trip. Anyway I took my preferred place in last row and I can say it was not that bad. We started our journey at 8 pm from my house, enjoyed our ride via Amritsar city, then Pathankot and finally crossed Jammu in the early morning of the next day.
Something had happened on Kashmir highway, may be a terrorist attack. It was thought to be a death anniversary of some terrorist, whose name I don't remember. Thankfully, Indian Army arranged the safe passage to a military camp, where we were taken to a huge hall. We were amazed to see the arrangements made by the army for the night, like warm blankets, food etc.All travellers and devotees were necessarly sheltered there for our own safety regardless of our belief or religion. Before sleeping I went for a walk out of the hall, outside I talked to a military person on duty, and learned that they keep themselves prepared for such events with camping facilitation as they never know when these attacks can happen. He also shared many stories of various incidents and his experiences there.It was beautiful out there, at least 300-500 vehicles of travellers were parked there in the was very calm and breezing cold night .
In early morning, after a warm bath and later breakfast & tea we were allowed to continue our journey. We reached chandarwani base camp from where we started our foot journey. Our driver left us there, he will will meet us at Baltal, where we will end our foot journey after visiting the holy cave. We were throughly checked at several checkpoints, 3-4 if I remember correctly. After entering, there were food stalls and food camps of every type. We had light snacks as we were told that after every 3-5 km you will find these camps with medical facility if in case needed. We bought sticks to help us climb the mountains keeping our bags lightest as was suggested by many.
It was tough, just on very first climb we were gasping for air and after every 2-3 minutes of climb we were resting 5 minutes. After a very long and hard climb we managed to reach the top. The summit was so beautiful, it felt as we were in heaven. Mighty mountains covered with snow surrounded us. After few km walk, our body and breadth adjusted to ambience. After few kilometer, my body started giving away and I felt like my existence was about to cease. I remember my heart became empty of all emotions and concern for the world, I was fully immersed in the beauty of the place as my mind was getting drawn in a state of meditation. After tracking and walking many kilometers we finally reached Sheshanag, a place where we rested for the night. Food was free, you can eat whatever you like but to sleep you have to book tent from kashmiri people, it was one of the few income sources along with the use of donkeys for carrying heavyloads. I wasn't feeling well due to a past head injury the trekking took a toll on me. Rohit was very helpful, he served me milk and arranged medicine so that I can recover after good and a warm sleep. He also massaged my legs to ensure that I can trek the next day. I slept well, I was embracing this place, maybe the real beauty of the mountains is to forget about all the worldly things and stay immersed in the peacefull mental state.
In the morning, the weather was good. We started scaling the path at 6 am. I gathered all my courage and followed the way. Some of my companion advised me to take a ride on the available resources like, donkey ride. I don't know why but I wanted to complete this trail by my own strength, my determination fuled my pace. By half day, I was a lifeless soul, I was very tired, my legs were giving up. I remember on the way we took rest in between and I just lied down there closing my eyes recovering my strength. The cold wind on my face soothing my body and mind at the same time. In between all this, I also felt a rush of anger, on the way towards the cave near the shop stalls and medical camps and also in between the route people have littered garbage affecting the natural harmony of the place. If lord shiva really resides here, I am sure he will not be happy at all seeing the dirt / pollution to his abode. We are only polluting and making this heaven unpure. If we belive him then we should leave this place in complete solitude for him only.
After walking some distance I realised that I was trying to chant a mantra from a piece of paper but I can't recall how I got hold off that piece of paper. My body strength all drained, I can feel beats of my heart as I was chanting the mantra and I was cursing fellow humans for polluting the abode of lord shiva. This heaven was surrounded by beautiful mountains coverd in snow, crystal clear water formed by melting of snow flowed down the moutains but seeing the litters everywhere fueled my anger more. I wished for a landslide to occur so we all get burried here under the snow as our punishment to harm this heaven. When we reached Panchtarni, I was still chanting the mantra in my heart. I wasn't reffering the paper which was vanished somewhere. I Rememeber seeing that paper was poking out of my pocket in one of my photos of the pligramge but I never found it later. We reached at the cave on time. We rested for the night and was to do darshan the next morning.
The next morning after few kilometers walk we reached at Sangam, the mountains were standing tall full of ice. I can see the holy cave up ahead high in the mountain. Before that, was a Ice field with water body flowing down the mountain. Of course, it was pollutted with litter. We booked a tent on that field and rested there. There were cabins sized washrooms but with no water and it was dirty with human waste. I was shocked to see arrangements so poor at such a holy place. Anyway we setteled and made arrangements with some extra charges for hot water in the next morning. In the night, Rohit and me shared a blanket to sleep, We were resting at the entrance of the tent. Outside, the night was quite beautiful. The serenity of the place and cold brezze of the mountains making it breathtaking in the night. But somewhere, I wasn't feeling well, I felt very weak my heart beating very slowly and my entire body numb. I was thinking I won't be able to make it back alive. But somehow, I had a strange satisfaction with no remorse and regret to leave anything behind. What could be the best way to exit the world after experiencing the existence of an eternal power. At that moment, my mind was in a transcendenced state with no humanly emotions and attachments. Before loosing all my sense to go into a deep slumber I suddenly remembered my family. I mustered my strength to speak in a very weak voice and asked Rohit that if something happens to me he must ensure that my wife keeps teaching at his school. He asked me stop this nonsense. He knew I was not doing well and were weak. He asked the onwer of the tent who was a kashmiri to prepare a kaada.
The other 6 tent members were also chit-chatting and making fun of each other while waiting for sleep to take over them. Everyone was was happy and experiencing life with each other unaware of what will happen that night.
In one side, when that Kashmiri young man left by zipping tent entrance tightly to avoid cold breezes entering our tent, I was trying to sleep being first to entrance of tent. Everyone was sleeping, the silence outside was ruling over the night full of stars. Suddenly I saw someone sitting right beside me near the entrance inside the tent,the tent zip was fully open. He was staring at me and I was looking at him. My heart beat racing faster and faster with every passing second. My entire body froze with fear, my voice struck in my throat. The man has a paralyzing aura,he had long dark hairs falling down his face to reach his shoulders, face covered with long beard reaching his chest. His dark eyes piercing through my eyes. His forehead covered with three horizontal white lines. His body drapped in orange or so cloth. He was resembling very much to "aghori sadhu" as we know their appearence described in hindu religion. And all of a sudden he raised his hand towards me in order to touch me. In another hand, I don't remember if he was holding some stick or anything else. As his right hand moved towards me, a shock passed through me.I suddenly jumped out of my blanket and screamed by gut out in fear.
At the same time in front of my opposite side of the tent, one of our friend sleeping there saw the unzipped tent. He sat up and tried to zip up the tent to close it. As he raised his hands to close the zip by lowering his body forward, I out of no where screamed and jumped out of blanket. And he just jumped backward falling on another friend with more screams joining me. And all of a sudden everyone woke up and laughing on us.
As I jumped out screaming, that saint was no where to be seen and everyone around me was laughing. That friend opposite to me was looking at me in fear taking deep breaths.Rohit was laughing at full. I suppose it took me good 10-15 seconds to come back to my senses after that scream to find everyone in mix state of expressions. My eyes were still finding that Saint, but I cannot see him anywhere in tent, at the entrance. Tent Zip was closed tight this time. I tried to ask them about the Saint but Rohit was laughing out loudly and told me that it's common to see bad dreams here due to low oxygen and cold. I was not convinced, I am not a person who is afraid of anyone or anything and also I never see such dreams. I can feel it was real,he was actually here but who was he?
Next Day, we did Cave Darshan and started our journey back. Two of my friends in group helped me. One Sardar Ji took my bag and another one supported me by holding my hand whole way down to Baltal. It was half day journey but again the route was full of pollutants and people busting into each other.You can imaging how it will look when a mountain full of dirt on route with 4-6 feet path running with 4 way traffic will look. Two-ways for donkeys and another opportunistic two-way for us walking people in both directions. Me and Harry were first to scale down the mountain to reach the Baltal base camp. We all took shelter in a devottee langar's tent for resting that night as we decided to travel back next early morning to Bathinda via Jammu and Amritsar. Next day was also not that much good, we left after buying lot of dry fruits and I also purchased two small kashmiri girl tops for kids in my family. On the way Tyre got punctured and we got the opportunity to meet Army men standing high on duty on those highways. Later, on the way to Jammu from Srinagar, some Kashmiri mischievous young boys started throwing stones on a Tourist bus in that congested mountain highway. Army and Police was called and situation was brought under controlled but those boys ran away. One local Policeman told us that they can't do much as almost no FIR is ever registered against these young stone pelters. Anyway we moved ahead and took a stop at Amritsar in early morning. We all paid our respect to Sri Harminder Sahib Gurudwara and than started to Bathinda.
Finally we reached home but I am a changed person now. Few years back, once in my childhood two such incidents had happened with me, the first one was a small incident and I never took it seriously. But after coming back from Amarnath, I am wondering for the very question "Is there something called Shiva, The True Yogi?". Two questions amazes me if that incident was true in a dimension. First how that Saint was so fast to come and then vanish, also, he showed no sign of feeling cold. Second is, who was he? This incident occurred in the summer of 2017. After that, for no reason why I keep thinking of Shiva and researched more on above whatever I already know since childhood. And also decided to visit Kailash Mansrovar some time in my life for sure, don't know why but I feel something is waiting and I have to go there. Few months back, One early morning, I woke realizing that I just have visited Kailash via Shimla and it took good few months but as soon as I woke up I found myself here at my home. I will share all my experiences in my next blogs.
Sunday, September 1982