Guiding Light of The Month

In this immense heroic struggle, in this sublime struggle of love against hatred, of justice against injustice, of obedience to Thy supreme law against revolt, may I gradually be able to make humanity worthy of a still sublimer peace in which, all internal dissensions having ceased, the whole effort of man may be united for the attainment of a more and more perfect and integral realisation of Thy divine Will and Thy progressive ideal. - The Mother

Grace-lifted at Kedarnath

Death and destruction were stalking us - we hardly knew about it! The danger of death by the falling rocks was what we were worried about as we drove madly towards devabhoomi Rishikesh!

I had held a workshop at Nainital, at Bara Pathar, for a whole week on the topic, ‘Death and Rebirth’. A successful workshop, a lovely stay at this abode perched on a mountain-top prepared us to take up our package tour of the three Dhams with Shubh Yatra.

The six of us - Deepshikha, Ela, Aloka, Bokul, Gauranga and myself - reached Haridwar on the 9th of June. We bathed in the beauty of Sri Aurobindo Yoga Mandir, prayed at the Relics Centre and then with all the confidence of the Mother’s grace and protection, drove to Rishikesh on 10th June. A whole day drive took us to Uttarkashi…

Our hotel, Devansh at Uttarkashi, was bordering the Ganges, known as Bhagirathi at this juncture. All of us felt elated and fortunate to be in the lap of Ganges - vast and beautiful, full of strength and peace, like the image of Mahakali herself. Less we knew that six days later, the same Ganges, so full of peace and beauty, would show us its Rudraroop!

We were looking forward to the dawn of 11th, for that was the day when we would be going to Gangotri, our very first dhaam! The long drive - which had become an endless drive because of the never-ending traffic jams, did not drench our enthusiasm when we reached Gangotri. We lost no time in stepping into the cold waters of the Ganges. Image of Ma Ganga descending on Shiva’s locks came up in my mind as I or reverentially took the water and put it on my head! People around us were literally dipping in the waters - young and old, and even babies! It was a sight quite unforgettable - did these devotees not feel the cold of the icy waters? What protected them? Was it not their faith which shielded them? Like all other pilgrims, we too joined the queue and had the darshan of Ma Ganga in the imposing temple that stood against the magnificent grandeur of the Himalayas!

Happiness, satisfaction, devotion filled our heart as we drove back to spend the second night in the lap of Ganges at Uttarkashi, in the same hotel Devansh! Our third day was comparatively a long one - driving on the mountain road which took us through secret curves of valleys and forests, peaks of bare rock dotted with snow, while continuously we were following the meandering flow of the Ganges. Peace and patience were what we experienced on this day which ended in Hotel Bhagirathi at Guptakshi.

Our car driver, Pandeyji informed us that in the morning hours of that day, a large landslide had blocked and destroyed a long portion of the road to Gangotri and many pilgrims were stranded on either ends of the landslide. We thanked our stars that we had just escaped what could have been a disaster… We had not yet imagined of the catastrophy that awaited us at Kedarnath…

We reached Gaurikund, on the 13th, by early morning. From there we had to trek or horse ride fourteen kilometres to the Kedarnath temple - that was the challenge in front of us. Mentally we were prepared for this arduous steep climb. Ela chose wisely to go on the horse right from the beginning. Bokul, Gauranga and Aloka trusted their physical capability and decided to trek the steep climb. Deepshikha too started trekking but after a heroic effort for 2.5 km she had to give up and get on a horse-back. I too accompanied her on a second horse and our climb to Kedarnath took at least four hours. The trekkers took nine and half hours by the time they reached our hotel Punjab Sindh Awas.

Trekking from Gaurikund to the Kedarnath temple is in itself a miracle, I felt. On a narrow road of twelve feet or so, there were horses mounting up or going down; palkiwalas were heaving young and old passengers while another row of palkiwalas were almost running down the steep and slippery cobbled and at places cemented road; the basket carriers silently trudged up and down for their day’s earnings. There was absolute chaos on the road, which had a rocky mountain on one side and a perilous steep drop on the other. And yet, what was unbelievable was the joy, the devotion, the satisfaction, the quiet enjoyment on the faces of the devotees. It was as if it was their life’s mission and neither the pouring rain, nor the dangers of the path, neither “the wind and the weather beating round” them could deter them. It is as if they were in the heart of their hearts responding to Sri Aurobindo’s invitation: “Who will come with me? Who will climb with me?... Stark must he be and kinsman to danger…” They were mostly hooked to the consciousness of what lay behind their chanting of the mantra, “Om Namah Shivaya” and no danger and doubt caught their mind.

The night, the dark night without any electricity supply, was very cold indeed. But we tucked ourselves in the very warm blankets after a sumptuous meal of bread and chapatti which we carried in good quantities. The continuous pre-monsoon could not dampen us because we were in high-spirits, looking forward to the darshan the next morning. It rained the whole night. But the morning of the 14th dawned with no signs of any danger or destruction that was being prepared in the clouds and the mountain peaks. The night rain had ceased giving us a pleasant two hours wait in the one and half kilometre queue to go inside the temple.

When we stepped in the sanctum sanctorum of the temple, noise and jostle and chaos broke out! Yet, I was feeling quiet, peaceful and shantimaya inspite of all the pandemonium around. I was searching with my eyes, Lord Shiva’s statue or a Lingam. But lo! and behold! There was only a huge ghee-smeared rock, in the shape of the hump of Nandi! It was believed to be swayambhu! I could not believe my eyes at what I was seeing! Is this the ‘murthy’, the ‘idol’, the ‘rock’, the ‘image of Shiva’ that lakhs of devotees have been worshipping for thousands of years—I asked myself ?
- Prof. Ananda Reddy

(to be continued)

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