Guiding Light of The Month

All is light, all is love, ignorance and egoism are but vain phantoms, they can be dissolved. And over all things spreads Thy sovereign peace, Thy fecund calmness. - The Mother

Grace-lifted at Kedarnath (contd. from the December 2013 issue)


Devotees in those earlier centuries had walked for months, daring the dangerous forests and the landslides and the inclement weather to have the darshan of Bholenath in Kedarnath! Is this my India, my spiritual and eternal India of which I had read so much in Sri Aurobindo? I had the darshan, mentally, of my true motherland and somewhere I felt a soul-satisfaction. I felt blessed that I had seen the “inner” aspect of my country and that I am born in this ancient country of countless Rishis and yogis!

The rains resumed just when we returned to our hotel. The road right in front of the temple, strewn with gift-shops, puja-offering shops and eateries was vibrant with devotion, swirling with colour and joy, content with the peace of “having come to the Lord’s feet”! The rains which began to be threatening, never gave us the least hint of the oncoming pralaya…

We spent the evening going around the small town - places of worship and tourism. Our second dham was over, and we were ready to drive towards Gupatakshi on the morning of the 15th June. Torrential rains hammered us throughout the night and in the morning it halted for a brief while - maybe to give us a glimpse of the majesty and beauty of the snow-covered mountain range just behind the Kedarnath temple. We thanked Lord Bholenath for giving us this drishya, their vision that was almost like a parting gift to all of us around the temple! Perhaps, that was the last touch of Shiva’s grace… before he would begin his tandav…

All six of us came down the 14 km of the trek on horse-back - a four and half hour descent from Kedarnath to Gaurikund. The horses were sure-footed as if they knew every stone and step and were guided by their instinct while we were tense and afraid.

After some misadventures on the road, we reached Gaurikund, walked through the “mad” crowd which knew not that anyone staying back that night would never see the light of day again in their lives!

Long and uncomfortable drives had become part of our mental calculations by now. The never-ending vehicular jams on the single road, the indisciplined and selfish drivers - came to be accepted by now as “part” of the journey. We returned to the same hotel, Bhagirati at Guptakashi. Had a warm bath, a good dinner and slept off peacefully. We could not imagine that the Shiva tandav that would begin the next night at Kedarnath and the sleeping pilgrims would “sleep” forever in tombs of mud and slush!

On the morning of 16th we drove towards Badrinath, quite unaware that death and destruction were just behind us by a few hours! Unexpectedly, we were stopped on the road by army personnel at Gauchar and asked either to wait indefinitely, until the landslides and the rain-battered roads/bridges to Badrinath were repaired, or to return to Rishikesh! We had the very first taste of the danger camouflaged on our journey! Our driver got the information of the cloud-burst at Kedarnath and also the flood that had washed away umpteen number of cars and buses near Sitapur where we too had parked on the previous day! We thought it was wiser to return to Rishikesh and not take chances. As all the cars heading for Badrinath were returning to Rishikesh, there were miles of cars and buses on the road - driving with the simple focus of returning home safely. But the whole region was already under the terror of the tandava,—there began relentless landslides, blocking long lengths of road; the hammering rains had given vent to the fury of the water falls which cut up the road mercilessly, endangering road traffic.

We had all lost hunger, forgot thirst and were silently thinking of the Mother, praying to Her ardently for our protection. Mobile calls from our family members gave us some glimpses of the massive tragedy that had engulfed huge areas of Nature and cities, swallowing up men and women, animals, trees, and towns. In spite of it, all this trickling information, we were worried about the road in front of us, the road to our own safety. We began to see on the powerful waves of the furious Ganges, remnants of house tops, furniture, gas-cylinders, wooden logs, trees etc. We could get some vague idea of the calamity behind us!

We were planning to drive to Srinagar (in Uttarakhand) and halt for the night of 16th June. As we drove with prayers in our hearts and fear in our minds, we reached Srinagar late at night! Alas! We were again turned away by the police who said that Srinagar was under ten feet of water, the roads were damaged, the bridges broken… We were asked to divert to Kirtinagar—a few kilometres away. But with the pounding rains… the road that was less a road but only a stretch of potholes… the hydro-electric dam sites… we were not sure where we were heading to… if we will reach safely. Low visibility of the road around midnight added to our tension.

At last, the guiding grace took us to a safe road in the small town of Kirtinagar. We halted a while in somebody’s shop, planning to sleep in the shop. People were buying from the small shops all they could lay their hands on - biscuits, bread, rusk, drinks, water… for no one knew where they would get their next meal!

After a while we drove to a bigger hotel and parked our vehicle in the parking space and slept in the car. No hotel rooms were available anywhere… Seven of us slept in the closed car - we could not keep our car windows open because of the torrential rain! We sweated and puffed but there was no other go! Sitting inside the van we were at least protected from rain and the dangerous landslides on the roads!

Next morning on the 17th, we headed towards Rishikesh hoping the drive would be uneventful and safe! But our hopes belied us - we faced constant landslides and had to halt for hours together. In one of our halts, we came to know that a car some hundred meters away from us had been smashed by a huge boulder that came down a landslide, and the driver was crushed to death. Another van had been pushed into the river Ganges by the rocks of the landslides! Every step was strewn with danger, unexpected landslides and the driver was struck with uncertainty and fear of the road. He requested us to keep a constant watch on the falling boulders, tress, mud and warn him in advance, if possible.

But the greatest surprise came when we had just had our lunch at Kaudilya. We were informed that the Ganges had flooded a huge stretch of the road at Biyasi, a few kilometres away from Kaudilya. We were stranded for three days at least! It was not panic that had gripped us, but it was dire disappointment and gloom that overtook. We appealed to Her - the only thing we could do…

We preferred to wait at the closest spot near the flooded road, so that when the Ganges recedes after three days, we would have a better chance to cross the road! But, by the time we reached Biyasi, there were already hundreds of cars…all waiting for the Ganges waters to give us back our road!

We parked for the night and spent the second night in the car - hot, stuffy, hardly space to stretch our legs although it was Innova van, the best one could have for such long yatras! Mentally, we were preparing ourselves to sleep, to stay, to eat, to drink on the road, surrounded by landslides, drenched in rain, waiting for the grace of Gangamayya…

But, we had unexpectedly, the grace of Anandamayi! The Mother’s grace seems to have acted powerfully, and the Ganges receded - ten feet of water receded overnight leaving the road free—though eaten up in long stretches! Hopes revived, smiles lit up everyone’s faces - life was beating in rhythms of joy! The intervention was timely, for, on the next day there was hardly any food left in the dhabas on the road, hardly any drinking water - we had to collect rain water for our use. We thanked the Mother in our hearts, waited for the road to be repaired and by about 11 am, we could cross the dangerous but the newly made road, one by one.

We resumed our drive to Rishikesh - we were not sure if and when we would reach. Nothing could be planned anymore. We were all in the grip of uncertainty and danger. We came to know that even Rishikesh and Haridwar were partly submerged by the angry waters of the Ganges. We were informed that many bridges were closed in those two towns and hence… could we at all make it?

We drove stealthily, avoided the huge boulders on the way, praying that nothing more should stop us on our road. And nothing further barred our way. We reached Rishikesh by mid-day. Mr. Naveen, the owner of Shubhyatra was happy to see us - alive! Some of the pilgrims for whom he had arranged the Kedarnath/Badrinath trip had not returned nor were their whereabouts known! “Bhagavan ka shukr hai ki aap vapas aye ho!”(“By God’s grace, you have returned !”)blurted Naveen!

Another stroke of grace came upon us when the trains from Haridwar to New Delhi, hitherto cancelled, were resumed that night! On the early hours of 19th we boarded the train that took us to Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Delhi Branch - our haven of safety and grace!

We had realised what the Mother had once written to a disciple: “The compassion seeks to relieve the suffering of all, whether they deserve it or not.”

“The Grace does not recognise the right of suffering to exist and abolishes it.” (CWM, Vol. 16, p. 346)

This truth of Grace went deep within us, especially when we saw the TV, on the 19th evening, the extent of pralaya that had taken place at Kedarnath and Badrinath, and all around in Uttarakhand. One day more at Kedarnath, we would have been embedded in the 10 feet mud-slush; one day earlier, we would have been drowned at Badrinath; a few hours earlier, we would have…I don’t know how much to analyse or rationalize. I am convinced that She has given all of us a “Rebirth” in order to live and work for Her…. Merci beaucoup, Douce Mere, pour ta Grace infini! ( Thank you very much, Sweet Mother, for your infinite Grace.)

(concluded)

- Prof. Ananda Reddy.

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