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Shalini Gupta
Date: Sat, June 09, 2018 at 12:04 PM, Shalini Gupta

Hello Alpy, How are you all?

Love and best wishes to you all,

KEDARNATH YATRA .......ABODE OF LORD SHIVA...
Dear friends, it gives me utter joy and satisfaction in describing this beautiful and arduous pilgrimage to Kedarnath. It was an adventure waiting to unfold.
First of all, before I indulge in the various intricate experiences, the word YATRA needs to be explained.
What is a yatra? In my personal opinion I would define it as an individual ‘s sojourn into something which he or she firmly believes in. It could be anything.
So for each one of us, a Yatra has a different perspective and it’s good in every way provided we feel enlivened, cheerful and happy.
The Kedarnath Yatra was to be undertaken by us ( me and husband) last year, but we couldn’t go, due to certain unavoidable circumstances. However, this year I was firm(2018). There is a Divinity that shapes our ends, indeed so it was so and the plan was made and executed in a systematic way. ( But when it comes to Nature, the plan and execution is entirely at the Nature ‘s mercy and fury. It’s astounding and speechless to encounter incidences which change at the drop of a hat, without any intimation or forewarning. All we can do is surrender and take heed.)

Coming back , to the Yatra. We proceeded victoriously to Kedarnath, all essentials in tow. Jackets,woollens, dry fruits, sturdy shoes, pairs of socks etc. We hired a private taxi which was to take us to Guptakashi which is 247 kilometres from Dehradun, where we reside, from there to Sonprayag which is another 60 kilometres, and then to Gaurikund, another 5 kilometres.

From Gaurikund, the actual Yatra starts on foot, which is 16 kilometres.One can go by a helicopter from Guptakashi, ( bookings have to be made before) or on a horse, or mule, a palanquin carried by four persons, or on a pithu ( in a basket carried by a person on his back) It is excruciatingly tough and hard. But these men are strong willed and determined.

Personally, I feel these men are more surefooted than the horses.

There are hundreds of horses going up this arduous trek with devotees and the ones that are coming down as well. The ascending track which increases with altitude is quite precarious, but nevertheless most people go, as there are limited choices.But on a horseback especially when you don’t know how to ride, and the horse keeper is taking you perched on the horse, you feel kind of dis balanced.

That’s what happened to me. I had resolved to go on foot, but husband coaxed me to sit on the horse for a little while. I did so for 1/2 a kilometre and in those 500 metres, my horse missed a step. That was the last straw. I dismounted immediately.

Mentally, I made up my mind, come what may, hail, snow, rain, sunshine I would trek on my two legs.( little knowing all this was to occur) but there is no harm in repeating it mentally and it would boomerang for all its worth, but one doesn’t think about it at that point of time.

So , this point being put across rather succinctly, I would like to describe the importance of this temple.( It may be a little late for this , however I need to at the earliest, before my thoughts and my pen takes me to deeper sights unknown) Just kidding!!!!!

The Kedarnath Temple is situated at a height of 11,755 feet. It is one of the highest altitude for a temple. Surrounded by snowy mountains, it is picturesque beyond description. The mammoth black stone temple , against the backdrop of the enormous snow covered mountains. So near , you feel you can touch them , yet so far when you are actually in front of them. The mountains are covered with snow , right from bottom to the peak especially if it’s snowed in the recent hours. Deep gigantic valleys, with greenery on the other side. The entire mountainous range is white with snow on one side, and green with trees on the other. It’s a sight to behold. It is bitterly cold.The temperatures are zero and sometimes in minus too.

It’s wilderness all around, especially after the catastrophe in 2013, a cloudburst above this quaint location, strategic and fragile ,the deluge and the flood waters ravaged the place. Thousands of devotees were killed, and the waters swept everything on its path. The furore and fury of the water cascading down was unprecedented and it destroyed most of the establishments around the temple.

In fact, it was a sea of shops , which were marring the natural habitat of this place.
The temple was saved from destruction, as a huge boulder acted as a barrier and protected it.
This place was out of bounds for all and it took the government two years to rebuild.
Now in 2018, when one approaches the temple, there is a kind of an eerie feeling, but it vanishes the moment you see the throngs of devotees.

It is rightfully said that Lord Shiva or ( the sanctity of any place is well preserved) when it is left unobstructed , here Lord Shiva, affectionately referred to as Bholenath or Baba prefers solitude in wilderness.

Amidst this , stands the temple. In fact when the helicopter takes off and lands on the helipad , it looks so minuscule amongst the massive, enormous, mammoth mountains. One is totally dumbstruck at this wonderful display of Mother Nature.

You feel as if you are standing on the precipice of our planet Earth.

The Kedarnath Temple is a Hindu temple dedicated to Lord Shiva. It was built by the Pandavas, revived by Adi Sankaracharya and is one of the twelve Jyotirlingas , the holiest Hindu shrines of Shiva.

The Pandavas were supposed to have pleased Shiva by doing penance in Kedarnath.

The temple is open only between the end of April to November.

Coming back to our Yatra, we reached Guptakashi in seven and a half hours from Dehradun. It’s a small town nestled in the mountains overlooking the Kedar peak. One could see winding roads leading to Sonprayag and Gaurikund.

An authentic pretty scenario, so was the small hotel in which we stayed .

Next day, rising at dawn bathing and wearing a pretty attire we set out to the temple.

Full of cheer and enthusiasm, we were ready to embark on foot and try to reach the temple by afternoon.

Reaching Gaurikund, we hired two horses and their keepers. There were hundreds of horses, palanqin bearers , basket carriers who carried people on their backs. It was a chaotic scene. Everybody were frenzied and in a hurry to go.

So were we.

We started out triumphantly, an arduous trek of 16 kilometres. Husband was on horse, and after my slight interaction with the horse’s misstep, I promptly disowned him, got down and refused to mount him again, even after repeated pleas by the horse keeper.

I valiantly decided to walk it up.

Friends, here I like to mention that though the climb was steep, just like an ascending staircase( we were to reach the height of 11,755feet) from 6500feet, there were benches for weary walkers and porters to sit and take a breath, tea shops , makeshift bathrooms, all along the climb.

Not to forget the sturdy horses, there were water pits every two kilometres for the horses to drink and rest. It was well thought of.

In fact , for the walkers there were signboards every kilometre, clearly emphasising the need to rest , take a breath and then continue the journey.

It was slightly warm, as the sun was hot, even at this height. I took off my jacket and gave it to husband.

Husband’s horse and mine without me trotted merrily, since I was walking , obviously I couldn’t keep up with the horse, so it was decided we would meet on the top in the afternoon. It was 10:30am when we went our own ways. We had a light breakfast and in the midst of all this , I had met four ladies ( all sisters) who were also walking to the top. So I had company and this reassured husband.

In this milieu, I forgot to ask for money, my jacket and phone( however it would have not worked since the signal there is very faint)
Anyhow, we trudged along .Each of us had a walking stick which was a boon in that terrain. It was becoming difficult, as the climb was becoming steeper with each kilometre. These four sisters were a beacon of inspiration for me and we went along with gaiety.

After a while, there was a sudden hailstorm. The four sisters immediately fished out their raincoats and wore them. Here was me, getting drenched to the core and sheepishly wondering why I didn’t take my jacket from husband. There was another couple going on foot, they kindly gave me an extra raincoat.It was a massive relief !!
Anyway it was getting dark and weather in such high altitude is totally unpredictable.

Meanwhile, in that wilderness, with high mountains on all sides , hundreds of people going up and down, suddenly I felt a kind of déjà vu and longed to reach the temple as soon as possible.

Did I feel alone? Not exactly, there was indeed a certain apprehensiveness to reach the top as soon as my legs would take me and one thing I knew for sure, husband would be waiting and worried .

Anyhow, the four ladies and myself again started walking. I could acutely feel my heart beats racing, there was nothing we could do, except walk and walk.

It was getting dark and cold. It was 4pm and still no sign of our destination.

I was shivering and for a fleeting second I remembered my cosy room in Dehradun.

We approached a tea stall , and one of the sisters ordered tea.It was like having ambrosia. We felt warm and nice. In those 8 hours together, we developed a camaraderie which is difficult to put into words.

As the walk became steeper and steeper, so did our walk become slower and slower.It was 6pm. Time just flew and suddenly it became very dark , lightening and thunder and torrents of rain. It poured mercilessly.

Luckily, we were near a rain shelter and we took refuge under it.

It was cold, my hands were numb not to mention I was a little drenched too.

Surprisingly, this discomfort did not deter me, I just wanted to reach my destination, and locate husband. Thankfully , the rain stopped after 20 minutes and bidding a hurried goodbye to the four ladies ,it was drizzling slightly I started walking.

I had barely walked for 3 minutes, husband called out my name.

Friends, It was the sweetest sound I heard, and the relief overwhelmed me.The tiredness, strain vanished in a trace and we joyfully met like Romeo and Juliet, except there was thunder and lightening and rain all around us.

The snow covered mountains loomed just before and for me , they never looked so beautiful as they appeared now.

Husband too was exhausted, and on the verge of a nervous breakdown, as he had been waiting for 4 hours ,but as they say all things end well. So they did.
It was 7 p.m.

In the midst of the weather playing havoc, two basket carriers helped us a great deal.

We were still a kilometre away from the temple. They reached us there and we went in the temple to take Darshan.

The temple with the lights and flower decorations was a grandeur in itself.

I felt as if I had conquered Mount Everest.
As the weather was bad, it was snowing, there was less crowd and we had a nice darshan.
A sense of joy and relief overpowered both of us. We felt great.
Jai Bholenath.
That night we stayed in a tiny guest house in Kedarnath. We were shivering and the room felt like a haven in a storm , that was raging all along.

The caretaker served us hot tea. It felt like Sanjivini booti ( its this herb which Hanumanji brought to save Lakshman) That night, we could not have been more thankful for the dry room, the hot tea, the dinner. Truly it was an inward darshan for the basic things, we take so much for granted otherwise.

In fact, I felt connected to some unknown Power then. It was a stupendous feeling for which I have no words to express my gratitude.

Next morning, we rose early , changed into a fresh clothes( no question of taking a bath, it was too........ cold) We brought Prasad, and took pictures to authenticate the fact that we did reach Kedarnath.

The day was nice and bright, the snow covered peaks looked just too good to be true, so near and the temple nestled snugly just in front of them.
The helicopter was landing and taking off. We noticed and observed the entire place in detail, as the last night we had arrived in darkness and rain.
After the unfortunate floods in 2013 here, one can feel the devastation that took place and hearing some incidents from our caretaker, there was an eeriness unseen, untold , unheard. One has to be there to actually feel the vibrations of the Mystic Nature and Kedar valley.

Our trek back was uneventful. It was kind of fun walking down. In fact , it seems so much easier. My walking stick was a great help to me apart from my two legs. We returned safe and sound to Dehradun.

On a nostalgic note, it was an adventure and when you are in the middle of it , one is apprehensive and curious, but when we come out of it unscathed , we feel elated and victorious. So it felt the same here.

It’s a magnificent experience and we will cherish it till we live.

Jai Bholenath.

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