Coming back from the trek to Bhavishya Badri, we saw the hot water springs.

This is a picture taken from these springs:

We reached our hotel by around 6:00 and since the two us had got thoroughly drenched in the rain, despite the umbrellas, we had to quickly offload our luggage to change. But, I had been wet for far too long and the hotel was really bad and I woke up the next morning with a stiff neck. I could hardly turn my head. When Vandana and I were sitting downstairs waiting for the others to come , we met a man who had escaped from Kashmir during the riots. His stories were heart rendering and all at once one does feel about the futility of the situation. Nature is bountiful, but many of us do our best to be exactly the opposite. Tapovan is especially famous because Parvati is supposed to have meditated here to get Shiva. There is a temple dedicated to her. The ride back was beautiful. We stopped at Pipulkoti for a breakfast of vadas, if you please:)

This is a picture taken of the pindari ganga along the Karna prayag- Kausani route.

We stopped at Kausani for the night. The clean air of Kausani and the altitude makes it an ideal place for a sanatorium and one is supposed to get beautiful views of all the mountains surrounding it. But, as luck would have it, it was cloudy – but I did manage to get some shots of the sun rise, though.

We reached Kanpur at 9:30 p.m. on the 26th May and thus another lovely trip to the mountains came to an end.

Bhavishya Badri

This was to be the last of treks on this particular visit. Except for Dr. Raghavendra and myself, the rest of the group was in no mood for any more climbing and trekking and since neither of us had been to Bhavishya Badri before, we were rather keen on the trek. This is 8km trek from the base.

We left Badrinath by the 6:00 a.m. gate and reached Pandukeswar by around 8:00 where another of the 5 Badri temples is situated. This is well maintained and the temples are more than a 100 years old. The archaelogical society of India had taken over this temple also. In this temple Vishnu is in a meditative pose.

After a trip to this temple and a fracas with the driver, we proceeded to Joshimath, where we stopped for a quick breakfast. We then drove over to Tapovan. The road is terrible – a national highway is being made- the views breathtaking. We arrived at Tapovan and found a place to stay in – which was the worst place in the entire trip. At around 11:00, we proceeded to the base of the trek. About 1 km ahead there is an ashram, where the others in our group planned to relax while we went on with our trek. The day started out being very sunny and bright. We reached the ashram and we found that the people there were very nice. Actually, throughout this trip I have had the pleasure of meeting lovely, hospitable people. Here is a picture with some of the inmates of the ashram. I had rhododendron juice  for the first time. The flowers were no longer in bloom.

Bhavishya Badri is about 5km away from the ashram. The ascent is steady and the trek is through the forest. Being summer, the wild roses and the other flowers were in full bloom and the scent of these flowers was heady to the point of being intoxicating. If there ever was paradise on earth, this surely must be it.

Along the entire route one sees the majestic Dhauli Ganga coursing through the plains and far far ahead the nanda devi peak offers a glimpse ever so rarely when the clouds relent. We couldn’t help feeling that our visit wasn’t well timed as the clouds were overcast for much of our journey. Surely, this kind of weather did have its charms, but I had wanted to have atleast one view of all the peaks, which I couldn’t get on this journey. But, that was the only thing missing in an otherwise perfect trek.

We had hardly walked for about 3km, when the winds started getting stronger and the rain started pouring. The route was so beautiful- this place isn’t called “the small valley of flowers” for nothing – that we could hardly bring ourselves to turn back. We had to see the temple. Again negotiating the soggy trails with an umbrella in one hand and a stick in the other and praying for clear skies we continued walking. The flowers were getting prettier and because of the rains I couldn’t get my camera out. Just as we were approaching the temple we met a family which had lots of children. Either the children were totally bored or they were intrigued by the sight of strangers – the boy started following us in the pouring rain.

The setting was perfect. Perhaps sometime in the “hopefully” very distant future roads will be made for the people to have an “easy” trip to this place – like the present day Badrinath. But, for now, the place is quiet, calm and perfect. A world, where the only sounds are those, of the rustling of leaves, the gusty wind and the birds. It is a world where the words like peace and happiness take an altogether different meaning and which seem so attainable and desirable. I couldn’t thank god enough for this glorious opportunity for having been able to do this trek. If only the skies had been clear and Nanda Devi had made much much more than a fleeting appearance. That perhaps is for the next time…….

On the 23rd of May, three of us decided to try and trek as far as we could in the direction of the neelkant glacier. This is the route one take when one wants to go on foot from Badrinath to Kedarnath. It takes around 6 days to cover the entire route.

We set out at around 9:00 a.m and we had hardly gone for about half a kilometer, before a steady drizzle descended on us. Undeterred as were, we opened our umbrellas and proceeded on our climb. After climbing for almost 1.5 km, we were presented with the view of the entire town of Badrinath.

By this point, the drizzle had transformed into steady rain and climbing was a little hard, but nevertheless just as enjoyable. We were beginning to feel cold and wet, but strangely enough, this hardly dampened our enthusiasm. At this point, we met a policeman working in Badrinath who had the day off and he turned out to be rather informed and interesting. We continued trekking and he told us some local stories. We reached a cave where one swamiji lived. The cave was very small- so small, even a small child could hardly stand upright in it. In one corner, he there were pictures of some gods, principally Hanuman, and almost at the entrance of the cave a small stove and some utensils. If I had laid down in the down, My feet would havejust managed to stay in. It was that small. The swamiji was very hospitable and he insisted on making tea for us- which was certainly more than welcome- but, it was still that frightfully sweet tea, which the “hill people” drink. After a cup of tea we set out to “charan paduka”. It is believed that in an earlier age Vishnu had put his foot here and hence the name.

The views of the mountains along the route were breathtaking and by this time the rain had also stopped and there were rivers and meadows and the valley was far too beautiful for description.

Since the weather wasn’t very good, at this point we decided to turn back and thus the trip to see the valley was postponed to a later date.

Vasudhara

This is the view of the Badrinath temple by night from our hotel. Our hotel was along the river alaknanda opposite the temple.

The following morning we went for a bath in the “tapt kund”- which is a hot water spring and a “darshan” in the temple at around 4:00 a.m. It was very crowded and also cold at around 10 C- for someone coming from Kanpur at 45 C. M.S. Subbalakshmi’s renditions of Bhaja Govindam and Vishnusahasranamam were being played by the temple authorities at that time. It was lovely listening to these beautiful pieces.

At around 10 a.m , we went over to a village called Mana about 3 km from badrinath. This is the last village on the Indian side before one crosses over to China. It is believed that the Mahabharata was written here in a cave by Lord Ganesha and recited by Ved Vyasa. It is also believed by the locals that the river saraswati still flows here.

This is the supposed meeting of the saraswati with the alaknanda at Mana. From Mana we went on a 5km trek to Vasudhara to see the breathtaking waterfalls there. As far as treks go this is a relatively easy one. It was rather windy on that particular day which made the trekking a little difficult. It was an enjoyable trek, though as one was greeted by the snow covered mountains on the left and the river alaknanda flowing merrily way below. This is a picture of the Vasudhara falls.

I met a number of interesting people on this trek and I was very happy to have been able to finally see the Vasudhara falls, which I have been wanting to do for quite some time. About 40 km onward from Vasudhara, one reaches the Satopan glacier the origin of the Alaknanda. I hope to be able to go there some day.

After returning to Mana at around 4:30 and seeing the Vyas gufa (cave) and Ganesh gufa , we returned to Badrinath. In the evening we went to listen to the Vishnu Sahasranamam in the temple. This is one of the prettiest temples I have seen. There while standing in the queue to enter the temple, I was pleasantly surprised and happy to run into the parents of a very good friend of mine – janaki. I was meeting them after years and it felt very ironical that people from Chennai and Bangalore should be meeting at Badrinath. It was a lovely feeling there.

I got up very early the next morning hoping to catch the sunrise on Neelkant glacier. I was lucky for a very very short time as the sun was playing peekaboo with the clouds for much of the time. The sun did relent and made an appearance for a short period.

We left Kanpur on the 20th May very early in the morning. We left the campus around 5:30 a.m and first went in the direction of Kanauj along G.T. Road. From there, we went to Barraily. At this time of the year one sees fields full of sunflowers on either side and this makes the ride very refreshing.

We then went along to Haldwani, Kathgodam, where we stopped lunch and had a glimpse of Bhim Tal and moved on to Ranikhet. By the time we reached there, Vandana and Swarna were quite ill as a result of the drive and we had to break for a while. It was quite chilly now and this was such a change from the Kanpur. Initially, we had decided to break off at Gairsain for the day. But the driver was tired and it was getting rather late, and so we halted at Dwarahat. It is a very small and sleepy town with hardly a hotel in sight. The only hotel available was rather sorry, but since we were exhausted after and early start and the long drive – doing nothing can be very very tiring- we decided against searching for more places and so we halted there. After a good and refreshing night’s sleep, we left early the next morning to our first destination – Adi Badri – one of the 5 badrinath temples. Adi Badri is on the Gairsain Karnaprayag route and the route is very scenic. Somewhere, long the way, a pack of foxes drifted along our path, and being the typical city dwellers, we yelled with joy and excitement on sighting them.

Adi Badri temple is now under the aegis of the archealogical society of India and is well maintained. It is a very cluster of temples about 1000 years old. From there we made our way to Karnaprayag along the Pindari Ganga . It did start getting rather hot by this time. Each year, the himalayas seem to be getting more crowded and less green. Karnaprayag is the meeting place of pindari ganga and the alakananda. After a brunch at Karnaprayag, we slowly inched our way towards Joshimath. Here, luck was very much in our favour and we found ourselves tagged with a governer’s car and while the other traffic was stopped, we were given the green signal and so made our way up very quickly. Along the way a person in the governer’s car fell sick and started throwing up and so we moved on and reached Joshimath by 1:30 p.m. well in time for the 2:00 p.m. gate to Badrinath. By now the skies were overcast and the rains appeared imminent. We were flagged off after a very brief wait but we had to sit in Pandukeshwar for a while to allow the traffic from Badrinath to move on. It was rather pleasant sitting there and watching the alakananda flow way way below and see the mountains above.

After almost an hour’s wait we were allowed to leave and we reached Badrinath by around 5:30 p.m. Badrinath at this time of the year is crowded. The world and its relatives appear to be there. It was hard enough to find a parking place and it appeared that finding a hotel to stay in would be impossible. Fortunately, Dr. Raghavendra’s friend, who is a swamiji in the Mantralaya Math at Badrinath and he got us a place to stay in a hotel just opposite the temple. Despite being very crowded, the time round, Badrinath retains a definite mystical charm which is impossible to ignore. On reaching the hotel it was almost 7:30 and so we decided to find a place to have dinner and then retire for the night. The next day was beckoning with the promise of adventure and thrills and we wanted to be ready for that. That will be for my next post.

It suddenly dawned on me that it has been ages since I wrote here.  During the term, inevitably life does become busy. Taking advantage of the vacations, I went on a trip to the mountains with some friends. The trip was lovely.  We went to Badrinath and went on a couple of treks. I will write more on them soon. Apart from the sheer joy of being in the himalayas, I had the pleasure of running into the parents of a very close friend of mine in the Badrinath temple. They are from Chennai – the world indeed is a very very small place.

I am now back in Kanpur, thoroughly rejuvenated, remarkably pleased with the world and ready to work.. and also hopefully to make good progress with the violin.. time will tell….. till then!!!

Krishna nee begane baaro

krishna nee bEganE baarO
bEganE baarO mukavannu tOrO

kaalaal landhigE gejje niladha baavuli
nilavarNane naaTya vaaduta baarO
(krishna nee bEganE baarO)

Odiyalli Odigejje beraLalli ongura
koraLalli haakida vajayantimaalE
(krishna nee bEganE baarO)

kaasi peeTambara kaiyalli koLalu
pushida shreegandha mayaOLu gamma gamma
(krishna nee bEganE baarO)

taayige baayalli jagavannu torida
jagadhOdhaaraka namma uDupi shree krishna
(krishna nee bEganE baarO)

Kushinagar

Now, O Brothers ! I do remind you, all component things are subject to decay. Work for your salvation in the earnest”.

This was apparently the last sermon Lord Buddha gave on arrival at Kushinagar in 543 B.C.

Last weekend, we had gone to Kushinagar. I had read that this was the place where Buddha had breathed his last. A big stupa is constructed over the place where his body was burnt. It is being restored now, but it is still in remarkably good condition. There are a lot of excavations and one can see a number of remnants from ancient times. In addition to the stupa there are a number of temples dedicated to Buddha in the vicinity built by people from Tibet, Thailand etc. Kushinagar is quite green and the ride from Gorakhpur to Kushinagar was pleasant. For the first time, I also had the opportunity to see jaggery being made from sugarcane juice. Fresh jaggery tastes really good.

He who has art and science has religion,

but those who do not have them better have religion

-Goethe

Gangotri

From Yamunotri, we headed to Gangotri. We were lucky in that we got vehicles without much fuss from Janakichatti to Uttarkashi and were also able to see some breathtaking locales. Much of the journey was through the mountains and there were too many bends along the way, which wasn’t the easiest thing on my stomach. The journey was great, nevertheless. We stayed in Uttarkashi for the night. Uttarkashi is an example of what unplanned urbanisation can do to a place. It is supposedly a hill station, but it was very hot while we were there. When you looked up you were witness to beautiful forests. The Bhagirathi river flows through Uttarkashi. The city is ugly and dirty and it is a frightful pity that this was allowed to happen amidst such pristine surroundings.

We were fortunate to find seats in a bus going to gangotri. This being “off-season”, getting transport is a little difficult. This bus journey was very hard physically, but it went through the most beautiful landscapes I have ever seen. I had always felt that the alaknanda valley was the loveliest valley, but I now think that the Bhagirathi valley is far more breathtaking. The water was very blue and so inviting. For the first time in my life, I saw apple trees full of apples. My heat was already wild with joy- little can be better than to be in such lovely settings, the pure cool wind blowing tantalisingly on your face, the air sweet and pregnant with promise, the surroundings at once achingly beautiful and at once treacherous – you miss a break and the chances of ending deep down are very high. We reached a place called Harsil, which is apparently the Switzerland of India. We were with an hour’s distance of Gangotri. As we approached our destination, we started seeing a number of snow capped peaks. People in the bus would say -look, that is Kedar peak, that is sudarshan peak and you were too busy trying to keep your stability in the bus and also crane your head in all directions hoping to catch all the sights at one go.

We finally made it to Gangotri at 1:00 p.m with the sun shining brightly and the Ganga river and the Sudarshan peak both welcoming you there. I felt so lucky to be able to be reach gangotri and actually witness everything that I was seeing. We were very fortunate in meeting a number of people along the way. There was a gentleman from Coimbatore who makes his annual visit to Gangotri and Badrinath. There certainly was tinge of envy in me that he had so much of time to actually spend 3 weeks in places like these.

There are a number of people who meet you at the bus stand and start trying to coerce you into taking a room in their hotels. Again, lady luck was with us. We found a room on the banks of the ganga. You open the front door and there, the river is flowing peacefully almost at your feet. My father took a bath in the biting cold water. There was no way he was coming to Gangotri and not bathing in the Ganga. Some people from Calcutta were admiring him for being able to actually do so. The rest of us were shivering. We then visited the temple and then went around exploring the surroundings. There are two kunds called the surya kund and the gauri kund. There is a mini waterfall of sorts there. We then proceeded on a 1.5km trek to the pandava guha(caves). This trek was lovely. On your right the river was gushing along and on your left, the tress (pine) rose up majestically, regal in their autumn hues. The silence was only broken by the occasional chirping of a bird and the sound of the river below. During this walk, the skies had become cloudy and i was hoping for a little sunshine, so that I could get the shots of the peaks. As we were returning, the sun did make an appearance and I got the shots of sudershan, meru and sumeru peaks. We were in time for the sunset. The ganga arati happens on the banks of the ganga at sunset. It was biting cold and the few of us who were there were all clad in heavy clothes trying to brave the open and the wind.

The arati was one of the most beautiful experiences I have ever had. Bliss is sitting on the banks of the ganga and watching the priest doing the arati and singing ganga stotram with the rest of the people. All of us were deeply moved by this experience and we proceeded to the temple for the temple arati. That too was lovely. Being in Gangotri, does give you the feeling in every inch of your body and soul that life is indeed simple and beautiful and one must keep it that way. Little can be better than having this mighty river at your feet and the mountains in your sight.

That night, each time I woke up, I could hear the sound of the river and this was an entirely new experience for me. It had rained through the night gangotri and snowed higher up. We woke up to grey skies and the bitter cold, but my father and I were thrilled to just sit on the portico and watch the whole sight. Our neighbours, a family from Haridwar were daring enough that morning to take a dip in the ganga.

It was time to leave and we bid goodbye to this lovely place. Surely, we must go back and trek to Gaumukh and Tapovan.

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