January 3, 2009

valley of flowers: part VII

I think, it's the time to finish the VoF series. In my previous post, we were sleeping in Badrinath, at the end of Day 5 of our journey. Badrinath was a 'Rivendell' for us, a place to relax and rejuvenate. The dawn of Day 6 (Thursday Aug 28, 2008) brought us a pleasant morning. Though we got up early, we started the day at a slow pace. Only thing on agenda that day was a 3 km walk to Mana, a border village. In earlier days, when Tibet was not taken by China, Mana village was a much used gateway to Tibet. Now it is a closed border.

Walk to Mana was pretty cool. A plane road along Alaknanda, the river that had been with us all along. In fact after doing trekking in last 4 days, it felt pretty much like how you feel when you read Harry Potter after reading Moby Dick. After a nice and easy walk of 35 min, we reached Mana. It was a small village - very few houses, populated mostly by people of Indo-Mongolian origin. We interacted with few kids there who were selling some medicinal herbs. Kids could speak Hindi easily. Not surprising considering that there was, quite surprisingly, a Saraswati Shishu Mandir (a chain of primary schools, mostly found in North India) there. A short walk into the village and we came to the Bheem Pul, a bridge over a mountain cleft, made of a huge single rock. The legend has it that it was made by Bheem when Draupadi, his wife, could not cross the opening. Near Bheem Pul is the birthplace of Saraswati river, a river that is hidden for the rest of its course, and meets Ganges and Yamuna in Allahabad. There was also a shelter, naturally made of rocks, which a youngish Baba (to an outsider, a Baba is a kind of hippy yogi) had converted into his abode. I remember him complaining to a local that somebody stole his pressure cooker last night :)

Later we went to the Vyas Gufa, the cave where Ved Vyas is said to have written Mahabharat. As per an inscription there, that gufa is more than 5111 years old. Just beside Vyas Gufa, there is another attraction of Mana (probably the biggest attraction) - the last tea shop of India. It's very popular. You can find pictures of many people in front of this tea shop over internet. We had a good time there. There were only Pankaj, I, tea shop owner, and an old man who had seen the times when there was no border in Mana and people from each side were free to go to the other side. We spent quite some time there. Leisurely drinking the Van Tulsi tea of last tea shop of India and talking to that old man. He told us lot of stories including the story of how Badrinath came to be. Interesting stories.

In the evening we came back to Badrinath and visited the temple again. We went to the same prasad shop that we had gone to earlier, kept our shoes there, bought some prasad and went to the temple. As there was still time for the aarti, we decided to do the circumambulation of the main temple in the middle. A man, of the sage kind, was singing bhajan 'Sri Man Narayan' in the satsang hall there. Others were singing with him in chorus. There was something in the air there. We just stopped in our tracks and started listening to it. We didn't go inside the hall, but we could not leave either. We just stood there, outside, without a word to each other, watching and listening to the group lost in some state of joy. It was amazing feeling.

When satsang got over we realized that aarti had already started. One interesting incident happened when we were coming back. As the temple was closing, Panditji (priest in-charge of the temple) was asking people to leave and shouting 'subah char baje (morning 4 o'clock), subah char baje'. He obviously meant to say that the temple will open again in the morning at 4 o'clock. But, someone from the crowd, a youngish guy, very innocently asked him - "what will happen at 4 o'clock?". Obviously Panditji hadn't realized that somebody might ask that question. So, it was funny and all of us laughed. But that's not it. Our prasadwala guy, from whom we had taken the prasad, was also there and I was amazed to see how much joy he derived out of this incident. While coming down he was shouting and telling everyone - 'subah 4 baje, subah 4 baje' and then he even told his neighbor shopkeepers about the incident. It was good to see how much joy someone can derive out of small incidents.

That day we again came back to the temple after it was closed. This time, to take photographs. We took few, not many of them came nicely though. After that we had our dinner, in the hotel I think, and hit the sack after a walk in the town. Next day we were to start our journey back to city life. A journey that will take 3 days to complete with overnight halts in Joshimath and Rishikesh.

I know I thought I'll finish this series with this post. But again this post has run longer than I expected and I don't want to make it even longer. Now the only part left is our journey back, which was made a bit interesting by the landslides that we met on the way.

Last set of photographs: http://picasaweb.google.com/manugarg/VoFTripBadrinathAndReturn

Other sets of photographs:
Till Ghangaria: http://picasaweb.google.com/manugarg/VoFTripTillGhangaria
In the Valley: http://picasaweb.google.com/manugarg/VoFTripInTheValley
Hemkund Sahib: http://picasaweb.google.com/manugarg/VoFTripHemkundSahib

Manu / www.manugarg.com / Journey is the destination of life.


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