PILGRIMAGE TO KAILASH
FIRST STOP: NEPAL
Nearly six hundred ardent seekers have come from all over the world to be on this pilgrimage to Kailash. For many, their limitations of comfort and convenience will soon be challenged. But for the last 12,000 years, maybe more, pilgrims have been making this journey without a single year’s break. They did not have the boots that we are wearing, the down jackets, tents and food supplies that we have today. They just went with a bag of flour and some fried gram. Many travelled barefoot from South India – people who had never been exposed to cold weather in their life. What would propel these people to make such a journey not knowing whether they would even survive the trip? The magnetic power of Kailash has been drawing people for thousands of years.
Our first stop is Nepal. The very psychology of civilization here is still completely geared towards ultimate liberation. And the very geography has been converted into a living spiritual body. One place that you must visit is Bhaktapur. It is one remnant of how this whole eastern culture used to be at one time. Bhaktapur is a town that was created in a way that it will remind you of the hand of the divine every step. “Bhaktapur” means a city of devotion, or a city of devotees. And every step is actually a temple – what you think is just a place to get water is a temple, a washing place is a temple, even a gossip center is a temple. So when we walked through Bhaktapur, we turned the clock back 1100 years and imagined what it would be like then – when women wore red and men always wore white, and people inhabited these brick buildings that still stand today. Many of the homes are still occupied by the descendants of people who lived in the same homes 1100 years ago.
Bhaktapur is in different states of crumbling, but still, you cannot miss the tremendous sense of aesthetics people had a thousand years ago. How much trouble they took just to make it beautiful. Everything was done by hand. Every brick had to be carried – no lifts, no trucks, nor any kind of machinery. And today, with our modern concrete buildings, senseless display of sign-boards, plastic bottles and plastic covers floating all over the place and noisy smoking automobiles through narrow lanes and alleys of Bhatkapur – it seems that we are going from profoundness to profaneness.
From Nepal, we drove to Zhangmu and then to Saga: on the way, a stretch which took more than 4 hours, we did in around 40 minutes because concrete roads have been laid on some of the most difficult terrains in the last year. It’s been an exciting drive, with terrains that move from green to barren and muddy mountain roads that we climbed down with our Toyota Land Cruiser to reach Saga.
Saga is 5,115 meters above sea-level. And being on the second floor of the hotel, we’re another 3 meters up. Every meter matters here. We made this two-day stop in Saga for people to adjust to the steep climb in altitude. It’s been a true ‘saga’ for some people, but everyone has passed the altitude test. So from here onwards, the test is only of attitude.
I’m writing this on Friday the 13th from Saga, 5 days before this Spot will post because after today, I won’t have access to email. By the time you read this, I will be in Kailash. Tomorrow we leave at 2:30am for Manasarovar, a 20-hour drive.