The smell of Shiva
Set me upon treacherous
but an eternal path
Just a Snort
I was done
Fatal to oneself
Journal from Kailash
12 Aug 2013
fter a nearly 10 km trek decided to settle down in a nameless valley steeped in occult ways. These people are as earthy as earthworms, and found ways to bend nature to their will. Seeking the mundane through magic. For me it is like the smell of Shiva and no wonder the valley is a forest of Marijuana. If I was not already so stoned with Shiva, this would be the place for one seeking intoxication.
Tented at the very edge of a roaring river-rapid, overlooked by a brooding mountain full of eyes. A pack of bats take off for their nightly sojourn – no vampires these. But their silent flight and sightless eyes make them seem like creatures from another realm. How strange are the ways of ignorance, these creatures are mammals, our very close relatives. Blind as a Bat, aren’t we.
15 Aug 2013
Trek to Tumkot was 14.5 km through some wonderful terrain, pristine and beautiful. There was an hour and a half of knee-breaking and lung-busting stretches. In spite of painful stretches we did this grueling stretch in record time. Everyone was in a buoyant and charged state after the day-long Sathsang and Bhuta Shuddhi process initiation. Walking through these deep valleys and crossing over some hills is dreamlike. It has been over 15 years since I’ve been outdoors for more than 3 nights – incredible and invigorating.
After a hard trek, camping for a day by the gushing brook at Tumkot was a much needed break for the aching limbs, and the enthusiasm of the participants led to an almost full day Sathsang. Except for one of us who had to be air lifted due to health issues from the valley of Tumkot to be hospitalised at Kathmandu. In a day she recovered and is doing fine.
The last stretch from Tumkot was the hardest climb we had encountered. The rocky steeps truly tested not only our lungs and legs but our mental resolve. When we finally reached the Sipsip and saw the automobiles after six days of roughing it in the mountain, there was celebration in every cell in the body. The drive through the Narola pass was precarious and breathtaking. The terrain rapidly transformed utterly from green valleys with copious water bodies to a bone dry, dusty and stark looking mountain reaching out to the sky. That is welcome to Tibetan plateau, a truly unique landscape.
Magic of Manasarovar refusing to fade, it doesn’t matter how many times one has come – it still enthralls. Two nights at the banks of this Mystical lake and a series of Sathsangs with the other groups arriving by the regular route. The fervor and devotion of the pilgrims is overwhelming to say the least.
This time around we decided to camp at the base of the south face of Kailash, known as Ashtapadi. This is the very home of Mysticism. I have been here a few times but never stayed there for the night. The track being considered too dangerous, vehicles were not permitted. Our trek to Ashtapadi was phenomenal in experience and the weather was testing our resolve to make it to 5200m flat for camping. Only 12 of us could manage to stay there as it started snowing heavy by 6.30 pm. In weather like that, with very heavy cloud and mist screening Kailash, in a sweeping wave of compassion the heavy veil lifted to reveal his magnificent form and grace. All pain and difficulty of the trek and the vagaries of the weather and temperature just vanished in our experience. Only Kailash. That is all. The magical power of this tremendous space is indescribable.
The night was unique and eventful; I’ve spent many a night on mountain sides and jungles. Being hungry, cold and alone is not new, it has had its presence from my childhood. Those days and nights have always been very powerful times, but never of suffering or fear or loneliness. Those blessed days and nights were the times Shiva invaded me without invite or permission. But this night at Ashtapadi was unique. One – being so close to Kailash. Two – good to be protected by an all weather tent. And three – eight inches of snow turned the tent into an igloo. Never been outdoors for a whole night full of snow, it was snowing till 7 am, gave an hour’s break for us to pack up our tents and descend to the Serlung Monastery where the rest of the team were, and started off in right earnest. Giving him a fabulous white veil as if the eyes of the unclean should not find him. O’ Mother Nature, He needs no protection, there is no clean or unclean for Him, there is no sinner or the virtuous for Him. He views a sage and a sorcerer with the same eye, Devil and Divine with the same eye. The taintless thoughtless, Third eye.
After the descent from Ashtapadi, an overnight stay at Manasarovar and a brief Sathsang with the last group to arrive. Off we are early for a thousand km drive to Xigazê to avoid an overnight at the shanty town of Saga, at the junction of 3 main arterial roads of Tibet and with a military station – is gaining in importance and clamor. The great Saga hotel is still continuing to celebrate my birthday with a very colourful birthday sign that was put up 5 years ago. With a brief stopover at Saga, we drove on to Xigazê. After doing our 700km my Land Cruiser started making not so pleasant noises that suggested some serious friction. After a few stops and checks, kind of diagnosed a steering bearing breakdown. With a stiff steering reached Xigazê after 10 pm, with a little over 14 hours of driving. The terrain through which we drove the whole day would leave anyone wordless and dazed.
Xigazê has one of the largest monasteries in Tibet, controlled by Panchen Lama XI who now lives in Beijing. This 650 year-old monastery is quite a fascinating place to spend a day at. Its architecture and art are rustic and the homogeneity of its making has an appeal beyond laws of aesthetics.
‘Ah, Lhasa is a transformed place. The Chinese architects and administration have done a remarkable job of making a tinny little town a few years aged into a bustling, beautiful city. A fabulous job of merging the traditional Tibetan architecture, modern glass and steel contraptions. The infrastructure in and around Lhasa rivals any European or North American city of its size. My full marks for Chinese planners and engineers.
The group, though from various backgrounds, has melted into one and the closing dinner at hotel Brahmaputra was a joyful conclusion to this 3 week – what shall I call it? An adventure? A jaunt? Trek? Pilgrimage? Yes to all of them and more, which is beyond articulation. The mountain, the Mysticism and the sheer magic of all that has become a rare bond among all who have been through this sacred walk.