18 April 2009

Spiritual Travel continues : Vaishno Devi

Vaishno Devi Tour

There is a saying that you can never undertake the Vaishno Devi Tour unless the goddess of the temple has summoned you. Some people want to visit the temple for years on end before they can finally make it. Others who have absolutely no plans to visit the temple suddenly find themselves swept up in plans to go there. While some might dismiss it as mere superstition, others firmly believe that the summons is vital to making the trip to the temple. Perhaps the location of the temple has something to do with this belief.

Located in the mountains with a treacherous and long climb up to the temple, it is easy to see why people believe that you can only undertake the Vaishno Devi Tour with the blessings of the deity. The only way up was to walk. If you could not walk you were carried up in a “Palaki” which was a seat that two men carried on their shoulders. Some more adventurous souls even chose to ride up on mules. Reaching the summit with aching backsides. If you were to make the trip even two decades ago, it would have seemed a miracle. However now that the road has been made and the steps up to the temple have been well set, it is not as difficult a trip as it used to be.

Sure it is quite a climb, but it is not as bad as it once used to be. In fact there is even a helicopter service being operated from Jammu which allows you to skip most of the arduous climb, dropping you but a mile away from the temple. This is the ideal way for the elderly who are keen to visit the temple to make the trip. The younger ones are able to make the journey up by foot quite comfortable. You still have the mules and the “Palaki”s running so that’s an option you can exercise should you get too tired. The difficult climb is supposed to add to your merits in the eyes of the goddess, so many people prefer to climb even when tired. Then after they have visited the temple and obtained her blessings they take a mule ride back down.

It is also the belief that as you feel that you can not climb any more, the goddess comes to your rescue and you get a second wind. When you do reach the top, you must now get through a hole in the mountain which will take you to the holy cave inside. This sanctuary of the goddess “Sherawali” or the “one who rides a tiger” is the destination of millions of people worldwide. People from across the borders come to thank this goddess for boons that she has granted. In fact many miracles are given to her credit. It is also believed that once a person has obtained her blessing, he will no longer suffer hardships on earth.

The red cloth with golden border which is called her “Chunri” is carried back with people along with the “Prasad”. These are then tied to vehicles such as cars and scooters to get her constant protection. It is also a way for the driver of the vehicle to proclaim that he has made the difficult journey to the temple and back with the blessings of the goddess. While taking the helicopter in and out is the easiest way to do this tour, if you are more religious try and climb at least part of the path to feel good about journey. If she has sent you the summons you will go and visit her for sure.

Spiritual Travel : Amarnath Yatra

Amarnath Yatra

The Amarnath Yatra is an annual pilgrimage taken to the Himalayas by the devotees of Lord Shiva. In the Amarnath cave every year the drops of water form a stalagmite in the shape of the Shiv Ling. That is the symbol of Shiva that all devotees worship. The natural occurrence of this shape of stalagmite is supposed to be considered highly auspicious and many devotees undertake the strenuous journey each year to see it. Some people trek for miles even before they can reach the mountains. Others come in vehicles till Pehelgam and make camp at the base of the mountain range that they must now climb.

The cave in question is myth logically supposed to be the place where Shiva told Parvati, his wife, the secret of immortality. Since he wanted to ensure that no mortal being heard the secret, he took her to this distant and inaccessible cave. After they reached here, he divulged the secret to her. Only trouble is that after the long climb she was so tired that she fell asleep half way through the narration. Yet as he continued to talk some one keep saying “hmmm” and he continued the narration. It later transpired that a white bird had heard it all. When Shiva realized this he told the bird that it would be immortal, but would never be able to leave the cave for too long. This was to ensure that the bird did not pass on the secret to any human being.

No matter how fit you are, this is one demanding hike. The religious faith and zeal are what keep most of the people going. There are huge community kitchens set up at regular distances to feed the people. Some tents are also provided to offer shelter from the elements as you break for the night. The climb is difficult but it is not uncommon to see entire families making the journey together. You will have grand parents, parents and children all climbing up the slippery and treacherous slopes together. Falling, recovering, and supporting each another with physical help and encouraging words.

The journey is perhaps better than the actual destination. As the actual amount of time that you get to spend in the cave is severely limited. The security personnel are told to ensure that the line keeps moving, so you will barely get a feel of the cave before you have to move out again. The sight takes some getting used to, plus the stalagmite is cordoned off so you really wonder about just what you got to see as you get ushered out of the cave. Sure you will be given the “Prasad” and you will have a great sense of achievement at completing the trek up, but the actual site seeing can be over rather fast.

On the way down, one needs to be more careful than on the way up. Coming down moss laden paths is difficult at any time. So when it comes at the end of a couple of days of climbing up, you need to be alert and careful. At the end of the Amarnath Yatra the people who went along with you would have started out as strangers and wound up as best friends. It can be one of the best experiences of your life, as long as you prepare yourself for the trek well. Make sure that you carry adequate woolens and any medication that you will need. There is literally nothing available in the wilderness. There are no shops from where you can buy things. You will be dependent on what you carry or what others are willing to share with you.

07 April 2009

Life Goes On

I just noticed that I barely wrote on this blog last month. Guess with all the traveling and visits to hospitals there was little time left to devote to this blog.
Plus since work related blogs took up what ever free time I had, there was no time spare to get creative here.

Now that things are settling down somewhat and I am getting set for this month I should be more active here. I am currently drawing up a proposal for some training programmes to be conducted at school and college levels in Loni. Should that work out I will have lots to report.

As of now, am just catching up with all the work that was left over. Am coping quite well and in a day or two should be up to speed. Then lets get busy with the new company logo. A friend of mine has designed some stuff and I am really keen to see that. Its an exciting thing to start off with any new venture.

Bye for now, more news as it is generated.