The stream liddar
The next morning like the presence of pati driving off the pAsam, the bondages, the sun drove off the cold weather. It was quite warm in fact. That is why the layered clothing is suggested for mountaineering, as it gets warm a few layers could be removed and when it gets cold more could be added. The climate at the high altitudes change quite drastically in very short time. That day's trekking started off at 7.30 am after a small breakfast. As earlier there were quite some Indian military men on the path. Their presence was a moral boost to many yatris. They were greeting the yatris bam bam bole and were encouraging the yatris. They also helped the old yatris to cross certain difficult passes. After walking a couple of kms felt quite tired. As long as this feeling was not there the climbs were quite easy. Started thinking, "Oh God if there could be a horse may be it would be helpful." Within half a km a horse that was standing down the riverside was quite tempting. Still did not want to cover the entire distance by horse. So booked the horse just to reach over the mahagunas top from there. The other devotee who was coming along decided to walk. Though there was feeling that should walk all the way to our Lord's abode the thought that the ultimate aim should be to reach in the Lord's abode in time was consoling.
But it was true. The horse took to the top of the mahagunas well within an hour. This is the highest altitude point in this trek. It is at an altitude of 4276 Mtrs from the mean sea level. From this point again decided to cover the remaining distance by walk. There were even small kids aged around 7-8 years were walking praising the Lord bam bam bole. From this point till poshpatri it is a downward slope. The walk was initially on the ridge of the mountain with a deep slope on one side. From poshpatri to panchataraNi it is more or less the same level. By the time reached in panchataraNi it was 1 pm. In the tent booked by the yatra service people, changed the old pant and T-Shirt and shedding off some more load from the bag continued the journey. From here it is just 6 km to the covetous abode where we want to worship the Lord, Who dances on the snow mountains.
The first sight of the Holy cave
When started off from panchataraNi the legs started pleading for a horse ride. But the Lord amarnath had decided to call strictly by walk near the holy cave. All the horsemen few horsemen at panchataraNi refused to come to the cave. From this point actually is a climb. The path initially looked very smooth gradient. So started walking enjoying the flow of the sideby flowing river. Soon was seen the climb that took to the peak of the mountain. The tired leg made the mind just get shocked how this pass could be crossed. It looked a real mountainous job ! It appeared there was hardly any energy left. But the lovely Lord was calling ! With so many pauses continued the climb. There were a few horses coming down and one of them free. Asked the horseman whether he could take to the cave. But when the Lord was determined that this path near the abode has to be covered only by foot which horseman would come ! That horseman just refused and went off. Mind screamed to the Lord, "Oh God help me." Certainly He blessed by giving the determination to move, but if He has to do everything without our hard effort then what exactly are we good for !! The 2 to 3 feet path went up and up. With very frequent halts was inching forward. The trekking bag which was carrying some chocolates, water etc also appeared heavy like the good karma though may be helpful at times is still a burden on the shoulders. The military man encouraged, "Be brave, move ahead." Somehow got over this pass and the path was less steep afterwards. (Later came to know about many devotional acquaintances - quite old, who said they walked up the complete way to the cave from panchataraNi !! When the Lord blesses why can't one do it. It is the feeling of ease and determination that brings up people easily through the Lord's grace.)
After about a km there was a path joining this one. That comes from sonamarg to the holy cave. This is a shorter route as compared to this traditional route, but is more steep and very near to the Pakistan Occupied Kashmir. When the mind was full of fatigue and body was inching forward one of the person from the yatra service who was returning after having the darshan appeared and said that the cave could be seen just if the curve was crossed. It was like the darshan of the great saintly devotees to the ones who are trying amidst their struggles to reach the Lord's bliss. As the curve got over there was seen the fruit for which all the effort was !! The marvelous sight of the Magnificent Lord's holy cave !! The mouth uttered bam bam bole, namaH shivAya. Now there was quite some refreshment in the mind. Praying the Lord moved ahead. The path was bifurcating here. For the ease took the one that was not going up. Actually the other one was the correct path and this one though takes to the holy cave is over the icy caves under which the stream runs. But nothing happened. Slowly moved forward towards the cave. Again the body started slowly affected by fatigue. The climate was slightly getting damp. The army men in one camp asked to sit near the fire for some time and gave some water. Though the legs were pleading for rest the Lord's abode was pulling. At one point the legs just refused to move ahead. The cave was just 1.5 kms away. But it was a climb again.
As we approach closer
There was a boy with a horse. The boy agreed to take for the first 1 km if he was given the high amount he was asking for. He agreed finally. But when the Lord has decided the reaching of the abode will be only by walk, what effect this agreement would have !! One of the person from our group was returning after having darshan of the Lord. He said the rate was too much and bargained for the return directly to panchtaraNi after having darshan, but the boy refused and went. Oh God, only Your will can succeed ! It was all quite interesting, the lovely Lord's play ! Slowly reached the bottom of the cave. It was the very fine evening time about 5 pm. Very nice time to pray the Lord. Walked up the stairs to the Lord's cave. Sprinkling the holy amaraga~Nga water went to the altar. Oh here is that marvelous place ! This is the holy place of our heart stealing Lord; This is the holy abode worshipped by the sage bhR^i.ngi; This is the place where the Deathless Lord sits; This is the place where the Lord explained to the Goddess pArvatI His birthless - deathless character; This is the place where the Graceful Supreme Who wears the skulls of others indicative of His Ever-permanent existence blissfully reside to bless all the devotees who come to worship It in devotion. Salutations to this Peerless Lord ! Salutations to His liberating Feet !!
Lord shrI amarnAth
The darshan of our beloved amaranAtha swamy could be had from mid July to mid August. Initially the shivali~Nga formed would be quite huge. It slowly melts off as the days pass. But the Unobscurable Lord is ever there blessing the devotees through Its subtle form. Adjacent to the Lord's seat one more li~Ngam gets formed which is the symbol of Goddess pArvatI. There are no yatris permitted to walkdown to pa~nchataraNi after about 6 pm. There are tents available near the holy cave also. But the yAtra service people had booked the tents at pa~nchatarani. So inspite of the love to stay in the Lord's holy abode, had to rush back. Pleaded to God, "Please bless to come to this holy abode of Thee atleast once more !!" Slowly climbed down the steps. Meanwhile couple of other pilgrims from the same yatra service joined. Now there was no choice the leg seemed to accept, had to take a horse ride back to pa~nchataraNi. Till the curve point where the view of the Holy Cave gets hidden kept looking back from the horse, the guhAvAsi's abode. When the horse stopped near the tents in pa~nchataraNi it was just the sunset. As the full moon was nearing, the illuminant moon was shining over the sharp peak at the backdrop. How beautiful is this Crescent Crowned Lord's world !
The bailgaNv temple - A glory of the past - today's view
Next day continued the journey on horse back to chandanwari and from there by jeep to bailgA.Nv. A well aged member of the yatra service who couldn't come up to the cave fell on the feet of all the yatris without considering the age. It is the respect for the Lord Who out of His mercy gave the darshan, granted a safe journey and sits blessing in our minds. It was just time for the pradhoSham (4) worship. Immediately after a nice bath went to the northern abode which was seen on the way to sing the glory of the Lord that gets reflected in the flowing streams and roaring waterfall and wrinkle clad lakes. Came to know over there the existence of an old abode in the same village on the eastern part. The next day morning we went to the eastern abode. Situated little bit elevated the temple is not quite visible from the main road. On reaching over at the abode there was a board stating the (damaged) temple was renovated by a regiment of the army. When we stepped in the sight was shocking. A marvelous temple called mAmaleshwar, very rich in its art, it tells stories of the antiquity, which indicated it should have been a magnificent one also in the earlier periods, but damaged to a very small structure just having the sanctum. Can the religious atrocities of these terrorists be so shameful !! Entered the Sanctum and there was even more appalling sights. A very beautifully carved na.ndi (bull) sculpted with four faces with one face completely damaged was kept on a side. There were many such damaged idols. Oh God don't the barbarians who did this have atleast a little bit of artistic sense if not religious tolerance ? Probably this is the abode associated with the Lord leaving bull at this village en route to amarnAth cave. What would have happened to such ancient temples in chandanwari, SheShnAg, mahaguNAs, pa~nchataraNi ?! There are now not even traces of existence of Hindu temples in these places. Oh what is the curse that this cradle of shaivam which elevated the thoughts and souls of many has gone into this ruins ? Oh Lord rudra, the protector of the devotees may this land attain its glory once again and for ever as a lighthouse for the world, this is our prayer.
With a heavy heart completing the worship came out. As per the schedule the next destination was Srinagar. But there were reports of bomb blasts and troubles were expected as the next day was India's Independence day. The yatra service people decided to returned back to Jammu region.vaiShNo devi cave is just a few kms away from the Jammu Srinagar high way. Though this is also a cave on the mountain, this trek is not hectic and is on well laid down road, steps all throughout. In the base town of this holy place one very young hindu shop keeper was enquiring, "Does your state also has these kind of disturbances that we fear day to day ?" The longing for peace was melting the heart. Oh Lord, Preserver of Justice, let there not be disturbances in our state or in this person's state or in any part of the world. Let there be peace, peace, peace everywhere which enables the minds to enjoy the bliss of Thy Holy Feet !!
bam bam bhole
jai amarnAth ji ki