Mystic Mountain, Mystery Lake! | Episode 2 – The Kingdom’s Tale!

16 Oct

Mystic Mountain, Mystery Lake!

Trave(b)log on Swamy’s Kailash-Manasarovar yatra through Isha Sacred Walks!

Episode 2 – The Kingdom’s Tale!

Sadhguru_Kailash1Swamy looked up and gasped. Words that are usually his friends (he is a writer, after all) deserted him and lay around like the innumerable pebbles that were almost everywhere on the path. After months of planning, preparing, wondering, praying, practicing, imagining and of course packing (more about them in later episodes), it was an incredible feeling to be actually there in that sacred space. With Joy Drops streaming down from his misty eyes, Swamy stood there silently, wondering if this was the culmination of the journey of a lifetime or a beginning of a new one that will be as marvelous as the path paved by nature for the 115 yatris who trekked along with him, ably, gently and kindly led by the exceptionally capable Isha Sacred Walks crew! Click this link to read Episode 1 – The Seeker’s Tale!Swamy @ Kailash

Swamy’s yatra started on 14-Aug-2013, with a flight from Chennai to Kathmandu via New Delhi. Like any Isha program, the utmost care for all participants and amazing attention to detail started right from Chennai airport, with group check-in directly to Kathmandu (hence, no overweight luggage worry) and even packed breakfast for all yatris. Packing for the trip was crazy and got completed (sort of) only in the wee hours of the previous day. Swami went to sleep well past midnight after publishing a blog post on pro motion that was also the promotion for the yatra (you may find links to Swamy’s blogs at the end of this post).

Swamy got introduced to a few fellow yatris at both Chennai and Delhi that included interesting beings such as a uniquely attired veterinary doctor who also happens to be a Kailash veteran (this was his 4th trip & 2nd with Isha), a retiree who has done many trips including the Alaskan cruise despite his physical condition (which he handled on his own with poise), an LIC employee suffering from severe arthritis but driven by her fierce devotion to Sadhguru, an elderly devotee from a leading hospital group family who can barely walk but tirelessly covering a long list of holi sites over the years and a successful business person and IIM alumnus whose bucket list starts with the Kailash trip! And the enchanting group of people Swamy got to know kept on extending till the very last day of the yatra!

Tribhuvan_Airport1Nepal looked ravishing from the air with lush green fields surrounded by majestic mountains, until the yatris sighted Kathmandu. Immigration clearance was quick (Indian citizens don’t even need a passport to enter Nepal – even a driving license will do) and the ever friendly and exceptionally capable Sherpas (more about these amazing beings in later episodes) welcomed the group with a shawl in the designated buses.

Kathmandu1The drive from Tribhuvan International Airport to the hotel showed, like any world capital city, Kathmandu too is a concrete jungle with haphazard construction dotting both sides of very narrow roads. The road to the hotel was lined up with showrooms of all Indian automobile manufacturers, further showcasing the friendly relationship of both nations. Maruti 800 taxis looked funny (the Nano taxis in Sri Lanka actually look cuter and probably are better suited for the purpose as well) but were apt for such narrow lanes, err, roads. Well, it’s time you met the enchanting country of Nepal to hear what we’ve been through and done there, right from the horse’s mouth!

Kathmandu4Namaskaram yatri (or seeker or tourist or reader or whoever you are). I’m Nepal, until recently the world’s only Hindu nation. After the horrible assassination of almost my entire royal family a few years ago, things have changed dramatically for me, politically that is. Now I too am a democracy, not too different from your country Bharat, aka India. Though just a fledgling democratic nation, with a lot to learn from my bigger sister Bharat Mata, I already resemble her in many ways – from ill (or no) planned infrastructure such as pot holed roads to chaotic traffic that’ll make everyone other than Nepali drivers go crazy to bickering politicians who love to play the musical chair for the Prime Minister’s gaddi! But what’s the shame in being the younger replica of an illustrious elder sister whose rich culture and heritage still inspires awe in whoever experiences her warm Aditi Devo Bhava nature!

As the entry point for both mystic Kailash and mighty Everest, I host hordes of pilgrims, trekkers and tourists every year. So, it is natural that tourism, hospitality and sale of mountaineering and trekking equipment and accessories are the prime sources of revenue for me (apart from handicrafts, artworks, garments, carpets, pashmina and paper), despite the fact that access to both these mountains are seasonal due to weather.

Soaltee_Plaza7I’m very proud of my enterprising and enthusiastic citizens, most of who wear the thilak (bindhi or kumkum) and a bright smile on their fair faces (a vast majority are Hindus). While the women dress exactly like their Indian sisters (Churidar, Salwar or Saree), men wear a waist coat and a topi, over their kurtas. Either almost every citizen of mine speaks Hindi fluently or travelers like you have no clue about the difference between Hindi and Nepali. Hotel Soaltee Crown Plaza, where you’ll stay before you start your yatra and after you conclude it, is one of the finest 5-star hotels I have that hosts thousands of tourists and yatris every year. The mountain vistas seen from the hotel rooms would give a glimpse of what you would see and experience later during the yatra.

Daily_ScheduleOn the evening of Day 1, after the Sathsang, a sutra (sacred thread) dipped in turmeric was tied to the wrists of all yatris. Isha’s thoughtfulness was at display once again, when each yatri was also provided a white cloth to tie on the wrists over the sutra, to avoid any stains on the furnishing in their rooms! Day 2 of the yatra began with Guru puja – a daily ritual to pay obeisance to all the Masters that have graced this planet and showed the path to many a seeker over millennia that kept promptly reminding us the purpose of the yatra – quick breakfast at the restaurant (it was too early to try so many varieties of dishes served) and some spirited singing of the Indian National Anthem in the bus (it was August 15th). We visited the ancient Pashupatinath temple, Patan and Bakthapur during the day.

Pashupathinath11Pashupatinath Temple is the oldest Hindu temple in Kathmandu. It is not known for certain when Pashupatinath Temple was founded. The temple for Pashupati, the Lord of all Pashus, which are living as well as non-living beings, dates back to 400 A.D. The richly-ornamented pagoda houses the sacred linga, i.e., holy symbol of Lord Shiva. A sprawling temple spread over large tracts of land, the temple is throbbing with praying, offering and meditating devotees. There is also a cremation place a la Manikarnika Ghat of Varanasi, just behind the temple, along the banks of the Bagmati River in the eastern part of Kathmandu. There are many legends describing as to how the temple of Lord Pashupatinath came to existence here, including this one.

Pashupathinath3aLegend says that Lord Shiva once took the form of an antelope and sported unknown in the forest on Bagmati river’s east bank. The gods later caught up with him, and grabbing him by the horn, forced him to resume his divine form. The broken horn was worshipped as a linga but overtime it was buried and lost. Centuries later an astonished herdsmen found one of his cows showering the earth with milk. Digging deep at the site, he discovered the divine linga of Pashupatinath.

Pashupathinath14

Sadhguru, the living Master and founder of Isha Yoga, explained the significance of Pashupatinath through a puranic lore, as the place where the Pandavas caught Lord Shiva’s (in the form of a Nandi, aka, bull) forehead or horn, while the hump, body and tail of bull surfaced elsewhere such as Thunganath and Mukthinath, each of which become sacred places of worship for the Lord of the Cosmos. The pre-vedic period Linga (8 – 12000 years old, at least) has 4 faces (6 according to locals – one each on top and bottom, unseen of course). It shouldn’t be a surprise to any devotee to find pashus (cows) lying right in front of the garba griha (sanctum sanctorum), exemplifying the fact that Shiva is the Lord of all pashus, i.e., beings.

Patan_Panorama

Patan was another kingdom (like my sister, I too was divided into many small kingdoms, which were later brought together by Prithvi Narayan Shah, a Gorkha king) and has ancient pagoda like structures with intricate wood carvings. It is among the largest cities in the country, along with Kathmandu, Pokhara, and Biratnagar. The city was initially designed in the shape of the Buddhist Dharma-Chakra (Wheel of Righteousness) and has many monuments including the stupas erected by Emperor Asoka and the Patan Durbar Square, which has been listed by UNESCO as one of seven Monument Zones that make up the Kathmandu Valley World Heritage Site. While visiting its many temples, one is certain to be amused to see Gopika like ladies clad in red in the Krishna temple, sitting in front of the Lord’s sannadhi (an energized space with the sacred deity). While the Isha yatris roamed around marveling about the architectural splendor of Patan, they also helped me set some record of sorts in the number of locks sold on a single day as most of the 116 yatris bought at least one, if not two, locks! Some of you may find it shocking that animal sacrifice is still in practice in some of the temple. The water buffalo’s intestine hanging in the entrance of the palace is an intriguing and disturbing reminder of this ancient ritual that feels out of place in these modern times. Bhaktapur_Panorama1s

Bhaktapur too was a beautiful kingdom but just exists as a popular tourist spot now. Located about 20 km east of Kathmandu in the Kathmandu Valley, Bhaktapur is known as the ‘City of Devotees’, the ‘City of Culture’, the ‘Living Heritage’, and ‘Nepal’s Cultural Gem’. It is one of the 3 royal cities in the Kathmandu Valley. A city built with temples or designed as a large temple complex, the city is dotted with pagodas and religious shrines, unfailingly making any visitor marvel at its mere sight. The museum at Bhaktapur has many a painting that showcases an amazing handshake between Buddhism and Shaivism in brilliant colors. Many forms of Shiva and Devi are very much part of the tantric practices in Nepal and those of you from India may not be surprised by this at all. Lying along the ancient trade route between India and Tibet, Bhaktapur is surrounded by mountains and provides a magnificent view of the mighty Himalayas.

Bhaktapur_Panorama2sRaj, a young art student and aspiring tourist guide does such a fabulous job of taking yatris like the Isha group around the town filled with monuments, most terra-cotta with carved wood columns, palaces and temples with elaborate carvings, gilded roofs, open courtyards that some of them ended up buying an enchanting painting of Buddha’s life story from his painting school. The fact that a portion of the sale went to an orphanage obviously helped the sale! Some smart yatris also purchased quality woolen clothing and accessories at throwaway prices, unlike their not-so-smart fellow yatris who’ve spent a fortune buying them in India! Raj may one day join the eclectic brigade of young tourist guides, who are proud about their nation’s culture and heritage and keep reminding me of my glorious past that I continue to cherish. Some of the Isha yatris also went to the neighborhood of Thamel, Kathmandu’s primary “traveler’s ghetto”, packed with guest houses, restaurants, shops, and bookstores, catering to tourists. A few devout type yatris visited popular temples in Kathmandu such as the Swayambhunath (Monkey temple), Kumari Chhen (the temple of living Goddess) and Kali temple.

Bhaktapur40After a long day out, Swamy and his group of Isha yatris returned to the hotel, had a sumptuous dinner, packed all their stuff in the large duffel bag (more about it in the “Despite my stupidity” episode later) provided by Isha (how thoughtful of them, again) and hit the sack for an early morning start to Tibet. Read about it soon in Episode 3 – The Nomad’s Tale!

Note: All the photographs – except Sadhguru’s & Lord Shiva’s – have been taken by @PrakashSwamy (or another yatri using Swamy’s camera) during the yatra. You may view more memorable pics taken at mesmerizing locales in, around and en route to Mystic Mountain, Mystery Lake in Swamy’s Picasa album!

.

Love + Gratitude > @PrakashSwamy

Be Joyful & Spread the Cheer 🙂

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5 Responses to “Mystic Mountain, Mystery Lake! | Episode 2 – The Kingdom’s Tale!”

  1. VJ June 17, 2016 at 3:42 pm #

    Hi ! I am not able to find your next blog post in this series on kailash yatra! dont suppose u have posted it?

  2. Kailash Yatra July 28, 2014 at 7:03 pm #

    Your first episode also very informative and in this second episode you can explain each and every thing very clearly and nicely.

  3. chakradhar devapooja October 20, 2013 at 4:38 am #

    namaskaram swami. can u tell me if how much was the amount of donation they charged for the trek..please swami..coz as the dates are over they are not replying anymore.if u donot wish to put it in public..u can mail me on devapoojachakradhar@gmail.com. thanku!!!

    • prakashswamy October 20, 2013 at 7:28 pm #

      This year’s Isha Kailash Yatra has concluded. You can track next year’s schedule in sacredwalks.org website. The cost varies from batch to batch & may vary from year to year also. Please contact the numbers provided in the sacred walks Kailash page for information required. You may also try Varanasi Yatra in Nov ’13.

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