Greetings to everyone…by Mother’s grace, Guruji Swami Bhajanananda and I are in good health and are now in Delhi at the Ramakrishna Mission. We’ve returned here after having a wondrous adventure in the Himalayas!
After a pleasant morning train ride to Haridwar on the 22nd, we spent some days at the Kankhal Ashram. A day trip to Rishikesh was very nice (despite the massive development–hotels popping up like mushrooms)…complete with Ganga bath and even my favorite street-vendor fresh butter cookies!
A chance/pre-destined encounter with our friend Victoria was fortuitous. Among other things she introduced us to lemon ginger mint honey tea at a tiny makeshift cafe on the footpath on the swarg ashram side. We sipped tea with an eccentric westerner–not unlike our Russian friend Igor, except this fellow had an unplaceable accent…he’s been in Rishikesh since 1974, and has seen a lot…”The world needs more storytellers and shamans…there’s enough clever people in the world.”We returned to Haridwar. The next morning I inquired about a car to Ukhimath, not far from our beloved Kedarnath. Within ten minutes it was all arranged, and we had the best driver we’ve had in the Himalayas, a young, sweet devotee named Harish.We left Kankhal a little after 6:00am, and before 8:00am we were having hot alu parathas andchai for breakfast in the little village of Byasi….(which, you’d be surprised, boasts one of the cleanest public bathrooms I’ve seen—even in America!)
We continued on, and I was struck by how clear the weather was…I’ve never seen the air so clear…even from Haridwar you could see the snow peaks peeking through….But there were some low clouds snaking through some of the valleys, far from us on the road, but very beautiful.
But at around 9:00am Harish pulled over and we got out looked out to the vast canyon—actually three canyons meet here…they call it “Tin Dhara”….and right at this moment, at 9am the clouds and fog were burning off and being driven by the wind…the effect was like nothing I’ve ever witnessed: in the valley below, the Ganga snaked its way, but above that was this river of clouds, swirling, swelling, rising and falling….like a time lapse film, only happening in real time. All the clouds were glowing white in the morning sun, and when they would dance their way apart and reveal the Ganga below, she was catching the sun like a sunlit ribbon of sliver and gold….absolutely breath-taking! I took some pictures and some video…hopefully it will convey something of what we witnessed. So rare are these moments….to be there at that point, at that time….such grace!
And then we got back in the car…and within ten minutes we had our first glimpse of the Kedarnath peak! I’ve never seen him below Devprayag….that’s how clear it was! We didn’t stop at Devprayag…we decided to stop at Rudraprayag on the way up and Devprayag on the way down.
We had a wonderful bath at Rudraprayag before noon, and thought of everyone with each dip.
By 2:30pm we had reached Ukhimath and were eating lunch at the GMVN gust house….
Our little cottage, number 3, has its own little porch, and little open space next to it….and there, right there, framed perfectly in the hills….is our Kedarnath Mountain! Such a stunning view….that was our television…the moods of this mountain at morning, afternoon, in evening alpine glow….even by the light of the full moon (our first night)….I took I don’t know how many pictures and videos….but mostly we sat and did japa and drank in the darshan!….after eight years, I cannot describe what it was like to see this mountain…my eyes are tearing up just thinking of it….and from our little GMVN cottage, He looks so close! So clear…the play of shadows on snow and rock….and a form that has nothing to do with shadows or snow or rock. Truly amazing….such grace.
On the second evening Guruji and I put a cloth down on the lawn…and with cymbals and a mini dholak drum, we sang kirtan to Lord Kedar, to the mountain…the manager of the GMVN sat nearby and joined in…it was so incredibly lovely…at some point during the kirtan, a flock of emerald-green birds flew up and over….at this point Kedar peak was crowned with clouds.
And though the mornings and nights were cold…the days were quite warm. The food was simple, lovingly prepared…the best chai we’ve had in India so far…and many interesting people….That morning, a young Bengali man approached….and after some talking, he said that he knew Guruji Haradhanji! “Oh Haru-da! Yes…I knew him…there was no pujari like him!” Very sweet man, named Asshim. We gave pictures of Ma Dakshineswari, and took down info.
In the morning we visited the Ukhimath temple…had a puja performed on behalf of all the devotees. Very nice darshan!
That night after dinner Asshim introduced us to the man he and a lady friend were traveling with: a Dr. Sen, a Bengali doctor who has spent the last forty years walking the paths of Garwhal, and is considered one of the main experts of the Panch Kedar…the five mountain shrines to Siva. Dr. Sen has written many books on the region, and published books of his photographs….one of them is being sent to Kali Mandir….Dr. Sen is quite a trip…he connects on a mystical level to the nature and spirit of this region…he says this place is like the crucible used by alchemists to turn base metals into gold….those who come here are changed, transformed….the same person does not return…He has seen these peaks from every angle at all times of the year….he’s walked to the Panch Kedar shrines many many times. He also gave some good points about traveling, and encouraged us to one day see the panch kedar shrines. Very unique person. He quoted a Baul song: “Those who have seen Radha and Krishna in a red hibiscus have seen Them…..those who haven’t, haven’t.”
The next morning, the mountain was hidden in clouds and they sky dark….yet another mood!
After breakfast we left Ukhimath.
At noon we took our bath at Devprayag, where the Bagirathi and Alaknanda rivers meet, and Ganga officially begins. We walked up to Raghuvir temple and saw arati.
We made it back safely, and were back in the Kankhal Ramakrishna Mission before evening arati.
Now we’re resting in Delhi. Soon it will be on to the next adventure. And Swami Shantatmananda Ji told us that tomorrow Swami Chetanananda Ji will be visiting the Delhi center, so we’ll be able to see him!
We’re thinking of you all and missing you…and with every holy dip and every temple darshan, you are there with us. We hope all is well, and we’ll write again when we can…
Jai Jai Ma!
Yours in Mother,