~Steep way to God ~

Kedarnath is one of the 4 Char Dham Hindu pilgrim centers in Uttarakhand, India. The town and the temple are open from May to October only to avoid heavy snowfall in winter. Specific dates are as per the Hindu Calendar and one needs to check for specific dates for each year. One can still visit when the town is shut down but one needs to be prepared for being on own amidst heavy snow fall.

Kedarnath (about 3400 m high)  is highest among the 12 Jyotirlingas.

Kedarnath is approachable on foot from Gaurikund (about 2900m high), which is connected by road to Rishikesh, Kotdwar, Dehradun, Haridwar and other important hill stations of Garhwal and Kumaon region. Daily buses/taxis from Hardwar/Rishikesh/Dehradun ply during the pilgrim season (approx May to October) take you to Gauri Kund. The road ends here. Kedarnath is a steep 14 km trek from Gauri Kund (horses and palanquins are available for hire). There is even a helicopter service during peak season, which is run by Pawan Hans Helicopter service.

From Haridwar every day morning buses start to Gaurikund. Advance bookings can be made at GMOA (Garhwal Mandal owners Association) office in front of the railway station. It takes almost one full day journey to reach Gaurikund if there are no Landslides. Bus journey is very beautiful because most of the 240 kms is ghat road journey with many mountains around and river ganga following you through out the way.

If you choose to drive your own vehicle, make sure it has good ground clearance as there are rocks strewn all over the route. A powerful engine will make life much easier. There are two parking lots just before Gaurikund (100m, 500m before Gaurikund). Getting space for private vehicles is tough, but can be managed after polite cajoling discussions with the caretakers. 5 km below Gaurikund, there is SonPrayag. There is fatak (gate) here to make sure vehicles move in one direction only from SonPrayag to Gaurikund. It ensures minimum traffic snarls, but adds 1-1.5 hrs to journey time should you end up on the stationary side. It would be advisable to park your vehicle at SonPrayag and hitch a ride to Gaurikund.

As soon as you reach Gauri kund, the people who own mules will start asking you if you need a mule for trek to kedarnath. Dont commit anything to them. The going rates in 2011 are INR 400-700. Make sure your mule has been adequately rested before you start (it’s a very steep climb) and that it has some experience of the route (mules run on auto-pilot if not controlled by the guide or you).

Porters (pitthus in local language) are also available to carry your luggage up to Kedarnath and leave you free to walk up lighter. They can deliver to your hotel directly or walk with you.

At Gaurikund, there are some privates guest houses to stay. GMVN’s guest house is usually the best option and bookings can be made online as well. You can also take a dip in the holy water from a hot spring. Its a great relief to take bath in hot water. Some may find it crowded.

Kedarnath is 14kms from Gaurikund and you can choose to walk or take a mule. Older people take the doli, which is carried by 4 hired people. If you can walk half a kilometer towards Kedarnath you will find the office of booking mules and dolis. There will be plenty of people on the side ways asking you, if you need a mule. Its always better to book in that office because the mules which they give are good in health and strong.

Once you start from Gaurikund, there is a concrete road to walk on and there is a small shop for every 200 meters where you can get some tea, chocolates, biscuits, maggi noodles etc., After 7kms , you reach a place called Rambara. There are couple of guest houses here to stay including one by GMVN. Most pilgrims take a break here and eat some food and then resume the journey towards Kedarnath.

Trek towards Kedarnath - KedarNath, Uttarakhand

The air gets thinner after Rambara and many people experience breathing trouble between Rambara and Kedarnath. This is particularly acute for people walking up. The ascent flattens out about a Km before Kedarnath. Thus, one climbs up about 1500 m in the 13 KM between Gaurikund and this point.

The Holy river Mandakini accompanies the trekkers throughout the tough, but rewarding journey, as one is encountered by numerous beautiful waterfalls on the way. ūüėÄ

The view is fantastic while moving towards temple but the dung of mules make you feel uncomfortable because of so many mules. Even though there are some people, who constantly clean the path, it still smells little bad. A good pair of binoculars would make the journey even more breath-taking.

Advertisement

“Gods on Ride”

Once Lord Shiva and his consort, Parvati, were travelling with their vehicle – the Bull (Nandi). The Lord had taken the form of an old man, while, Parvatiji remained young and beautiful. On the road all passers-by looked on with amazement at this odd couple of an old man and a young woman.

On the way, Shiva said, ”Parvatiji, my dear, please sit and ride on the bull during this journey.” She obeyed and mounted the bull while Shiva walked alongside. The village folk and other strangers bitterly criticised, ”What a selfish woman! She is young and healthy and yet she chooses to comfortably ride while forcing the old man to walk.” Shiva changed his mind. ”Parvatidevi, the people are mocking you. It is wiser that I sit and you walk.” So saying, Shiva sat on the bull’s back. Further along, other strangers came with sharper comments, ”O look at this mean, bully of a man. He’s fat and robust, and evil too. He enjoys the ride while forcing this young and gentle lady to walk on foot.”

 

Hearing this both of them climbed the bull. At least, this would ward off the criticisms. But they were gravely mistaken and no sooner had they come to the next village, people sneered and jeered. ”Look at this nasty couple. Both of them have mercilessly climbed upon the bull. They’ll kill the poor creature!”
Now there was only one option left. They dismounted and allowed the bull to walk freely. They accompanied it on either side. While they walked, they met new people with new bitterness. They laughed at them, shouting ”What foolishness! They have taken a bull as a vehicle and neither of them is using it.” Straight away Shiva told Parvati, ”Come let us do what we think is right, and live the way we want to. The world will never appreciate or see what we do as correct.”

In this world, even if we perform a good deed not everyone will like it and support it. The problem lies with the nature of our world. If a Sadhu shows miracles people say, ”He’s into black magic and possesses evil powers.” And if a Sadhu avoids miracles, some will mutter complaints, ”O! He shows no miracles. He’s ordinary and is of no use.” This is the line of thinking our world works on. It is crooked from both ends and whatever you do, the world will never see you straight. Therefore, pay no attention to the words of the worldly people and continue to¬†devotely worship God.

 

Om Namah Shivay!!

‘Gate to Lord’

The name Nathdwara means ‘Gate of the Lord’.

Nathdwara is a town in Rajasthan state of western India. It is located in the Aravalli hills, on the banks of the Banas River in Rajsamand District, 48 kilometers north-east of Udaipur. This town is famous for its temple of Krishna which houses the idol of Shrinathji.

Nathdwara is a very famous Hindu pilgrimage site. This is one of the most eminent pilgrimage shrines of India, preserving Krishna as Govardhana Giridhari.

Nathdwara enshrines Shrinathji – an image of Krishna, which was originally enshrined at the Vraja Bhoomi at Mount Govardhana near Mathura. The image of Srinathji is believed to have been a self manifested one.

As per the religious myths, the shrine at Nathdwara was built in the 17th century at the spot as exactly ordained by Shrinathji himself. The idol of the Lord Krishna was being transferred to a safer place from Vrindaban to protect it from the anti-Hindu, iconoclastic and barbarian destruction of the Mughal ruler Aurangzeb. When the idol reached the spot at village Sihad or Sinhad, the wheels of bullock cart in which the idol was being transported sank axle-deep in mud and could not be moved any farther. The accompanying priests realised that the particular place was the Lord’s chosen spot and accordingly, a temple was built there under the rule and protection of the then Maharana Raj Singh of Mewar.

Vallabhacharya the founder of this deity’s idol at Govardhan hill, near Mathura made arrangements for the worship and this tradition was continued by his son, Vitthalesh Goswami also known as Vitthal Nathji,institutionalised the worship of Shrinathji at Nathdwara. Shrinathji is worshiped by priests from this kul (genealogical descendants) of Vallabh Acharya, in all Havelis around the world, which have also been established exclusively by them.

The temple is also popularly called Shrinathji ki Haveli

The temple has everything that is required in a household from transport to food facility for the God Krishna.

Chariot for movement ; (In fact the original chariot in which Shrinathji was brought to Singhar)

A drawing room (Baithak)

A functional kitchen (Rasoighar)

A jewellery chamber (Gahnaghar)

A treasury (Kharcha bhandaar)

A gold and silver grinding wheel (Chakki)

Store room for milk (Doodhghar)

A store room for Betel (Paanghar)

A store room for sugar and sweetmeats (Mishrighar and Pedaghar)

A store room for flowers (Phoolghar)

A stable for horses of chariot (Ashvashala)

The Image of Shrinathji Shrinathji symbolizes a form of Krishna, when he lifted the Govardhan hill.

In the image, the lord is revealed with his left hand raised and the right hand made into a fist resting at the waist, with a large diamond placed beneath the lips.

The idol is carved in Bas-relief out of a monolithic black marble stone, with images of two cows, one lion, one snake, two peacocks and one parrot engraved on it and three sages placed near it.

The main attractions are the Aartis and the Shringar, i.e. the dressing and beautifying of the idol of Shrinathji, I was surprise to see that the idol is treated as a living person, adorning it with the appropriate dresses for the time of day or night.Tradition holds that Shrinathji would return to Govardhan some day.

I look forward to visit the “House of Krishna” again.

Jai Sreenath Ji Ki !