By Shivansh Kandpal
Shivansh Kandpal is a Pahadi Mariner from Chamoli Uttarakhand. Half of his heart is in the mountains, the other in the ocean. He loves to write, travel, cook and sing.
Editors note: this is a photo essay of sorts, of a pilgrimage that is also a gruelling trek in the Himalayas. Walking in the mountains can be a life changing experience, if we just let it!
Translated from the Hindi original by Rizwan Shaik
I went very close to heaven, where I met Mahadev himself, and returned, blessed!
Despite having lived in Chamoli for my entire life, I had never been to Rudranath before. Then one day the call finally came! Our journey began from Chamoli in the morning, and soon we were in Saggar, the starting point of the Rudranath trek. The exact length of the trekking route to Rudranath was a mystery in itself, some said it was 22 kilometres some said 24 some 26 kilometres. Time would tell!We soon entered beautiful alpine forests. The trek took us across wild grasslands, through thick woods, past bubbling spring and wild shrubs, and cheerful birds that all seemed bound by an unseen power. Not for all our thousands of years of civilization could humans ever create it.
After walking in the forest for a while, we reached Punga Bugyal located in the middle of the woods. Lying in the velvety grass glistening with the morning dew and soaking in the gentle rays of the morning sun, we were refreshed, our tiredness disappeared. The rest helped us regain our strength for the dangerous climb ahead. We were going to the place of dreams.During the next step of the journey, Mahadev would test our physical, emotional, and spiritual strength – the ascent of Chakradhar. We had been warned that this climb was not for the faint-hearted, but we needed to climb the mountain for ourselves to learn the truth. As we went further uphill, the climb became progressively more difficult and wasn’t as back-breaking as we had feared.
The weather changed every moment, from dense fog to sunshine that lit up the breathtaking view of Saggar and Gangol gaon below. It seemed as if the horizon was expanding with every step. Far-flung villages in the distance became visible now. The challenging climb began to seem endless. We walked for a while then rested, taking short breaks to regain our strength chanting Mahadev’s name every so often.We were at an altitude now where small bushes grew instead of tall trees. We could see a herd of cows grazing in the Bugyal. We saw the picturesque Alaknanda Valley in front of us as we turned our heads. We didn’t stop and continued to move forward. The difficult climb was becoming more dangerous.
From a distance, we saw a large number of flags through the fog, and we thought we had reached the temple. We placed the stones in Pitridhar in remembrance of our ancestors and moved forward.Our speed had increased considerably, but the route was becoming narrower and more challenging. Now we could see purple and white rhododendron blossoms instead of red rhododendrons. The fast-paced trek came to a sudden stop, and our jaws dropped in surprise. The Panchganga Bugyal lay before us. Never in my whole life had I seen such a beautiful view. Sheep grazed in a vast grassy meadow which had many springs with the Himalayan peaks in the background. I felt like leaving everything behind and staying there forever. We filled water from the pristine Panchganga, which was so cold that our very souls froze.It was raining heavily, but that didn’t bother us anymore. As we drew closer, my excitement increased. When we finally reached Baba’s home, our place of origin, the distance we walked, and the difficulties we faced, did not matter at all. There was only peace, a calmness that a person would find hard to achieve even after a million tries. Being so high up in the mountains and far from the world, a person realises what truly matters in life.It’s impossible to describe the atmosphere and the sheer joy I felt when I joined the Aarti that evening. The room next to the temple was our sleeping quarter for the night. I was so exhausted that I quickly fell asleep, even though there were no beds or amenities, just a blanket that was provided in the temple. A mischievous mouse frolicked in the room all night.When we left the next morning after the morning Arti and prayers, we wished that Mahadev would call us again.
Whenever I set out on journeys such as these, I can’t help but wonder what inspires men to climb such dangerous heights. Then I realise that these journeys need not only physical strength but also mental and spiritual strength. Without the love of nature and reverence in their hearts one can’t reach these heights. Even though my legs ached when we got home, the sights I had seen and what my heart had felt in those two days will remain beautiful and mesmerizing with me, forever!
Har Har Mahadev!
Note on the translator:
Rizwan is an English Language trainer and runs a coaching centre in Hyderabad. He loves plants and animals, reading, music and TV. He translates and edits regularly for The Slow Movement.
You can read the Hindi original of the story here: