Chardham Yatra - Personal Reflections
This 15-day pilgrimage made a powerful impact in all four of us in so many levels. The earlier trip to Kailash in July 2002 when Sarasa, myself and Kala joined a group of 23 persons and spent 17 days (culmination being our dip in Lake Mana Sarovar and the 48-kilometer parikrama at 15,300 ft to 18,600 ft elevation, in 3 days, of Mount Kailash). This pilgrimage rivaled the Kailash yatra in some sense. While it is difficult to say which amongst the two made a greater impact, it is safe to say that both these pilgrimages made powerful impact on us and raised our experience and understanding to higher levels that provided serenity, joy, peace and happiness.
What contributed to the serenity, joy, peace and happiness?
Was it the destination? Or, the journey itself?
Or, the lofty mountain peaks, the Himalaya mountain range, the Garwahl mountain range, the stupendous heights, the deep gorges, and the stunning beauty all around?
Or, the various sacred rivers, Yamuna, Bhagirathi, Mandakini, Alaknanda, Dhaula Ganga, Nandakini, Pindar Ganga, flowing for tens of thousands of years past and continuing well into the future?
Or, the walk, the steep slopes, the narrow pathways, the rain, the fog, the glaciers, the deep gorges, the thick vegetation?
Or, the strenuous walk to Yamunotri?
Or, the walk, along steep-gradient path, thinking of Lord Siva, to Kedarnath?
Or, standing face-to-face with the mythology, and history, of some of these places? – what our previous generations have passed down the stories and messages to their descendants some as old as 200+ years as the priest at Joshimath who told us of his great-great-grandfather telling them the story of Adi Sankara doing penance and meditation at the foot of the Kalpa Vriksha of 2,500 years old?
Or, the vibrations from these various mythological sites beginning with Bhagiraths penance to bring down Ganges to Earth to wash the sins of his ancestors, site of Lord Siva carrying Satis body, Vyasa narrating MahaBharatha & Puranas from Vyasa Gufa with Ganesh writing it down from Ganesh Gufa, River Saraswathi being asked to keep quiet and who then disappears, ?
Or, the watching of the Abhishekams at Kedarnath and Badrinath?
Or, the number of ashrams (few hundreds, I am told) in Rishikesh and Haridwar where persons can stay, take bath in Ganges, meditate and seek out ones betterment?
Or, the thousands of people assembling every evening for the aarti at Har-ki-pauri?
Or, the resilience of the villagers who go about their tasks with their meager belongings?
Or, the image of the villagers walking six to eight weeks (of every year) to Gaumukh, the origin of Ganges, to bring Ganges water to pour on to Lord Siva during month of Sravan?
Or, the small Siva temple, under the Kalpa Vriksha, at the place where Adi Sankara meditated?
Or, the visit to the samadhi of Adi Sankara, the big danda that signifies the danda that Adi Sankara carried?
Or, because Uttaranchal calls itself as The Abode of Gods or Dev Bhoomi? The Uttaranchal State publications further state that it is quite easy to believe that Lord Brahma, while creating the world, reserved the best place for His fellow deities. Undoubtedly, if Nature is the manifestation of Gods, the stunning beauty, the majestic grandeur of the mountains and peaks, the flow of these rivers and streams, the glaciers, the flora and fountain add a greatness and grandeur worth raving about and will invoke the thoughts of God in every one of us.
Or, the Kedarkhand as the area of the site of these char dham is known as?
Or, the sanctity of Badarikashrama (where Lord SrimanNarayan is doing penance?), where Lord Krishna suggests to his close friend, Uddhava, as the site where he should do penance?
I dont know. Maybe, all of the above and then some, as we oftentimes say when we do not know the answer!
These places are considered among our most sacred places. We will never be the same persons after we visit such places. I am humbled by this experience.