Himalayan Sacred Walks - Part I25, Oct, 2017, by Seema Bhatnagar
The tall and mighty Himalayan ranges in the Northern border of India are the backbone of the country, protecting it from harsh winters and chilly winds. The name "Himalaya" means "the abode or house of snow", originated from Sanskrit language, means - “hima” - "snow", and alaya" - abode or house". It represents the loftiest and one of the most rugged mountain barriers in the world often referred to as the "roof of the world.".
On one side it is perennially covered with snow while on the other side it is a home of natural biodiversity. This biodiversity is so abundant that it is difficult to find such a variety and richness anywhere else in the world. It is also a home for rarest of rare herbs which are used in creating formula of Ayurvedic medicines.
Since ages Himalayas have been a home for ancient Indian seers and sages. They inhabited these caves for meditating deeply to experience the peak of human consciousness. Interestingly, what we experience today as spirituality is actually the fruits of labor of all those mystical sages and seers who invested their whole life meditating in these Himalayan caves.
Himalayan ranges on Indian map.
Himalayan ranges are one of the most important parts of Indian geography. The Indus and Ganges are some of the main rivers originate from here, which further become the life line for millions staying near the banks and in the plains. Following are some interesting geographic facts about Himalayas.
- The Himalayas run along the northern border of India forming an arc which is about 2,400 km long. (as depicted in the image above.)
- The width varies from 400 km in Kashmir to 150 km in Arunachal Pradesh.
- The altitudinal variations are greater in the eastern part than in the western part.
- These mountain ranges run in a west-east direction from the Indus river to the Brahmaputra river.
- There are three parallel ranges in its longitudinal extent –
- The Great or Himadri (Inner Himalayas)
- The Lesser Himalayas or Himachal (Middle Himalayas)
- The Shiwalik (The outer Himalayas)
It will be interesting to share a bit of background around this trip before going more into details.
Somewhere in the month of June, I got an email from Isha Foundations, announcing dates of yearly trip to Himalayas. It was mentioning the names of places to be covered, mainly Kedarnath, Badrinath, Gangotri and few others which are not so popular, like, Guptkashi and Uttarkashi.
I had heard about these places from people but I was never so keen visiting these places and also never explored what are these famous for. Last year, while I was browsing through YouTube videos I came across one in which Sadhguru mentioned that one must visit Himalayas once in lifetime to experience their magnanimity, it has something to offer which cannot be experienced anywhere else in the world. Somewhere deep down this statement left an impact on me and I felt like exploring it from spiritual perspective.
While I have already experienced Ladakh region of Himalayas and was absolutely enamored by the beauty and magnanimity of the cold desert but when it comes to spiritual experience it was missing there. This part of Himalayas i.e. Uttrakhand Himalayan range, is more significant from spiritual perspective.
Last year, in 2016 also I explored the possibility of undertaking this journey but I was experiencing pain in right knee and both heels and they were not in a position to take that much stress. So I simply postponed it for next year i.e. 2017.
This year as soon as the dates got announced I registered myself. Since my heels and knee got healed properly by practicing special asanas and kriyas, and now I had all the good reasons to go ahead with it.
As a part of eligibility criteria for the journey, one is required to furnish medical fitness certificate. So, I got my ECG, hemoglobin, BP and pulse rate examined by the doctor. Fortunately, all reports came absolutely normal and I was declared fit to undertake the journey. For the first time in my life I got my ECG done, I was just laughing to myself, oh.. my sweet Heart, you are still working fine after being broken several times by Worldly forces..:-)…
The only motivation behind undertaking this journey was to experience what Sadhguru has to share. Going by my nature, I am not a person keen on visiting temples but this time wanted to go because Sadhguru had himself designed this whole trip for taking meditators to places where they can experience the powerful energy.
After registering, I had no idea how many people would be there, how strenuous journey would be, how would I manage all alone. Not wasting too much energy I simply brushed aside these doubts and queries and never asked anything from anybody. I simply kept quiet and waited for the day of departure, Sunday, 17 September, 2017 to come.
Uttrakhand Himalayan range
Uttrakhand state is divided into two divisions, Garhwal and Kumaon, with a total of 13 districts. The interim capital of Uttarakhand is Dehradun, the largest city of the state. Due to presence of many Hindu temples and pilgrimage centers throughout the state it is also popularly known as “Dev Bhumi”, it’s literal meaning in Hindi language is – “Dev” is Gods and “Bhumi” is land which gets translated as “Land of Gods.”.
It has a multiethnic population spread across two geocultural regions: the Garhwal, and the Kumaon. Besides Garwali and Kumaoni as regional dialect, Hindi is the main spoken language here.
Since it is a hilly region so rains are common phenomenon here but in June 2013 several days of torrential rains caused devastating floods in the region, resulting in more than 5000 people missing and presumed dead. This natural calamity of flooding was referred to in the Indian media as a "Himalayan Tsunami".
Our itinerary was to visit, Kedarnath, Badrinath, Gangotri, Guptkashi and Uttarkashi, Rishikesh and Haridwar.
Kedarnath, Badrinath, Gangotri and Yumnotri in together popularly called as Chota Char Dham Yatra, or small pilgrimage to four most holy places of Uttrakhand in Himalayas. The bigger or actual Char Dham Yatra includes places Puri(in east), Rameshwaram (in south), Dwarka (in west) and Badrinath (in north) touching the four ends of India. Our itinerary was minus Yumnotri, perhaps more than Chota Char Dham yatra as Guptkashi and Uttarkashi are included here. All these places come under Garhwal division of Uttrakhand state.
The duration of our trip was for 10 days, starting from Sunday, 17 September, 2017 till Wednesday, 27 September 2017.
Below given image depicts the trip itinerary.
A Delhi - 17 September, 2017
B Haridwar - 17 September, 2017
C Sitapur - 18 September, 2017
C Kedarnath - 19 September, 2017
C Sitapur - 20 September, 2017
D Guptkashi - 21 September, 2017
E Badrinath - 22 September, 2017
F Pipalkoti - 23 September, 2017
G Uttarkashi - 24 September, 2017
H Gangotri - 25 September, 2017
I Uttarkashi - 25 September, 2017
J Rishikesh - 26 September, 2017
Haridwar - 27 September, 2017Note for reading map: (i) - Location C is repeated because there is no motorable road, so a line cannot be shown connecting Sitapur to Kedarnath. This is a limitation of google maps.
(ii) Location I and G are same, hence G is overlapped by I.
The elevation of these places tells the variation of height of Uttrakhand range of Himalayas.
- Kedarnath 3,583 m (11,755 ft)
- Badrinath 3,100 metres (10,170 feet)
- Gangotri 3,100 metres (10,200 ft)
- Guptkashi 1,319 metres (4,327 ft)
- Uttarkashi 1,158 m (3,799 ft)
- Rishikesh 372 m (1,220 ft)
- Haridwar 314 m (1,030 ft)
The journey begins.
Sunday, Sept 17, 2017, was the day of departure. I was all set to reach at New Delhi Railway station to report coordinator by 8 am. I didn’t know anybody and just had a contact number of coordinator.
Availed Delhi metro service and reached destination, it was a short, 20 minutes journey from my home. The meeting point was parking area at New Delhi Railway station. It was difficult to locate the bus as the parking area was too big and walking with a luggage is not a cake walk.
Loaded with three items of luggage, I was searching for the bus, somehow reached a point where somebody approached me and asked me if I am going with Isha group. Trusting them fully I quickly nodded and handed over my luggage to them.
On boarding I occupied my seat and made myself settled, till this point I did not know anybody. There was some technical issue with the bus so departure time got delayed. After a wait for almost 3 hours we could start our journey towards Haridwar, a starting point or a base point for further journey.
By the evening around 6:30 pm, we reached Haridwar.
Reaching there I got to know about the big number of people joining this trip. On the first glance it was a huge gathering. Everyone was busy handling luggage. We were randomly allocated rooms in pairs in order to accommodate all in the hotel. I got to stay with a girl from Chennai, (a state from Southern India).
After freshening up in respective rooms we all gathered for a dinner. Post dinner we were shown videos of Sadhguru, this session of video is called as Sathsang. Through the sathsang, he gave us his own experience of travelling in Himalayas and briefed us about the rest of the journey with Dos-and-Don’ts, guidelines and important things to carry etc.. After that few other important announcements were made by the group leaders and coordinators.
As per the plan, we were divided into 2 groups, A and B. They announced the bus allocation for each person, which will remain same for the rest of the journey. Also, the point-of-contact persons and doctors were announced for each bus. Each bus was numbered accordingly.
During night, I and my roommate were introducing to each other. After knowing about her, I was absolutely blown away by her courage and boldness. She narrated her story of how she overcame the pain of physically abusive marriage. Got divorce from her husband within a week and vowed not to marry again, but her parents are hell-bent on getting her married once again. During this battle at home she was physically abused by her parents too, that finally made her to decide to leave home and stay in a girl’s hostel.
Now she is living her life the way she wants without worrying about anything in life. She has decided to dedicate her life to Isha Foundations as a full-time volunteer. I showered praise on her for taking such a bold step and starting a whole new life that too all on her own despite so much societal pressure.
This is indeed difficult for a girl in Indian society. I wished her all the best for pursuing her aspirations in life. We enjoyed talking so much that we hardly slept for 2-3 hours that night. We got up by 3:30 am because we both had to finish morning meditations and kriyas followed by breakfast and loading of luggage in respective bus by 7:00 am. The departure time for buses was 7:30 am.
One of the Group B buses.
As we were divided into two groups, this girl and I were allocated in separate groups. I was in B and she was in A. So we parted and left each other with contact details and of course a smiling selfie.
The two groups went in two different directions covering same places but on different dates. Group A departed for Uttarkashi and Group B departed for Kedarnath.
Together we were in 10 buses. Group B had 6 buses and Group A had 4 buses. Total number of people, 250 approximately, in Group B we were approximately 150 people.
For Group B, which was my group, we started our journey for next destination as per itinerary, Kedarnath.