While studying culture and ancient practises in the Higher Himalayas.
Pandava Forest and the Brahma Kamal : The Nights of Change in the Himalayas
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Who would have known that a journey which merely started in documenting the culture of the mountains will end in a never-ending quest of finding the way to my own being.
May be this is what Living in general teaches us. Like Googly in Cricket.
Guruji and I came back to his home. It was cold and only a bulb far was filling the mountain home with some light. He stood for a while without speaking, almost waiting for the words to arrive. That mountain Narayan, that slope lead the last Pandava to Heaven, with a dog. We were seeing it together, in the dark. The tip of it shining, because moon was raining that night.
And that is where you will find the Lotus of Brahma; a whole valley of flowers up there surrounds the divine flower; because they too revere it. They want to be near it because they know what powers Brahma Kamal has been bestowed upon. They look up to him because the gods come to him in the form of fog; carrying prayers, requests and boons, which soon then, lead to rains.
“Like it wasn’t easy for Draupadi, Guruji said. The wife of the Pandavas, as the painful memories of her insult in the Kaurava court kept tormenting her constantly throughout their exile and even long after the war. She felt never at peace. But one evening she saw the most beautiful flower floating away downstream. She couldn’t place which flower it was. And later one night in the meadow, her eyes fell on it the moment this ‘golden’ lotus was about to bloom, she felt a strange bliss passing through her body that was almost spiritual. But the lotus withered as quickly as it had bloomed. It was at this time when she sent her most devoted husband Bhima to look for it, and while on his quest for the flower, Bhima met Hanuman.
And today, when the call finally arrived five long years later, it was raining like clouds have leaked. Monsoons had extended their visit. Images of whole mountain sliding down the valley were doing the rounds.
It had been raining for past many days in Delhi, and seemingly forever in the Himalayas on news channels. Monsoons had extended their visit. News of landslides, roads being washed away, death, rocks falling on bridges, bridge falling in the river, river washing houses away due to cloud burst, flash floods had filled the mind of one and all with fear all throughout the northern and central Indian states. And specifically amongst the Himalayan people. The same news of water everywhere, loss of lives, destruction has been repeating for last ten years. Every monsoon carries with it a fear. From the memory of the havoc that had fallen here in 2013. Pure terror. Not very different from my mother’s who wasn’t ready to let me go this time round.
Brahma Kamal has been a mystery to not only me but for all the legends whoever have walked the Himalayas in all periods of history, they know what this flower is.
For years had passed only remembering the stories of ‘Brahma Kamal’, the star like lotus flower, named after Brahma, the God of Creation; A plant so sacred that it blooms not in the sun, but late in the night. For a very brief period, and only in the months of rains; no one knows where but somewhere in the higher Himalayas where feet cannot trample any other; A rare, magnificent, first snow like white, shy, ancient, as old as the Himalayas themselves; a flower whose fragrance is known to stay for over a month if it is ever plucked. But I had never seen it. Never held it. Even hardly read about it. But I had heard about it from the saints, sages and the elderly. From the trekkers, and probably it was about time to become the one telling this story to the world.
The moment arrived.
I knew the direction, and the region where Guruji had pointed five years back. Even though It was unreal to see myself climbing, all alone up there but I had surrendered everything to my deep rooted path of finding it, and whatever may happen, will be welcomed.
I reached on time at Kashmere Gate’s Interstate Bus Terminal. I took the ticket. It came out to be the smallest mountain bus standing at a corner, like this one dorky pig under it. Whom I wanted to befriend, I had biscuits for him but he wanted to keep it to himself as he went deep under, in retrospection. I of course respect that. It was 2030 and the bus started.
The first movement of the bus is quiet a feeling and those first few moments when we feel neither still, or completely moving. Like between past and future. Bus windows making new frames of life. Those moments of Leaving everything we had lived till that moment. Everything becomes a past as we move to earn something new; that which we have already surrendered to, welcoming the new.
Like most, travelling solo felt exhilarating after quiet some time. To only travel in these times for experiences is altogether a blessing. It was a long route bus, and the smallest one in size because of where it will reach tomorrow evening, almost 20 hours later cannot be imagined right now. But as we moved, I started hearing that the bus will not go all the way; even though i do not want it to be true but it became the truth. The bus halted at Rishikesh. The roads were closed and only after any information that may even never come, we may go ahead.
It slowly started seeming improbable soon as it had started raining like someone was watching this bus closely and was intentionally pouring water over on it. And once it started from there onwards It was water, water all the way. No buses, or any traffic was allowed to go from here. There was a big landslide; a whole mountain had swept away a large part of the national highway, and it might even take a week before it opens.
I had befriended fellow travellers, an army man going home after months from Kashmir. To see, meet, hold his daughter for the first time. Another person, very talkative, was hideously drinking throughout the journey was pissed at the conductor for not telling him before. It strangely felt chaotic at the time when normally gods supposedly wake up. It was Four in the morning, and water was falling like a waterfall, ever-going, nobody can ever predict it will stop. We came out of bus. Ran towards the only shed making tea. I looked around, and quietly cursed myself of not taking the Umbrella from my mother, who had asked me at least thirteen times to take it.
I ordered teen(3) chai.
It was depressing to a point i had even started thinking of making plans to go elsewhere. But then the people who have to go because their home is there will find a way.
And the way was to ride back to Haridwar, as it was from there the buses were taking a much longer route to reach Gopeshwar. I had never known this route. Neither I had known from my previous travels that you can go around bypassing Rishikesh. So this was new and new was exciting, just that it would take ten hours more. There was no other option. I had to move, even if it is takes a long time. And as we moved, more than half of that day went outside looking at nowhere, as it was pitch dark all day long; clouds had demonised the whole morning aura and it went like till noon. But this detour slowly started looking like a drive through paradise via Kotdwar and Lansdowne, along a vibrating river. Water, water everywhere, coming down making dead springs alive again. I enjoyed it even though it took all my patience as we the travellers sat on the edge of our seats throughout that morning. None apart from the bus driver could comprehend where were we, as one big rock just missed the bus from falling on it, but had pushed it enough to stop it from moving even an inch, but it was better we becoming the news for the next day.
That bus dropped me at Rudraprayag. I took another bus to Ghagaria, from where i would start walking towards the valley of flowers to find my flower but as they say it is not you who is thinking, but all nature thinking through you. Like it had happened in Kashmir, when i was pulled to walk the most fulfilling trek to Amarnath, i was called again towards him via a valley i had never known existed till then. The bus reached Gopeshwar at 8 and dropped me to the valley of Mandal at 10. Pluto, that is Sumanto, my old friend from Delhi was waiting.
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If today is the first time you have arrived on The Road to Nara, you are heartily welcome ~ Namaste
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I will take this opportunity to introduce you to About me and importantly;
As a co-traveller, taking you through the Ten Lessons I learnt from several years on the road, before you coarse on your own Road to Nara.
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If you are still here, you might like to know about My Little School. If you wish to come over for a visit, to share your stories or one of your magic tricks with children, you are heartily welcome.
If you would like to contribute to this project by funding a student to plant a tree or towards his education, you can please do so here
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Above all, If you have anything to share, or feel like saying a hello, please feel free to write to me at firstname.lastname@example.org
To visit other long-term photographic works, you can visit here.