A Photo-Ethnographic Study, India, North India, Oral Stories from Rural India, Photographic Stories, Sacred Walks, The Higher Himalayan Research Walks and Treks, Uttarakhand
Comments 79

Days in the Hidden Valley of Mandal and a Small trek to Ma Anusuyadevi Temple : A Photographic Essay- III

While studying culture and ancient practises in the Higher Himalayas.
Continuing from

Pandava Forest and the Brahma Kamal : The Nights of Change in the Himalayas

and

Finding Brahma Kamal : On a Rainy night from Delhi to Chamoli

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Sumanto was waiting by the roadside, in front of the fisheries department. It was late in the night, very late by the mountain ways of life. Yet the most relieving part was that i wasn’t alone. With me was the last government bus, which i had to run after, in Rudraprayag to catch it. Had it not been that moment, i wouldn’t be making it even in my 30th hour of leaving New Delhi.

It was cold. It was heavy. The restrain of the night, one which arrives after many days of rain. The climatic depression could still be felt. I could hear the droplets dropping off the leaves as I could hear myself heaving. The bus stopped. I bid byes to the driver, the conductor as i had been the only one riding with them since evening. I was finally stepping out of the bus.

Sumanto’s smile turned into a laugh. I laughed. His two dogs started running around. I was meeting him after years, don’t know even how many. He hadn’t changed but he had. He looked leaner, may be more loner; in a great way. Beard, thicker and longer. Like always he had with him something to drink, rather the variety of drinks find a way to reach him.

I met Pluto, as i have known him for years; through a teacher friend who was with me during my teaching days in Baltistan. And all these years, we seemed to be on an unusually weird journey, one which he and I had been together on and not at all; polls apart in our nature and being but somewhere strangely meeting. Pluto left the human world to make plans with plants, first in Himachal and now in the higher Himalayas of Uttarakhand. He had asked me to get waterproof trekking shoes for him from Delhi, as we made plans to walk in the mountains even though he has never been much of a walker, and neither was he a flower, herb, or a culture man. So much so that he hadn’t even left this small valley of Mandal for over two years now.

More than 800 days, wow!

But he was that one man who had come to help me on my first film back in 2016, when i was working on top of a Landfill. The biggest shit space of everything human and non-human in Delhi. He came, even against my expectation on a rainy day to stand on the mountain of shit, with a sound recorder for I wanted to record the many sound frequencies coming out of the landfill. That poisonous earth under us, he was there. He was there as it rained. Sumanto had come then, for the first time in his life to stand on that Garbage mountain.

The Black Mountain, the first docu-film i started working on keeping environment and climate as centre. Only my selected few friend could come up, stand amongst this collection of dark elements here. Sumanto was one of them.



And today, almost five years later, leaving all what is called a city; he is living and working at a farm as a Permaculturist. Experimenting with the ways of growing herbs, vegetables or anything that can be made gold out of earth. A goldsmith.

That night, it was my turn to walk to his mountain place, It was drizzling and this time it was me who was assisting him in his great mis-adventure.

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Days that followed were too intimate, were spent learning and observing in silence. Pluto had dogs to feed, some work that always demanded his presence or so he thought. Even that one time when i felt that he might not even find days and energy to peacefully make way for a week and come along on the journey to find the divine Brahma Lotus, but he was thinking, as i was persisting and during that we lived together, spending few days walking, eating, exploring. I, acclimatising before that long walk to heaven began; we went to pay our homage to the ancient mother Anusuiya and Rishi Attri, whose son i pray to daily, three headed trinity himself, the lord of tantra; Guru Dattatreya.

Sharing those few days around Gopeshwar; in the valley of Mandal here with my extended family of Road to Nara.


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The tiny village home, where Pluto lived when he had first arrived from Delhi. Accompanied by Bhalu and Monkey; the dogs. Here looking at the far away springs on the right.

The curious mountain water buffalo.

Here we had kind of invited ourselves to lunch at a neighbours place; just like the neighbour invites himself to sit with Pluto most nights. After wandering whole day we had reached around evening.

Local Food

Ancient Lentil Chaunsa dal and Mandua Roti. These are said to be ancient crops. Even hundreds of years before rice and wheat were grown; what we ate that evening was the most nutritious food; hardly available even in Indian cities rather i must say, no one opts for them anymore.

Old house, Gopeshwar.

Sumanto, procrastinating over to go or not to go.

A rare sunny day in the monsoon, here i loved how cactus was looking like receptors. On a school’s roof.

Pluto’s Perma farm, Gopeshwar.

The old mud-stone house where i stayed. In front of what many people call Siva-Ganga or Balkhila river.

Its the women who have held the world together, and it can be said for the Himalayas. The woman farmer here seen from our home.

The next day, as clouds gathered, we started our walk to the Anusuiya temple.

On the Way

While leaving the valley of Mandal behind.

Bamboo Shoots lining around the wall

A village home, woman greeted us with a smile

Lord Dattatreya Mela(festival) at Anusuiya Temple, where we were heading to in 1977. I saw this at a small tea shop. When a short halt for tea felt needed.

Grass and moss taking over the jungle tree.

Walking the Jungle

The inscription engraved on the surface of a weather-worn rock is located on the left side of birdle path leading to Anusuyadevi temple. The inscription is comprised of seven lines of writing and is in sanskrit language and northern brahmi script.

The inscription mentions that one Kshtriya Naravarman under the Maharajadhiraja Paramesvara Saraverman, constructed a water reservoir and a temple for the merit of his parents as well as his own.

Dyansty of Sarvarman is not mentioned in the record however on the basis of palaeography, it is assigned to the middle of the 6th century AD. On this basis and imperial title Maharajadhiraja, the king may be identified as Maukhari king Sarvaraman who is known to have ruled from circa 576 to 580 AD.

It is a meritorious inscription for the benefit of the pilgrims on ancient pilgrimage routes. This inscription is historically significant in this region as this is the earliest inscription mentioning a ruling king in Uttarakhand after the Mauryan king, King Ashoka’s Kalsi Rock edict.

There were hardly any travellers, or pilgrims on that day. Here it is cautioned here about this monument that it is of National importance.

Beautiful Ganesha temple, which is said to be sculpted out of a rock. I spent sometime sitting in front reciting some hymns in lord Ganesha’s praise.

An empty, lone old village home, on the way to Anusuya temple.

Here Sumanto paying homage to the only Devdar tree. Finally after reaching the temple.

Here, from the roof, Sumanto looking over.

Bells and bells rang everywhere.

When the Pandavas visited

Shiva family behind the temple

Temple Parikrama/Periphery

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Also read : A Brief history of the Ancient Temples in India

The way to the temple

The meadow outside

Ma Anusuyadevi Temple

And the gateway to the divine flower valley, Himalayas


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Thank you.

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 roadbefore you coarse on youown Road to Nara.


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If you are still here, you might like to know about My Little SchoolIf 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 nara@road-to-nara.com

To visit other long-term photographic works, you can visit here.


To follow my walks through the rural Indian Subcontinent, find me at 
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by

Hi, I am Narayan Kaudinya. And i welcome you on this journey, the Road to Nara ! I am an Ethnographer and a practicing Indologist. I did my masters in History and further learnt Sanskrit, Yoga and Nerve-therapy. At 24, pushing most academic sounding, office sitting works away, i felt compelled to know and understand the world and my country, Bharat/India. I travelled, and as it happened i took up teaching in Kashmir and further up in the remote villages of Baltistan in the foothills of Karakoram Ranges. For around three years and many states later there came a time when i felt that it was only while teaching i learnt how to laugh, to see, feel, breathe, love and cry -with children, and mostly resource-less parents in the harshest-freezing border conditions. I write, and work as a documentary photographer and Filmmaker, with numerous published, exhibited and some awarded stories. In my travels and life i have let nature lead me, the divine mother, and as a Yogin, my resolve here is to share my experiences and thoughts as honestly, and through them to blossom in everyone the power and possibility in pursuing your breath, that you seek your true nature with courage and curiosity. Here, on this road i will share my spirit, my love for nature, the elements of life that are us. And in doing so, i'll be happy to see you along.

79 Comments

  1. Always worth reading you dear Sir, as you write from heart, each moment from the article fills the reader’s heart with joy. Lovely article always ❤🥰

    Its the women who have held the world together, and it can be said for the Himalayas👌👌

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  2. This installment of the author’s documentary on culture and ancient practices is a photographic
    essay before his journey to the higher Himalayas to find the Queen of Flowers, in the company of his old friend, Pluto. They stay at his friend’s organic farm where he has been experimenting with various methods to establish what can be grown successfully in such a faraway place.

    Apart from the photographs that provide interesting illustrations of what the pilgrims could expect to see, there are two special points that must be mentioned; the old, ancient rock that had written on it a text in Sanskrit and in northern Brahmi script, estimated to date from the 6th century. The text is now translated and printed on a plague, with a mention that this is of national importance. And indeed it is!
    The other interesting point is Lord Ganesha’s temple that looks sculpted out of the rock.

    The account of the author’s friendship with his host, Pluto, dates back to the days of the author’s heroic filming of the mountain of garbage accumulated in New Delhi, his home city, known as the most dangerously polluted city on earth. For the benefit of his readers, I would advise modifying some of the terms used. I presume that this film was aimed to highlight the urgent need for taking climate change seriously, but knowing the latest statistics on the pollution in New Delhi it looks that it fell on deaf ears. Shame!

    Joanna

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    • Dear Joanna, i thank you for your paragraph by paragraph analysis of this post which comes as a stop before we make the final ascent.

      Your understanding and wisdom Joanna, to read what is not even written is unparalled and one reason why i feel graced to have your support, your presence.. I am more than thankful for this.

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    • Delhi has been constantly named as the most polluted city in the world, which in first place made me start working on it, and this is solely the primary reason to work on the last film as it is the journey of a civilisation.

      I believe it has to be us to make that change happen for us. I am trying.
      .

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  3. Thank you, Narayan for allowing me to join you on this wonderful journey into the mountains. It is such an alien world to me and all of us here in the west. I pray for Sumanto, and for you, Nara. Also, I pray for us in the west that we may open our eyes and see the world as it was meant to be lived, a paradise on here on earth! 🙏🙋‍♂️

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    • Dearest Ashley, you are always with me on these journeys as i think of you in my trysts, while writing and sharing. To an extent that i would like to invite you to the Himalayas, or to Pluto’s farm someday.

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    • With you, in prayer Ashley. Its a long task before humans settle for what is less than more. We are dangerously coming close towards our own extinction or so i feel, with all the race to engineer robots to some human beings.

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    • Yet with negative there are always positive, which are more persistent going with patience and love. We will do all the best we can Ashely.

      Thank you for your friendship.
      Narayan x

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  4. Enthralling account of your journey, more spiritual than physical, to the abode of the gods. There’s a mystical yet completely down to earth quality about your writings. Thanks for sharing, so enjoyed reading it.

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  5. Thank you Narayan for taking us along with you through your beautiful pictures and narrative. Always a pleasure reading your posts about your travels and experiences. I always feel our city dwellers life fades in comparison to the enriching life stories and experiences you gather and feel, from your travels.

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    • And i am always delighted to have you, to have even that mention from Radhika’s reflection here. I hope you are healthy and preparing well in advance for the year to take a curve.

      I imagine, it is the himalayas you love more knowing and reading about than my words 🙂 yet it enriches me as much.

      Like

  6. Amazing photography and an education, reminding me I am a citizen of the world, not only of my tiny, insignificant city.

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  7. Michael Graeme says

    Once again, thank you, Nara. You write with such a potent blend of the factual, spiritual and the personal, one cannot help but follow you on your journey. As always, your words are wonderfully supported by your photography.

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    • It is your wisdom Michael, your support, your words and unparalleled understanding of my work has been so valuable for me that i cannot really tell you here. Its deeper and kind of helps me to stay afloat.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Marvelous! Our son ( who lives in England ) is here for Christmas and joined me in reading this post. He enjoyed it very much as did I.

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      • The scenery reminds of trekking around Pokhara Nepal and the Annapurna Sanctuary. It is my desire to spend some time in this part of the world too.

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        • Also, earlier this year, while walking in the mountains i met a man from Poland. I think the only one to his own surprise who bore all abuse and isolation for a small period but succeeded living in the Himalayas through Corona period. And so good for him, as he said it would have been only his concrete apartment otherwise. And here he had stopped wearing shoes or anything under his feet 🙂

          Like

  9. KK says

    All the best for this great journey, Narayan ji! I’ll be eagerly waiting for the next installment.

    Like

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