I embarked upon a trip as a last minute decision to join my hostel mates and their friends to the mystical escapade of Hemkund Sahib and Valley of flowers, situated in Chamoli district of Uttarakhand, India. I was accompanied by Nidhi, Manju, Shrestha, Snober, Kanika, Shalini, Mudassar, Mujahida, her brother, Pooja and Rita. We left early from Srinagar and our first halt was at the widely celebrated Badrinath Temple via Karnprayag, Joshimath and Gobindghat route. It was Monsoon and hence a time prone to roadblocks. It was my first visit to the Badrinath Temple. It is one of the Chardham math in India. The Char Dham Math are the four most revered Hindu pilgrimages in India which are believed to be the abode of Hindu gods and owe their rejuvenation to Adi Shankaracharya. Located in the four directions of India, the circuit consists of four sites – to the north is Badrinath, to the west is Dwarka, to the south is Rameshwaram and to the east is Puri popularly known as the Jagannath Dham. Adi Sankaracharya, during his travels across the length and breadth of India, founded four mathas (monasteries) as seats of Hindu religion at these four places- the Sringeri matha on the Sringeri hills in the south, the Sharadamatha on the Dwaraka coast in the west, the Jyotirmatha at Badrinath in the north, the Govardhana matha at Puri in the east.
This area is a panoramic view of nature and spirituality fused into one. The town lies between Nara and Narayan mountain ranges. The 25 km drive from GovindGhat to Badri, is probably the most incredible drive I ever experienced. Located beside Alaknanda River, Badrinath temple has an enchanting aura. We reached there in afternoon and the doors of the temple were closed. So, a couple of my friends went to visit Taptkund and rest of us decided to have lunch. There was a small queue outside and we too waited in the line till we got the opportunity to enter the temple. It is my belief that only Gods can adorn such places. The beauty, the mysticism, the magic of the place makes it a kingdom of divinities I do not understand but I feel it. I felt the sacredness flow through me and merge with everything within me and without. We had to stay at Gobindghat in the evening so had to leave the place on time. We gave Mana and Vasudhara a miss because of time constraints and decided to come back later. We were fortunate to have reached Gobindghat by 6 pm in the evening in spite of the dreadful road conditions during rains. Later we got to know that the road was blocked due to landslides just after we crossed.
After reaching Gobindghat we stayed at the Gurudwara and got the first-hand experience of the widely renowned hospitability of the Gurudwara staff. Rooms were well furnished and spacious. In the evening, we went to the kitchen to lend a little help in the langar preparation. The food served at the langar was very delicious. As we had to start our trek early in the morning we slept early. Next day, we woke up to heavy rainfall and that delayed our schedule. As the rain receded we left for our next stop Ghangria around 7.30 am. Before leaving for Ghangria we registered ourselves in the tourist registration centre. It is mandatory for everyone to register themselves to visit HemkundSahib and Valley of flowers. From Gobindghat there is shared taxi service until a village which is around 3 -4 km away from there. After that one has to walk about 10 km to reach Ghangria base camp. It took us approximately 6hours to reach Ghangria from there. The trek route was marvellous with waterfalls, river and an enthralling view. The rain was moody as it was raining heavily or drizzling all through the course.It was incredibly beautiful. Coming unprepared without a proper gear had disadvantages and took its toll on my health.
When we reached Ghangria we checked into a hotel and got some rest. Next day we started our trek to HemkundSahib with endearing liveliness. It was a 7km trek from Ghangria base camp. It was a rainy day again and I cannot put into words how I loved those rains. Every step I took was not only towards mesmerizing views but they also drew me closer to myself. I happen to be a frequent trekker and was constantly leaving my mates behind.So, I decided to go ahead and enjoy the trek in solitude. I do not like paved roads in the trek, so I took all the possible shortcuts into the wild and reached HemkundSahib in less than 3 hrs. It was a good steep trek. I took pictures, made videos, ate langar and listened Gurubani inside the world’s highest gurudwara until my friends finally caught up with me.Such experiences show us our own trivialities, how small we are in the face of nature, how tiny in front of the divine and yet there is no pride, no proclamation of grandeur, only grace and love towards everything that is living. Sri Hemkund Sahib With its setting of a glacial lake surrounded by seven mountain peaks, each adorned by a Nishan Sahib on its cliff, at an elevation of 4,632 meters.Sri Hemkunt Sahib has emerged as a popular centre of Sikh Pilgrimage which is visited by thousands of devotees from all over the world every summer.
I was all drenched when I reached there, that too at this altitude, it made me sick. My friends reached after 1.30 hrs, I took keys and went back to Ghangria. I was not feeling well but descended the trek as fast I could and covered the distance in 1. 30 hrs. I came back to my room, took a hot water bath and passed out. I had a high fever when my friends came back. They all got worried and took me to the nearest doctor. I was fortunate to have such lovely people around who took care of me in that hour of need. From my food to medicine they took care of everything.
Next day we have to visit the Valley of flowers. It was my childhood reverie to visit this place. I guess it was the first place on my bucket list that I always wanted to visit and after coming so near, I did not want to miss this opportunity. Valley of Flowers is a vibrant and splendid national park. this alluring place is famous for its charming meadows of alpine flowers. Endowed with a diverse range of endemic flora, it is picturesque in its beauty. This lush region is also home to some rare and endangered animal species.With a high fever, I decided to trek to the valley. The support of my friends was appreciable. They kept probing if I was doing fine and took halts in every 500m. I reached a place from where one can look at the entire valley. I decided to sit there for awhile and asked my friend to go ahead. I sat there and did some meditation and must mention that was worth doing. High in the lofty Himalayas of the Garhwal region sprawls this enchanting valley. Legends believe it to be the place from where Hanuman had collected the Sanjeevanifor curing Lakshmana. This place has floral pastures, running streams and beautiful backdrop of the mountains.The place with that kind of serenity and peace makes your soul stir inside you. It craves to rise above and be one with everything that is there. It is amazing how we live in concrete houses and strive for artificial comforts but the only reassurance, the actual acceptance that we receive at places like the Himalayas transcends the narrow view of life that we have developed and the kind of lives humans are living. Once you close your eyes you can feel the old mountains smiling at you, the winds blow only to sing the song of your arrival, as if nature knows that you have come and that is where you belong. It is us who act blind but the bewitched lands such as the Valley welcomes you knowingly and if you allow yourself to be lost in this mystical place, you feel as if you have come home. It was the kind of ethereal beauty that looked as if it will crumble with a callous human touch, I felt so undeserving of this beauty as humans have always brought illness to nature like a destructive force but the kindness that I felt that day is deeply embedded in me. I realized that I was as divine as the magical sanctuary. I close my eyes and I can see myself drenched and shivering, treading the path and all the trees whispering among themselves talking about me, my journey, my destination. Its might seem snooty of me to think of me as a subject of conversation in the cosmos but that is the beauty of it. In places such as these there no wall between the divine and us. All becomes one.
It’s a core zone of Nanda Devi Biosphere Reserve. A colossal expanse of 87.5 sq kms and myriad alpine flowers makes this place a colourful paradise. Perched at an altitude of 3658 mts above sea level, Bhyundar Valley is the home to this surreal place. Historically, the beauty of the place was unknown to the world until in 1931, three British mountaineers came here. They lost their way and happened to discover this alluring valley and named it Valley of Flowers. Later in the year 1939, Joan Margaret Legge, a botanist arrived here to study flowers. She was deputed by the Royal Botanic Gardens, Krew but she lost her life by slipping from the rocky terrain. Her sister later came here and erected a memorial near the spot. (http://www.valleyofflowers.info/).
I do not know how long I sat there. It was as like floating amid the clouds infused with colours. Soon as I returned to my senses I realized I was not feeling well so after a while instead of waiting for my friends I decided to walk back. I walked and took many halts in between. I met one lady from Gujarat named Vinali. She was one charming lady with lots of stories from her hometown. Like me, she also left her friends back there and decided to walk back. We had lots of conversation on our way back from life to home, trips to education and what not. It’s always good to meet new people, especially during the trek. There is so much to know about people and their places. After reaching back I took rest and wait for my friends. They came after a while we shared each other experiences. We all were very tired by then had our dinner and slept. Next day we left Ghangria and trek back to Gobindghat. It was the pleasantly sunny day. And we enjoyed that sun rays after three days of continuous rain. We reached back Gobindghat by lunch and hoped in our taxi and came to Srinagar late night.
I can still see those rivers, waterfalls, mountains, flowers all smiling in my mind. The kind of acceptance I felt in the arms of nature away from noise can move me to hot tears, travelling is spiritual to me. It’s just not discovering new places but also discovering ourselves with each step. That is a pilgrimage. Travelling sans spirituality is empty. Now that I have been there in the sanctuary of Gods I know another world exists, a world that resonates with me.In all the beauty I could see my own self-being reflected. I wish I had closed my eyes more, sniffed every flower that smiled at me, I wish I had said a Thank you to whichever power that resided there. The tranquillity that I was in shall remain forever as it is merged with me and wherever I go I should exude this calm glow that I recognize as my natural state. No filter, no picture, no camera can do justice to what my eyes saw and what my soul felt. I am grateful.
I would like to thank Yogita Khatri for proofreading this blog and doing the necessary edits.