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I am an ardent blogger and a web enthusiast. My blogs include varied topics from the picturesque details of my travelogue to theology and worldly facts. My passions are reading English and Tamil classics, Management Topics, Playing Tennis and taking long walks. I live with my wife in Bangalore. Visit regularly my children in Michigan and Colorado to spend time with them and three grandsons. Please brief your opinions there in when you read my blog :- http://divinenotes.blogspot.com.

Saturday, February 24, 2018

 
                                                                
 Tour of Nepal - April 2017
A Spiritual Yatra to Muktinath
         ( Day 3 - Part 3 )


       Tulsi Mata.jpg         
             Tulasi Mata                                                                         

नमः तुलसी कल्याणी नमो विष्णुप्रिये शुभे I
नमो मोक्षप्रदायिके देवी नमः सम्पत् प्रदायिके II
गायत्री तुलसी गङ्गां कामधेनुं अरुन्दतीम् I
पञ्च  मातु स्मरेन नित्यं  महा पातक नाशनम्  II

यन्मूले सर्व तीर्थानि यन्नाग्रे सर्वदेवता I
यन्मध्ये सर्ववेदाश्च तुलसी तां नमाम्यहम् II
Salutations to Tulasi  Mata at whose base exist all holy places, at whose top are all mi the deities and in whose middle are all the vedas !! She brings goodness in life, who is beloved to Lord Vishnu, who is auspicious, who grants liberation, and who bestows prosperity. Pranams to her.

Saturday 15th April  2017  ( Day 3 )

The weather on Day 3 was inclement and it was still drizzling at 7 a.m. when we brought our luggage to the reception area in the hotel.  We greeted each other ‘Hare Krishna’ and looked forward for the improvement in weather as we were to travel 260 Kms by road to reach our next destination. It rained throughout night accompanied by intermittent lightning and thunder. We became hopeful when we watched through the windows the abating rains and sun rays  appearing.

We had breakfast in Blue Coriander Restaurant attached to the hotel. We started with cut fruits, water melon juice, bread toast with butter chiplets and jam followed by corn flakes, batura, bread sandwich, tikki, masala poha, potato-basil fry, pineapple halwa and finished with  a cup of hot coffee/ tea.  .
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    Hotel Reception Area            Watching the Rain through Window

Our luggage was loaded in the luxury bus. It was 8.10 am when we started our journey towards Pokhara. We began our prayers with the Narasimha Stotra and sang bhajans after Shri Dasa. We took the Tribhuvan Highway in the beginning and later Prithvi Highway up to Pokhara for 200 Kms..

The journey after we left Kathmandu was through the mountainous belt characterized by number of serpentine turns and twists. Luckily the dust had settled down after the heavy rains, the previous night. The tall hills with a sheet of green covering presented a beautiful scenic view.. We crossed a few hydro electric project sites..

Devghat  a sacred town was in our schedule of visits. As there were some repair works, the road was blocked. Hence it was decided to visit Damauli which is also considered as a holy place by pilgrims. Devghat is located at the confluence ( sangam ) of Seti Gandaki and Krishna Gandaki rivers. Hindus consider the place as an important pilgrimage center. It lies 150 Kms  southwest of Kathmandu.There are many temples situated in this zone, dedicated to Sri Radha Krishna, Sri Galeshwor,  Sri Sita Ram,  Shri Laxminarayan and Sri Shankaracharya.  Tourists visit the ashrams which were the abodes of saints and also the Caves where Sage Vasishta and Sita Mata had resided..

Makar Sankranti is celebrated religiously when fairs are organised. Bathing in Krishna Gandaki river is considered highly auspicious as ‘Shaligram Shilas are found here. People  worship them as Lord Vishnu. Hindus consider it as sacred to spend their last days at this place where they are engaged in worships, meditation and reading of holy scriptures..

After nearly 2 hours of drive from Kathmandu our journey continued along the Trishuli River.
The Legend says that the Trishuli River was originated by Lord Shiva when he drove His Trishul in the hills just above Gosaikunda lake to create three springs. Lord Shiva used this spot at times to take rest.

We crossed places like Mugling where we saw cable cars going up towards Manakamana  Temple, a holy shrine dedicated to Goddess  Parvati and Gorkha. The city was the capital of erstwhile Shah dynasty.

IMG_1198.JPG        Photo from Parvati Natarajan (37).jpg
             Barren  Mountain                                        Greenery all over

The scenery was  totally absorbing with deep river valleys, rocky gorges, mighty hill ranges and  roaring rapids passing through ancient villages. Cascade of terrace rice fields on one side and the range of mountains on the other side were delightful to watch.  We viewed rafting in the river with keen interest. There are also restaurants and road houses which provide ample place for the tourists to have lunch. The wash rooms are  clean with good water supply. We stopped at a road side house where benches were lined up for eating meals comfortably. It was an attractive spot for photography with Trishuli river meandering between tall range of hills almost touching the blue sky..

Photo from Parvati Natarajan (35).jpg Photo from Parvati Natarajan (34).jpg Photo from Parvati Natarajan (36).jpg
      Gushing Waters of Trishuli  River ..                        Rafting in the River


Our packed lunch was from Mirage Inn Hotel.--- Poori with aloo sabzi, fried rice and banana.  We made a sandwich of pooris with banana and sugar. We could also get thick, fresh curds on request.. By this time we got used to the sweetened curds in Nepal. .

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                                            Lunch at a Roadside House
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                                                  Amidst glorious Nature

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We resumed our journey after lunch.and by 2:20 p.m., reached Damauli the Sangam place of Sweta Gandaki and Madi Gandaki.  We clustered around Shri Dasa to learn about the significance of that place. He also explained about  the origin of the Gandaki River.
Legend:-  Damauli is derived from the name Dwaipayana also known as Veda Vyasa. This is the birthplace of the revered sage Vyasa. There is also a village by name Vyasa nearby. Gandaki River is considered as the most sacred river on par with Ganga. There are two transcendental sources for  the river :-
  1. Ganda in Sanskrit means ‘cheek’. Gandaki means that which has come from the cheek of none other than the Supreme Lord Narayana. (Ganga has its origin from Vishnu Pada and is called Vishnupadi).  The perspiration (sweat) coming from both the cheeks of the Lord is the source for the holiest of the rivers..

  1. Long long ago (Brahma Vaivarta Purana) in Vrindavan, Radha and Vrinda were close friends. They were also the two dear most  Gopis of Lord Krishna. There was some misunderstanding between them. Due to the arrangement of Lord Krishna known for his deliverance to his devotees, Vrinda was made to appear in this material (mundane) world. She married Jalandhara, a demon king. (Jalandhar  the city is named after the king ). There is an ancient temple ‘Vrinda Devi Tulasi Rani Mandir,’ now also exists in this place. Jalandhara was very powerful and he defeated the Devas who sought Lord Shiva’s help. Even Lord Shiva could not vanquish him with all his weapons.  Then they approached Lord Vishnu. He knew none could defeat Jalandhara until Vrinda’s chastity was broken. Lord Vishnu  came in the guise of Jalandhara when he was away and approached Vrinda. The latter realised the mistake and in her rage cursed the Lord  to turn into a stone for being such stone hearted. Lord Vishnu showed his real identity to her and Vrinda felt sorry. When she was in Brindavan she wanted to marry only Krishna. Now Krishna cursed her in return saying that her hair would  become the holiest plant -  the Tulsi plant and her divine form would appear as  the most sacred Gandaki river. In transcendental form she was elevated as Vrinda Gopi.  Jalandhara was turned into a conch or shankha. Jalandhara was Sridhama who was Krishna’s best friend in Brindavan. He was also the elder brother of Radha. He too had a misunderstanding with Vrinda and both were made to appear in this material world. A conch filled with Ganga jal is used for performing abhishekam for the Saligrama when a tulsi leaf is also offered. Thus Lord Vishnu, Vrinda Devi and Jalandhara remain inseparable..

According to Varaha Purana at the beginning of creation  by way of teaching the entire world,  it was inscribed that one should perform tapasya to attain moksha. Lord Narayana himself went to the Saligrama Kshetra near Saligrama mountain surrounded by abundant Sala trees to perform tapasya. While He was doing severe penance the intense rays of sun heated the cheeks and sweat appeared from his cheeks  becoming the source of Gandaki River and in turn the source of all saligrama silas  (actual Vishnu form).

Later Lord Narayana ordered Viswakarma to take the form of Vajra Keeta which would carve different forms such as Sudarshana, Vasudeva and Narasimha Saligram. Vajra
keetas are river worms which have  teeth and nails harder than diamonds. The vajra keeta worms drill the stones and get inside to reside there. During their stay inside they cause different shapes in the stones. Lord Narayana returned to his spiritual abode after leaving behind his manifestations in different forms like Saligrama silas, Gandaki river and Tulasi plant  (hair of Vrinda Devi).. ‘What ever benefit one may get from bathing  in all the holy rivers and by taking part in all the yagyas, can be got by one drop of Gandaki River’..

Wherever the perspiration of Lord Vishnu fell, the main Gandaki  river divided into seven branches.  Skanda Purana mentions the names of  these seven branches:-
1. Dharmadhara also known as Trisuli Gandaki.  2.Yashodhara-(Tadi) 3.-Vishwadhara (Bhudi), 4.-Stithaprabha / Seti Gandaki / Swetha Gandaki which has its origin from Manikuta Parvata now known as Machapuchare ,the mountain peak having the shape of a fish tail.
5. Ratnadhara / Madi Gandaki has origin from Ratnakuta Parvata now known as Annapurna Range. 6. Swarnabha / Marsyangdi 7. Most sacred Kali Gandaki / Krishna Gandaki..

After we heard the detailed narration regarding the origin of Gandaki River and other anecdotes, we climbed down a few steps to go towards the Vyasa Cave and  entered a small shrine with the idols of Ganesha and Sage Vyasa. We offered our prayers. Sage Vyasa was the compiler of Vedas. There were also  idols of other sages. Then we walked towards a stone mandap with a low ceiling to have the view of Vyasa’s cave. We could see a small gap in the roof with some light coming out. We literally had to crawl to come out of that place and it seemed  great effort. However we had the satisfaction and contentment that we were fortunate to be close to the abode of the great seer..


Photo from Parvati Natarajan (51).jpg                       Photo from Parvati Natarajan (47).jpg
Sage Vyasa with Sri Ganesha, the Scribe writing the sacred epic ’Mahabharata‘

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                                                            Idols of sages

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    Vyasa Cave                        The narrow opening to the Cave      Viewing from below

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                                           Veda Vysa Annakshetra


It was at about hundred yards from that place we could see the the confluence of Swetha Gandaki which is broader and white in colour and  Ratandhara or Madi Gandaki, narrower and darker. In between these two rivers there is an island where sage Vyasa was born as the son of Satyavati and  Parasara.  This was his janma bhoomi, karma bhoomi and also the tapo bhoomi. (From the word ‘Dweep’ meaning island, he was named ‘Dwaipayana’). He classified the Veda into four different Vedas ( Rig, Yajur, Sama and Atharvana ) and hence got the name Veda Vyasa. His Avatara was the 17th of the 24 Avatars of Sri Maha Vishnu..
Photo from Parvati Natarajan (38).jpg            Photo from Parvati Natarajan (39).jpg
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             Sangam of Swetha Gandaki and Madi Gandaki ( White and Black)

We had to carefully tread across many, slippery boulders and pebbles ( picture above), toreach the river bank and to have ‘prokshanam’ of the cool holy waters of Madi Gandaki and Swetha Gandaki. Our struggle proved worthwhile as we felt elated to have received the divine blessings direct from the Supreme Lord Sriman Narayana himself flowing in the form of the sacred rivers..

There in the open ground we saw a congregation of  young girls clad in bright red and green dress and men in grey. They were celebrating Parents’ Day, a day after Nepal’s New Year day
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                                             Parents’ Day Celebrations

We left Damauli by 4:30 pm and proceeded towards Pokhara, a prominent town. We reached ‘Hotel The Kantipur’ near Lake Side by 6:30pm..


                                           


                                         Photo from Parvati Natarajan (40).jpg     
                                                            Entering Pokhara City                                                             

Pokhara is a city on Phewa lake in Central Nepal. It is a gateway to Annapurna Circuit, a popular trail in the Himalayas. Pokhara Lekhnath as it is known is the largest city in Nepal, 9 times larger than Kathmandu.The Annapurna Range with three of the ten highest mountains in the world, Dhaulagiri, Annapurna, and Manaslu is within 15-35 miles of the valley which can be seen from the city.The Machhapuchhre (Fish Tail) is also visible from here. It is home to many Gurkha soldiers. It is referred as the most expensive city in the country. It is regarded as the ‘Tourism Capital of Nepal’. The Seti Gandaki (White River) is the main river flowing through the city.

Until the end of the 1960s the town was only accessible by foot and it was considered even more a mystical place than Kathmandu. The first road (Siddhartha Highway) was completed in 1968. Development of tourism took place and the city grew rapidly. The area along  Phewa lake side has blossomed into one of the major tourism hubs of  Nepal..

There are numerous temples and gumbas in and around Pokhara Valley. Many temples serve as combined places of worship for Hindus and Buddhists. Since we planned to go for Muktinath darshan, we did not have time to visit any of these places. Planning for one more day’s stay at Pokhara  becomes necessary to visit the most interesting tourists spots in the town..

Photo from Parvati Natarajan (41).jpg              Photo from Parvati Natarajan (42).jpg
          Hotel The Kantipur                                 Artistic Buildings
       
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                                 Admiring  the Geraniums -
                            A thing of beauty is a joy for ever.

We stayed in Kantipur Hotel that night. Kantipur is the poetic name of ancient Kathmandu. The hotel is inside a small lane.  The buildings painted in blue look artistic from outside surrounded by beautiful landscape. The rooms are comfortable. After freshening up we went out for dinner in Laxmi Marwadi Bhojanalaya situated near the lake. Hot rotis, dal, vegetables, rice, pickles, papad and sweet curds constituted the menu. Everyone relished the tasty food.  We spent some limited time in shopping and returned to the hotel. Sri Dasa gave us instructions for the next day’s schedule. As we had to leave the place as early as 5am we wished every one ‘Hare Krishna”/ Good Night and retired to our rooms..
Somewhere in our dreams  we were hearing the sounds of waters gushing in the holy Gantaki river.
The journey/yatra  goes into Day 4 on Sunday the 16th April 2017. The diary continues...

Natarajans .

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