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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 4 - Part 4 )                                                           

                                                                                   
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 अच्युतं केशवं रामनारायणम्   कृष्णदामोदरं वासुदेवं हरिम् ।
श्रीधरं माधवं गोपिकावल्लभम्    जानकीनायकं रामचंद्रं भजे ॥
Worship Vishnu in all his different forms
and all his different actions.                                                     
              
Sunday 16th April  2017  ( Day 4 )

We embarked at the early hours of 5am itself on 16-04-’17 from Hotel Kantipur. Our travel plan was to take the flight from Pokhara to Jomsom and then by road to Muktinath finally. Flights begin to Jomsom in batches from Pokhara and operate only in favourable weather.

We carried a small bag filled with essential items for overnight stay at Jomsom leaving our main luggage in the baggage room after vacating the rooms. We  reached Pokhara airport (2Kms) by 5:30am. The ‘TARA’ - airline counter opened by 6am.  We handed over our ids to receive the boarding passes and checked in our small bags at the counter.. Breakfast packets packed from the hotel ( pooris, sabzi, cutlets, fruit juice, and a banana) were distributed..

Sri Dasa briefed us regarding the flight schedule. Accordingly the first batch of 11 members from our group left by 6:45am  to Jomsom airport. The aircraft was very small and could carry only 15 passengers. The journey time to Jomsom is about 25 minutes  across  the Gandaki Gorge bordered by Annapurna Range of mountains. The return flight normally brings back the passengers from Jomsom who left the previous day.  Since the weather is mercurial and most uncertain, there are every chance of cancellation of flights.  In such eventuality Sri Dasa had cautioned us that the trip to Jomsom enroute Muktinath would not be possible. If such a situation arose, we would have to return to the hotel and chalk out a different plan.

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      Waiting at  Pokhara Airport                          Sri Dasa briefing the Travel Plan

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                                   watching the first batch boarding the Aircraft
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                                             In the air towards Jomsom


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                                               View of Gandaki Gorge

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         Nearing Jomsom Airport                        Dhaulagiri Peak


Since the first batch had already left by the flight, we had no anxiety and were discussing about darshan at Muktinath, the highest abode of Lord Vishnu. In the meanwhile we completed the security check and were ready to board  the aircraft “Tara’ when it returned. Seven of us lined up after sighting the aircraft landing little knowing about the tale of the first batch. We were shocked to see them alighting from the aircraft and walking towards us. We learnt  though the aircraft reached Jomsom airport, it could not land due to high wind velocity. Hence the pilot cancelled the landing as the situation became very risky. He had no alternative but to safely bring back the passengers to Pokhara. We were disappointed and looked for further announcement by ‘Tara’ airlines, keeping our fingers crossed.
 
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            -                                  Waiting for the Announcement

The display board flashed that the flight to Jomsom was delayed and there was no change in the status  for the next two hours almost.. The small airport witnessed  movement of more people with the other arrivals and departures.

We were in a state of stress and walked towards the coffee shop to drink strong Nescafe coffee (INR 160 /) to refresh ourselves. Our wait became futile and by 10:30am it was  announced that the flight to Jomsom was cancelled for that day. Our hopes of having darshan at Muktinath hanged in suspense. But Sri Dasa was contemplating for the alternatives. He came with a bold suggestion that  we could still make it to Muktinath Kshetra but the mode of travel had to be by road only. He also cautioned that the journey might involve about ten hours and the travel had to be endured as  the vehicle had to go through  bumpy and muddy roads. Further it might be difficult to get proper food on the way. Sri Dasa asked us to make the decision..

We unanimously decided to go with Sri Dasa’s proposal to travel by road to Jomsom. We were united in this as we did not want to retreat in disappointment.. We could not think of another chance of visiting Muktinath. It was a rare opportunity and we accepted the proposal.

Sri Madhavananda Dasa was in smiles as he was able to conclude arrangements with a private transporter with the help of Tara Airlines officer . In a very short time, the local bus with an experienced driver ( who proved to be an asset), was ready to take us..

11:30am --We finished our lunch at  Lakshmi Marwadi Bhojanalay at Prithvi Chowk- Typical Nepali Roti meal-hot rotis, rice,dal, mooli aloo mixed sabzi, tomato chutney, pickles and mishti dahi. Everyone was relaxed with the final arrangements and relished the tasty food and enjoyed the good service at the restaurant..

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                                       Bus to Jomsom in front of Bhojanalaya

By 12 noon we got into a mofussil bus exclusively booked for our trip up to Jomsom. The driver stopped a few times to accommodate the waiting passengers on the way and the process slowed down the journey. We felt hot as there was  no air conditioning and became aware of an arduous journey ahead. There were remarks from our group members that the path to  ‘ Mukti ‘ or ‘ ‘Liberation ‘ is filled with challenges and sacrifices ..

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                                   I Love not Man the less, but Nature more

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                                                       Amidst wilderness
By 4pm.  we reached Beni (70Kms) and stopped at Pulaha Ashram. We crossed Jada Bharata Ashram on the way. We entered Sripada Ramanuja Mata. Pulaha Ashram is connected with  Bharata Maharaja  after whom our country is called as Bharata Varsha.. Before that it was known by the name Aja Nabha Varsha..

King Rishabha and his wife Jayanti had 100 sons, Bharata  was the eldest of them all. Bharata accepted the responsibility as the next king after his father Rishabha renounced the world. Bharata ruled the country for a long time in the most notable manner upholding the traditions and encouraging dharma. Eventually he gave up all his possessions, material opulence and attachment for worldly life. After apportioning his kingdom among his sons he relinquished the royal life to embrace sanyas. He came to Pulaha Ashram to perform penance and engage in spiritual pursuits. He  was totally involved in tapasya and worshipping of the Lord ..

One day as he was meditating he happened to see a pregnant deer being chased by a ferocious lion. The deer was crossing a waterway and delivered a fawn in water and died.  Bharat felt pity for the newborn  and took the young deer under his care. He was happy to feed the infant with his own hands. He became more and more occupied with caring and tending to the needs of the young and enchanting deer - thus got attached to it totally..

One day when he was engaged in his regular prayers the deer started disturbing him. He pushed it aside and the deer went away, He felt sorry and began to search for it frantically.  Even when he was dying he thought of the deer only and requested the Ashram people to take good care of it.

यं यं वापि स्मरन् भावं त्यजत्यन्ते कलेवरम् I
तं तमैवति कौन्तेय सदा तद् भावभावित: II   BG 8:6
(Krishna says to Arjuna)
Whatever state of being one remembers when he quits his body, O son of Kunti, that state he will attain without fail.

In his next birth Bharata was born as a deer ( ref: BG 8.6 above ) and he could remember the mistakes of his past life. Whatever goodness he had acquired  spiritually made him realise his weakness and attachment for mundane things. He stayed away from his group and remained totally  detached  from all worldly affairs. He came to Pulaha Ashram and spent the time in the company of sadhus.

In the next birth he was born as the son of a brahmin.. He stayed aloof  without  uttering even a word. So he was called Jada Bharata. Finally he attained mukti because of his tapasya and total devotion to the Lord. ( The story is really long to accommodate here ).

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Pulaha Ashram Galeswardham
     
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We had  hot and sumptuous Kichadi and pickles as maha prasadam. Sripada Ramanujacharya, one of the greatest advocates of the Hindu Philosophy  and propagator of Vishishtadvaita Vedanta had visited this place long long ago. We were fortunate to be  there just a few days before the 1000th year celebration of his birth anniversary. We thanked the people for their hospitality and continued our journey towards Jomsom..

The road was muddy and we had to close all the windows to avoid fine sand entering inside the running bus. We saw Kali Gandaki River gushing on our right with the chain of Annapurna Mountain Range standing as a strong fort wall all along the route..

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                                      Forests are the Flags of Nature
     
The Kali Gandaki River has its source at the border with Tibet at an elevation of
6,268 M in the Mustang region of Nepal. The river flows southwards through a gorge known as Kali Gandaki Gorge or Andha Galchi between the mountains Dhaulagiri to the west and Annapurna 1 in the east. This is supposed to be the world’s deepest gorge. The river is older than the Himalayas. At Devghat the river joins the Trishuli River and flows southwest of Gaindakot town . Then it curves towards southeast as it enters India where it is called Gandak. It forms a tributary of Ganges in India. Below Gaindakot the river is known as Narayani or Sapt Gandaki having seven tributaries, the Kali Gandaki, Trishuli River and five main tributaries of  Trishuli -the Daraudi, Seti, Madi, Marsyangdi and Budhi. Largest Hydro electric projects had been set up on the Gandaki basin due to the ample availability of water as the resource.

* Gandaki river is mentioned in the Mahabharata..
* Its evolution is described in Shiva Purana, Kumarkhand in the chapter of killing                Shankhachuda..
* Episode 1 of “ The Living Planet ”., David Attenborough’s Second nature documentary series is set in the Kali Gandaki Gorge..

       

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I felt my lungs inflate with the onrush of scenery
                      Gushing Waters of Gandaki
Gushing Waters of Gandaki,
Dancing and splashing,
Twisting and rolling,
Dashing over rocks and pebbles,           
Reflecting the light above,
And the tall trees on the edge.
Mighty hills kissing the blue sky,
With Gandaki, a treat to behold.                              

Nature waves her wand,
To weave a vision so grand,
A movement graceful and enchanting,
A moment divine and inspiring..
Flowing from time immemorial,
Treasure chest of Shaligram Shilas,
Guiding us on the right direction,
Showing us the path towards ‘Liberation’.

White foam with its spray,
Enacting a musical play,
The murmuring ripples stringing the lute,
The roaring wind playing the flute,
The bubbling liquid beating the drums,
The tossing flowers nodding their heads,
The rustling leaves clapping their hands,
To the harmonious orchestral band..


Our van moves like a toy,
At the speed of a snail,
Imprisoned between deep valley,
And the Annapurna Range,
Light glistening from the silvery peak,
With the snow covered cap,
Lined by cascading waterfalls,
Along the creeks in the mountain walls..

Driving miles on the rough terrains,
The path gets tougher and dangerous,
Scenery changing dramatically,
Small villages popping their
Beautiful faces on the way,
Passing through dense forests,
We wave at an occasional trekker,
Or a bird soaring up in the sky..

As we watch the sun setting,
The darkness forming a covering,
The distant stars peeping,
Through the holes in the dark roofing.
We reach Jomsom safe at the end,
Journeying a hazardous 100 miles or so,,
Scenery Spectacular and Thrilling,
A memorable journey indeed !!,
6;30 pm- we stopped at Tatopani Checkpost for special permission to enter Annapurna Conservation Circuit area.. We came across a hot spring. The sun had set by then and it was becoming quite dark. We passed through small villages where they had literally downed the shutters . Thakkali Restaurant, the board was seen in many places. Thakalis , native of Nepal region are business people who have established Hotels serving special Nepali meals..
We were moving at 10mph speed as we had to stop  and give way for the vehicles coming from the opposite side. At some places we were crossing small rivulets or driving over stones and pebbles. Only an experienced, driver could drive in such locations and conditions. We could hear the roaring sound of the Kali Gandaki  from the valley below. At 10 pm with God’s grace we reached Seema Prahari Chowki  close to Jomsom to get one more entry permission. It was getting late and everything seemed to be dark and sleepy on the long drive and finally we stopped in front of an inn by 11 pm. We got down with our small bags when rooms were allotted for our night stay. With the instructions for the next day’s program we climbed the stairs to reach a very small room with a bed and a bath. We ordered some noodles and tea . The noodles was insipid and cold. So we drank  only the tea and retired to bed with the prayers for a  good darshan at Muktinath the next day.
We will be taking you to one of the most sacred places on earth tomorrow..

Natarajans

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