"Full many a ray of purest ray serene the dark unfathomed caves of ocean bear:
Full many a flower is born to blush unseen, and waste its sweetness to the desert air."
from "Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard" by Thomas Gray

Friday, July 2, 2010

Kailash 2010 Day 8 : Chiu Gompa to Darchen, Friday July 02, 2010

The Swamijis perform the morning yagna facing Kailash, Chiu Gompa
The swamijis performed a yajna - worship ritual, at 9 in the morning, facing Kailash completely hidden by a cloud cover. The swayambhu shivalinga that Swamiji had picked from Manas Sarovar for me, was placed among the many objects of worship. Having always seen sanyasis - those who have renounced the world, in the middle of my world, there was always a question - why would anyone renounce the world???

The chanting in Sanskrit, the early morning air, the clear waters of Manas, the constant look-out for Kailash that is currently under a cloud cover, the spiritual strength that made them natural leaders - all worldly worries and concerns gone, I had this epiphany on why people decide on sanyas - renunciation. It was a cold morning, and my right hand clutching the camcorder in mid-air for an hour, was frozen by the time the yajna ended.
I  had to get the camera out of my stiff frozen right hand with my left hand at the end of the morning yagna, Chiu Gompa

Kailash emerging from behind the cloud cover after the yajna
An hour after the yajna was completed, the cloud cover over Kailash started lifting. The first view of Kailash sent a wave of joy and excitement among the people. It was a good sign that the weather was good and we had such a clear view of the sacred mountain. Every year, many people come from all around the world on a once-in-a-lifetime trip and return without Kailash darshan, - a clear glimpse of Kailash.

After lunch, we left for Darchen, an hour away. There was a huge hall with numerous beds where all the men would stay. And there was a building that had a set of rooms with five beds each, where all the women would stay. The room had electricity, the lights worked but the electric plugs had no juice so I could not charge my camera equipment. The restroom was an enclosed set of two holes in the ground at the outer edge of the guesthouse compound. The place stank so much that people were discussing whether they should be scouting for an open place outside the compound - which is frankly not an option for me.

Swarn came in to the rooms to announce that the sky was clear, so we needed to leave right away to go see Ashtapada - the south face of Kailash.

Crossing the river bed to reach Ashtapada
After a hair-raising drive on narrow unpaved tracks on steep slopes and finally crossing the river where the water is about a foot deep, we were at Ashtapada twenty minutes later. Coming out of the car after this scary drive, I saw Swamiji sitting by a slope taking pictures. I asked him where Kailash was, and he pointed behind me. As I turned, the awe-inspiring south face of Kailash was there in all its magnificence, and it is fitting that I needed Swamiji to point it out to me. I had not realized I would see the mountain so clearly. The distance to Kailash was still significant but the clarity of vision created the impression that it was right in front of us. And then I noticed the presence of Kal Bhairav. :)
Stunning view of Ashtapada, check out the OM in front and the trinetra on the left

The presence of Kal Bhairav at Ashtapada
In the middle of the picture of Ashtapada above, at the very left, we could see Trinetra, the three eyes of Shiva - the two physical eyes and the third vertical inward eye, shown below.
Trinetra, the two eyes and the invward contemplative eye of Shiva, on the south-west face of Kailash

In front of the south face of Kailash, is the Nandi mountain seen to the right in the picture below.
Kailash and Nandi

Swamiji in front of Ashtapada
KV Rao at Ashtapada
Gopikrishna-ji at Ashtapada
Rajeev at Ashtapada

If I had to plan a trip, I would spend a few days at Darchen to visit Ashtapada every day.

There were marmots on the slopes, just like I had seen last year on the trek to Pike's Peak, Colorado. They would stand up in their burrows and peep out. They are playful creatures, making for very interesting pictures.
Yellow marmots at Ashtapada
Once back at Darchen, with no juice in the electric plugs in the room, Swarn helped me find the place to charge the camera and the camcorder. The office did not have a spare plug point, but there was a small house near the gate, possibly for the security person. As I peeped inside, there were many Tibetan men sitting in the living room watching television. I showed my chargers and one of them helpfully plugged them in. The furniture, the house, the tea set were all beautifully painted. I was very tempted to run back and get my camera to take some pictures, but then I decided not to. I was encroaching on their home already.

I was not sure if I could leave and come back in an hour, we were communicating with sign language and some broken English. The men offered tea that they were drinking, they appeared to be offering their own cups, but then a shy, pretty lady came out of the kitchen, pulled out a fresh tea cup and offered me the salty Tibetan tea that is made with yak butter. I sipped the warm liquid which was surprisingly very palatable. We made conversation about where I lived and whether I would use a pony or not for the trek around Kailash. They were contemptuous about using a pony, and told me through sign language that the circum-ambulation of Kailash should be done on foot. Great idea, explain that to my fat wobbly legs. They had great things to say about America - "great country", "good place". I had many more helpings of the Tibetan tea while I waited for the batteries to charge and watched Chinese shows on television with them. At the end, they refused to take any money, so I went back to my room and brought them some cookies and candies from the good place, the great country America.

All doubts, worries, fears are now behind me, and there is an excitement for tomorrow - the first day of the trek around Kailash.

Aum Namah Shivaaya!!

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