At 7 in the morning, we had a super-intense pooja - worship ceremony. The night before, Swamiji had given me the "Mantra Pushpam" that is a volume of all chants, written in the Devanagari script so I can actually chant in Sanskrit. Not that I can chant like the pros around me, but at least I should be able to read silently while they chant. As it turned out, I could not even locate the chants in time while the usual people were chanting effortlessly. Swamiji was an arm's length away, and he can read minds especially when he sees someone flipping pages frantically. He directed me to the right page with each stotram. It was challenging to be able to read as fast as people were chanting. On the bright side, finally, on Day 9 of the trek, I at least knew what people are chanting.
After the pooja was over, Swamiji asked that people identify themselves as "fast walkers", or "slowest of the slow" or the middle group - elderly or sick or needing help. The logic was that there would be one group that would walk easily, another group that would be tagging along till the very end, and in the middle would be the group with the doctors so that help can be given easily to them as well as to the group before or after, if needed. I was surprised that Venkatarao-ji who runs marathons, and Mallik who pretty much goes around White Rock at lightning speed identified themselves as being in the slowest group - too much modesty.Shiva is the master ego blaster - every step in his direction needs to be taken with utmost respect and humility. Not that I needed to be modest - I was slow.
We started off by car and reached Tarboche where there is a flag post to which are tied hundreds of prayer flags. At the annual Tibetan festival of Saga Dawa, the old flags are taken off, and the flagpole is raised with new prayer flags. A straight flagpole augurs a good year, whereas a flagpole tilting towards or away from Kailash is inauspicious. In the picture below, Kailash is exactly at the top of the flagpole, hidden by clouds.
|Flag-post at Tarbosche, Kailash behind cloud cover|
Next stop Yama Dwar which is about 5 km from Darchen. Yama Dwar is literally the door of Yama, the lord of death.
This structure is built at the spot where legend has it that Savitri got from Yama, a fresh lease on life for her husband Satyavan. Her husband had passed away, as predicted, within a year of their marriage. Savitri walked behind Yama as he carried Satyavan's soul away, and asked him for a boon now that they were friends, having walked seven steps together. She asked that her father-in-law, an exiled king, should get his kingdom back. She still would not turn back, and Yama asked her to ask for anything but Satyavan's life. She asked that her father-in-law may have more sons, now that his one and only son was dead. Yama granted the wish, but Savitri would not turn back. Finally, Yama said, she could have one final wish other than Satyavan's life. She asked that she too may have a hundred sons. Yama granted that, and Savitri pointed out that to make Yama's boon come true, she needed her husband to be alive again.
Swamiji had already decided in Paryang that everyone needed to take a pony and a porter. Another unasked-for wish fulfilled. With my camera equipment, I needed to have both anyways. Earlier requests to Shrestha had not received a clear answer. We had paid the 1600 yuans in Paryang, and I would be able to walk freely and take pictures.
An hour after we arrived at Deraphuk, Yoganand knocked on the door - the cloud cover had begun to lift, we would soon have photo ops. I wondered if he had any plans for sanyas - renunciation. He appears to know all the prayers and chants, he has a very sweet, generally blissful disposition, he is close to all the Swamijis, besides having a brother who has taken sanyas already. No such plans, he assures me. Despite yesterday's brief glimpse into sanyasi bliss, I am too attached to Ash and can feel the tearing pain for any mother if her child decides to take sanyas. I understand the satsangatve nissangatvam... - from good company to solitude..., easy to memorize, difficult to live.
|The stunning north face of Kailash, check out the cobra's hood at the top|