Tuesday, 15 November 2011

A Collection of True Stories - Part II

When I was led by an Unknown Beam of Light – a true story
By Vijay Khosla (Part –II of the Story)

We reached ‘Katra’ and left our baggage with a local priest to commence our journey to the holy shrine of ‘Maa Vaishno Devi’. In 1973, the town of ‘Katra’ was a small sleepy place with a single bazaar to cater to your needs. There were no tiled or cemented pathways and no provision of electrical-lights at night as it is today. The whole journey was conducted almost on your own. The pilgrims use to carry torch-light while travelling at night. At places, the ‘kutcha-pathway’ used to be covered with pitch-dark blackness during moonless nights. Yet, there was never a dearth of pilgrims to the holy shrine. A famous holy chant giving courage and energy to cover that 13 km trek through the mountainous region is given below:

Paudi Paudi chadh da ja,
 Jai Mata di Karda ja”!

Paudi Paudi chadh da ja,
 Jai Mata Di Karda ja”!

Jai Mata Di… Jai Mata Di… Jai Mata Di… Jai Mata Di…”


(Have courage and)
keep on climbing the stone stair-case step by step…
(you will reach at your destination).
(Forget all worldly things… keep on Chanting the pious Mantra…)
Glory to the Holy Mother! Glory to the Holy Mother!!

Note: The whole trek has a stone stair case as well as a plain path cut on the mountain surface. No one knows who cut those stones to fabricate the stair case. The plain path has been provided to make the journey a bit easy on the pilgrims and goes round and round the ‘Trikuta Mountain’. The pathway used to be an unpaved gravel filled mountain road with no facility of electric poles and lights to facilitate illumination at night back in 1973.

It is equally surprising that millions of people visit the ‘Maa Vaishno Devi’ shrine every year and just keep on reciting the above said pious mantra to cover this arduous and tiring journey and they do make it successfully.

Well, coming back to the original story, me and the Aunt Nirmala (the old woman’s name was Nirmala and I started addressing her as ‘Aunt’ to pay my respect to her age) procured the ‘Prasad’ (our offering to the deity) from the bazaar as well as took on rent a bamboo stick along with a pair of P.T. Shoes to enable our climb.

Both of us got our names registered as devotee at the base camp at Katra and started our climb.

Ban-Ganga - Courtesy: maavaishnodevi.org
 Baan-Ganga – 1 Km. from Katra

Our 1st. halt was at Baan-Ganga situated at an altitude of 2800 ft. It is a small stream of fresh mountain water. The devotees are expected to take a bath in the stream water to purify themselves before commencing their onward journey. Aunt Nirmala insisted upon taking a bath in the stream but I refused on the pretext that I had already bathed, back at the hotel room.

Ardh-Kuwari – 6 Kms. from Katra

The 2nd halt was at ‘Ardh-Kuwari’ situated at an altitude of 4800 ft. The place is taken as the middle point of the entire journey. It is also famous for its ‘Garbh-Gufa’ or the Womb-Cave as it is shaped like a womb. The pilgrims visit the temple at ‘Ardh-Kuwari’ as well as enter the narrow cave of 15 ft. length famously known as ‘Garbh-Joon’. We rested for a while before continuing our onward journey to the shrine.

Sanjhi-Chhat – 9.5 Kms. from Katra

The 3rd halt was at ‘Sanjhi-Chhat situated at an altitude of 6200 ft. It is the highest and toughest part of the journey. The holy cave of ‘Maa Vaishno Devi’ is almost 3 Kms. away from this place and a downhill slope at this junction welcomes you for a change. The downhill journey starts from this place up to the temple.

Sanjhi-Chhat provides a scenic view of the mountains and valleys. We stopped for a while to recover our breathes and refreshed ourselves with water and a steaming cup of tea.

Bhawan – The Holy Shrine – 13 Kms. from Katra

The Holy Bhawan… the main temple houses the Sanctum Sanctorum – the Holy cave which is the ultimate destination of all the pilgrims. Inside the Holy Cave the Goddess has revealed herself in the form of Holy Pindies manifesting 'Maa' in her three forms Maha Kali, Maha Lakshmi and Maa Saraswati.

A pilgrim is greeted with the first glimpse of Bhawan around 1.5 Kms before his actual arrival. The first sight of the Holy Shrine engulfs anybody with sudden upsurge of energy and all the hardship borne on the strenuous climb of 13 Kms evaporates immediately as if by a magic. The fact that the last 1.5 kms. of the route is a gently sloping downwards pathway, which is a big relief to those tired muscles. The feeling of having almost reached there fills the devotees with extra fervor and devotion. The last 1.5 km distance is then covered as if on wings and in no time the devotee reaches the Holy Shrine.

To be continued….in Part- III

Monday, 14 November 2011

A Collection of True Stories - Part I

When I was led by an Unknown Beam of Light – a true story
By Vijay Khosla (Part – I of the Story)

This story belongs to that period of my life when I was merely a lad of 23. A care free young man serving in the eastern part of the country. I was posted at a famous hill station named ‘Shillong’, the Capital of the state of ‘Meghalaya’ in India. The year was 1973 and the month February.

During one of those cold winter nights, I dreamt of the holy shrine of ‘Maa Vaishno Devi’ and heard a voice beseeching me in my dream to come and visit her shrine. The sound of the voice was soft and filled with love but at the same time it was commanding too. It was like a mother calling her kid from a doorway... and that ‘call’ couldn't go ignored….it had to be followed.

I was awakened from my dream by that 'call'. It was early in the morning. I couldn’t sleep after that. I kept on thinking about the dream and finally decided to visit the holy temple of ‘Maa Vaishno Devi’ in Jammu & Kashmir, India. So, I made arrangements for my travel to the most holy shrine.

Courtesy: travelindia-guide.com
 Maa Vaishno Devi shrine is considered as one of the most holiest and sacred places in the world. It is located in the mighty ‘Trikuta Mountain’ at a height of 5200 ft. above the sea level. The journey to the shrine starts from a small town named ‘Katra’, which is 61 kms. in the north of Jammu. From Jammu to Katra you can reach by a bus. The distance from Katra to the holy shrine is 13 kms. covered normally on foot.   

The actual story starts from Jammu Bus Stand.

As told earlier, I was a young lad of 23, single and care free. I had reached Jammu to start my onward journey to Katra. It was around 08:30 in the morning and I was feeling fresh and joyful after having my breakfast of ‘Aloo-paratha’.

I was waiting for the bus at the bus-stand when a weak voice called me from my back and enquired whether I was waiting for the bus to Katra too?

I turned back and found an old woman of around 65 who had put the question to me. She was a little frail than strong in appearance. I gave my answer in affirmative. Then she enquired again that if I was alone and did not mind an old woman tugging along as a companion to visit ‘Maa Vaishno Devi’s shrine’? At this, I looked her up once more and seeing her age and health, suggested her to hire a palanquin for herself at Katra as I wished to cover the journey on foot.

Oh No! aloud she cried out. She firmly declared that she will cover the journey along with me. I requested her again to heed to my advice of hiring a palanquin for herself. At this, she got annoyed and almost ordered me to ‘keep shut’ and she is accompanying me by all means and that is final.

There was something in her way of talking that bore the tone of authority, as if my own mother was ordering me. I did not offer any more excuses and submitted to her demand of traveling together.

To be continued….in Part - II