|Ban-Ganga - Courtesy: maavaishnodevi.org|
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.
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
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