Monday, February 18, 2013

Ancient Pilgrims Trail in Himalayas Part VI

We arrived in Dhanturi at 3PM. Way from Kumud to Dhanturi was very beautiful. This valley as well Budha Kedar Valleys were still green, clean and unmolested unlike other main roads valleys. Distance was just 10 kilometer and there was no public transportation available so at various places people were looking for transportation. Although we paid for the whole jeep but we asked driver to take any passenger that is seeking a transportation without any cost to them. Many people were waiting for transportation for hours. When we arrived at Dhanturi, our jeep carried at least 20 people and their goods. Driver was complaining so we let him charge money from some of the travelers with most luggage.
A view from the way

It was Friday. From Dhanturi we caught a public bus going to Uttarkashi, it was brutally and dangerously packed with people and goods inside the bus as well on the top, I took the tickets till Chourangi Khal. Chourangi Khal is the highest and most scenic point on this route. From here a Nachiketa Tal, a scenic lake is just 4 km walk. Rabindra Nath Tagore spent many days at Nachiketa Tal, it is said that there he composed Gitanjali.
Near Chourangi Khal
Route was a severe descent, road traversed 4000 feet in merely 15 kilometers and somehow bus successfully arrived at Chowrangi Khal which is a pass in the mountain. and we got off the bus. I never been here before, I found this place very pretty. There was a small market on the road and tea, food was available. We had rice with locally grown delicious rajmah. Pehalwan wanted to get to Uttariashi fast so he could walk to his sister’s home in the mountains, while there was still daylight. We wanted to reach there in our luxary. We wanted to walk on the road and suggested Pehalwan that he can take the next bus but he insisted that we all will go together. From here to Uttarkashi is all downhill. We started walking and Pehalwan Saab tugged behind us in displeasure.
Chourangi Khal
After one kilometer of walk it was inferno. The Déjà vu. Mountains were burning around the valley of Ganges. Huge ancient trees were burning and turning into cindering charcoal. Sky was gray with smoke haze. It was heart breaking scene. Old trees even on the top of the mountains were either still burning or were burnt to charcoal. Burning leaves, twigs, branches and sparks were falling on the road from above. Miles and miles of forest were at fire. Fire as far as we could see. We kept walking in the smoke and fire. Mother Nature was on the path of destruction. Fires set by greed or ignorance of human. Fires were set either by people so it burns old grass and makes the way for new for their cattle. I have seen myself people setting those fires and then those fires go out of control or they just don’t much bother to control it. Or fires are set by corrupt forest department staffers in nexus with tree mafia. And also these same people intentionally don’t make any effort to control or prevent the fires because after fire they can sell the trees or claim the already sold trees as burnt and vanished.
We kept on walking in fires. Fire was raining on the road from above. Huge rocks were exploding and cracking with heat. There was not a single drop of water in the water crevices.
We wept.
Nachiketa Tal
I still wanted to walk but a bus was coming and Pehalwan stopped it. Pehalwan assumed that I and Harish still wanted to walk, he lifted me and dumped in the bus on an empty seat, Harish had no choice but get board. This bus was almost empty. I bought tickets for the Kutati Devi temple. A place 6 kilometers before Uttarkashi and a very scenic shortcut trail goes to town from there.
Whole way was on fire and we were very sad. As far as we could see, all the mountains were on fire. After distance Ganga Valley became visible midst fires and smokes.
Inderavati Valley
We left the bus at Kutati Devi temple. Pehalwan also didn’t put any resistance and we walked down to the temple and sat in the jungle there and watched the fires. Uttarkashi town and river Ganges was visible from here like a silvery snake in the gray smoke. People told us that it hasn’t been rained in Uttarkashi for many days whereas it used to rain almost at each day in the evenings so dry mountains are at fire. We walked down on the trail and had tea at hydroelectric colony tea canteen and watched the smoke filled sad scenes all around us from that height. I have many good memories of this place. From this tea shop scenes are breathtaking. I always drink tea hear and watch the scenes. From here you can hear the large bells of Vishwanath Temple in Uttarkashi.
Then we walked to the bottom of mountains, in the the Ganges valley and crossed the Bridge of Inderavati River. I never saw so little water in that river in my life. It was always a happy, laughing and bubbling river. All springs those fed that river were in the fire and dried out. Most of the town and bazaars are at the other side of Ganges and this side of town is very quite. All people were looking at us; a motley’s crew. We were with the hulk of 6.5 feet tall Pehalwan so we two appeared pygmies. Wrestling competition posters were everywhere and whosoever saw our Pehalwan, commented, “Here comes the winner.”
Now we were also proud of our Pehalwan. After Inderawathi, many kids and boys started walking with us to look more of the pehalwan. They were asking him questions about if he wrestled with Dara Singh or Great Khali or went abroad or wrestled with other pehalwans in America at WWF. Some boys claimed that they saw our Pehalwan on TV battling with other great names. Then after the Indravathi bridge and 2 more turns, our hotel appeared after a hair pin bend. We entered in our hotel and left the crowd outside. Our hotel is situated on the outskirts of Uttarkashi.
Hotel owner is a long time friend of me and he was happy to see us along with the Pehlalwan. We were given two best rooms there facing the river; there was a door in between both rooms. Whole valley was shaking with the thunder and noise of Ganges. The happiest place in the Uttarkashi is City Ghat. So we parked our load in the room, took our loincloths and walked in the bazaar of Joshiara and crossed the foot bridge to the ghat at the other side. Pehalwan was with us and everybody was looking at us, a comedy circus or an odd gang. A Motley’s cres. Many people know me in Uttarkashi and they all greeted as well smiled at us. We had another long bath in the icy waters of Ganges till. Now Sun was crimson and it was about to set behind a mountain.
Pehalwan said to me, “Master Ji, I am following you but now you must follow me. Upon the arrived in Uttarkashi first thing we must do it to visit Vishwanath temple.”
“Ok, Rustam-E-Azam. We must visit Vishwanath temple.”
It was a one kilometers of joyful walking in the colorful bazaars of Uttarkashi.
Vishwanath Temple
Vishanath temple is a very serene temple under the tall pine trees. I love to sit here for hours. Just being here is a calming and soothing effect on the soul. Puzari gathered around Our Pehalwan and did a special pooja for him for free, wishing him to win the inami-dungal tomorrow. Then we sat in the open in the temple premises and all evening devotees were staring at our Pehalwan in amazement. Small kids were touching his body, biceps and elbows. Then we visited adjoining temple of Hanuman Ji. Every Pehalwan’s favorite god, there Pehalwan ordered us to pray for him so we did. Then we walked in the bazaars and got ourselves more famous there.
View of Uttarkashi from Varun Mountain
To be continued.

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