Sunday, February 17, 2013

Mystery of Shilajit – Kedarnath Valley Part I


But where it comes from?
I traveled on many mountains and never seen any shilajit. I asked many people on the mountains and they all said of-course shilajit exists but they never saw it in their area and they never had any idea where else it can be seen in nature setup. I asked it in Arunanchal Pradesh, I asked it is Kashmir, I asked it in Himachal, I asked it in Uttranchal and I asked it in Nepal. Answer was the same. Nobody claimed if they came across any natural shilajit so it stayed a mystery to me. Hundreds of tons of shilajit is processed in Ayurveda medicines and God knows from where it comes.
Then in those days I concluded that it does not exist. But …………. it does exists and ….
Road from Guptkashi to Kalimath

Kalimath to Guptkashi Road


There is a very funny thing about the shilajit sold on the streets in Haridwar, Delhi etc.
I have seen it how they make it.
They gather monkey poop and boil it in water and then add resins, arrowroot and some color and … shilajit is ready and nobody can tell the difference because nobody really knows the difference; well almost nobody.
So nobody can tell any difference between Dabur shilajit and the one made by monkey poop. Once to have some fun; I bought some shilajit from a very famous Ayurvedacharya in Haridwar he guaranteed it that it was the purest of shilajit. He charged me hefty price for it. I had to buy it because someone in USA asked for it. Then I returned to the Ayurvedacharya and gave him a piece of the one I bought from the street for tenth of the price and asked him:
“Well Sir, this is one of the lump of shilajit that you gave me, you sure that it is pure.”
He replied, “Of-course it is pure.”
“But it smells strange.”
Now this Ayurvedacharya ate up that lump and said, “It is very very pure. I eat my own shilajit.”
Anyway … let’s cut the long story short. This is Ghumakkar website so let’s stick to my travel.
This is my story of a very long walk and Shilajit adventure. When I was staying in Ukhimath, my host Mr. Gobind Rawat took me on the trail to his village high in the mountains.
View from near the cliffs where shilajit was present
Ukhimath to Guptkashi road

Ukhimath to Guptkashi road
When we approached a turn on the trail he pointed the high cliffs and said that some shilajit is there on those cliffs. He added that some shilajit is found around his village also but those locations are equally very difficult to access because shilajit is present on the places where monkeys cannot access. Because in winter snows due to lack of food in nature monkeys get very hungry; they lick up the shilajit. Otherwise where monkeys can not get only there it can accumulates and can be harvested.
I asked him that I want to harvest it and he said that; First: Ropes etc. are not available here and; Second: Labor is not available because most of the village youths are make their livelihood in Kedarnath in the seasons of yatra, in Kedarnath. He added: However if you go to Kalimath there you will find labor as well ropes and also more shilajit than here because that is a moist valley and more shilajit may be available there.
Agustmuni in Kedarnath valley

Agustmuni in Kedarnath valley
Kalimath was already in my plans so I visited there in some days. Actually I walked from Ukhimath to Kalimath. A trail leads from Ukhimath temple and then to the bottom of the mountain where one crosses a foot bridge over the river Mandakini. Then after some ascent comes a Ayurveda Pharmacy college situated under the dense pine woods. They have a well maintained herbal garden. Trail passes thorough this college so as I was in the college area; whole college was looking at me out of their curiosity because visitors are rare on this trail. After the college trails comes to a road from Guptkashi to Kalimath and beyond. Then I took on the road along the river Mandakini for some kilometers. Scenes were breathtaking and whole atmosphere was full of pine and wild flowers aroma. Then road crosses the bridge and now we are at the other side of the river and one can see the confluence of Mandakini and Saraswati. It is very scenic place. Mandakini brings the water from Kedarnath side glaciers and Saraswati brings the water from Madhmaheshwar glaciers and confluence area is thundering with the roar of the crashing waters.Then this scenic road goes along Saraswati river to Kalimath. In 2 kilometers a small hamlet of Kalimath comes visible.

Village of Kalimath
This is a shaktipeeth or sidhapeeth. Local people revere it and now a day some Bangali Pilgrims are also visiting here. From the small village a bridge takes us to the small temple Kalimath at the other side of Saraswati River. At the temple there is only one shop and food can be only be prepared if you order in advance.
Ancient temple of Goddess Kali at Kalimath

Ancient temple of Goddess Kali at Kalimath
As I arrived on this place and instantly I just fell in love with Kalimath. There is a dharamshal in the temple premises and rooms are inexpensive, neat and big. I took a room facing the river and atmosphere was full of noise of bubbling river.
In the evening; a gentle man came to me. He said that he saw me in Pharmacy college; he was the lecturer of Ayurveda pharmacology. This gentleman Mr. Rana was staying in the same temple premises. He took me to his room for a cup of tea. There I mentioned shilajit. He said that there is some shilajit on the mountains and then he took me to a village high above. We inquired if we can get any help to obtain shilajit. 3 men came and offered their help. Ropes were arranged for the shilajit expedition that was planned next day. And after next day, Mr. Rana said that he will take over the preparation and purification of shilajit procedure. He invited some of his students also for help and also so they witness the process. My job was to foot the bill. I was to take a third of the share of shilajit, a third was to go to lecturer and a third was to go to the temple.
Path leading to the cliffs where shilajit was present

Path leading to the cliffs where shilajit was sighted
Next day I and those men went to harvest shilajit from high cliffs. We walked 4 kms. It was extremely dangerous climb to the top of the cliffs and from the top they were to hang with ropes to scrape off the rocks with chisels from the cervices, coated with black pitch. I stayed at the bottom to gather the raw shilajet thrown from the above.
Till evening they have harvested all possible mineral pitch from that location.
Mandakini river near Guptkashi

Mandakini river near Guptkashi
Shilajit is also called mineral pitch. It is made of all the dried and aged gunk that is possible in the area. Years of accumulation of lycopodium powder, dirt, bird droppings, minerals, clay, rock salts, rotten leaves and whatnot. These all things amalgamate into a thick pitch that sticks to the bottom of the cervices. Since it is edible so monkey lick it up in the lean periods of winter when food is scare (if they can access it).
So 3 sacks were filled with the the mixture of rocks and pitch etc. We brought these sacks in the temple. Luckily a donkey was made available to us.
Cliffs where shilajit was harvested

Cliffs where shilajit was harvested
Next day a huge pot was borrowed from temple and a chulha was made with 3 rocks and lots of firewood was bought. Then there was a nasty shock to me when all the boys invited by Mr. Rana brought lots of cow urine in plastic containers; Rana said that shilajeet will be purified by cow urine. I tried to have an argument on this matter but a crowd was gathered and everybody was in the favor of Mr. Rana that shilajit must be prepared with proper vidhi and vidhan because temple is also involved in its preparation. To me the idea of the shilajit processed with cow urine was just disgusting.
Kalimath Shakti Peeth

Shaktipeeth at Kalimath
What else I could have done. Then I kept quiet and also kept paying for this shilajit circus and there was no going back at that moment. I was told that my share of shilajit was worth the money I was spending.
A pilgrim party from Bengal also arrived at the Kalimath. They were also very curious about this all. They were about 20 people packed in one Tata Sumo. They were high on energy and very vocal.
So Three sacks were emptied in that huge pot (kadhai) and fire was lit. Cow urine jugs, gallons and bottles were emptied in that pot and mixture came to boil. Urine smell was so overpowering and it was burning my eyes, nose and throat. It came to boil and kept boiling and more boiling for several hours. Students kept shaking it and also removing solids from the bottom and anything that stayed floating, by sieve. Time to time some lime and niter rich soil was thrown in the pot and it came to bubbling foam atonce. That dirty foam was removed and finally it was all black clear liquid. No more foam appeared when that soil was thrown in the pot. It was still boiling and was becoming more and more concentrated and finally no more firewood was added and gradually it came to cooling end.
Now this gobbledygook is called shilajit. It was like thick honey but very foul and pungent smelling. Smell of urine was hitting my all senses. 3 portions were made. One third went to temple and one third went to Mr. Rana and his pupils (because they contributed cow urine) and one third was handed to me.
I got my share it was about a little short of 1 kilogram. As I came in my room and this gentleman from Bengal came to me and offered to buy my lot. He asked how much this whole ordeal cost me. I said 6000 rupee. He offered me 2000 rupee saying that 3 kg cost 6000 rupee and then one kg price was even less than 2000. I said him NO, that it was not for sale. He badgered me and badgered; more people from his party entered in my room and they were becoming verbal and wanted that shilajit for for 2000 rupee. Their argument was that I can get more of it made but they had not time to stay there. Their second argument was that I gifted rest of it to Mr. Rana and his pupils and temple so my share was only worth of 1500 rupee.
Well, I got rid of them and then went out for a walk in the mountains. At night I had my dinner at the small temple shop and then came to my room to sleep. In the morning I woke up early by the noise of the river and went out to have a cup of tea, then bathed in the river and when I returned I noticed that my shilajit was stolen. Those people raided my unlocked room and took away shilajit and left 1500 rupee in an envelope.
Wow! well that stinky substance was gone but it was a great loss to me because I fell in love with that stinky gobbledygook. Anyway when I had it; I had no courage to even lick a tiny portion of it whereas almost everybody in the vicinity of its preparation tasted it several times. I tried but then I felt throwing up …… but now it was gone.
Party from Bengal gone, shilajit gone, my heart broken and then I too packed up my belongings. When I told priests that my shilajit was stolen they gave me some from their own share. It was about 150 grams, they filled it up in a small discarded liver-52 bottle and I said goodbye to whole village (now they all knew me) and paid my final respects to Maa Kali, I walked out of temple premesis, crossed the bridge of River and came on the road.
I begun walking towards Guptkashi that was 10 KM forested road.
Mystery of shilajit is not over yet…..
Road to Gaurikund

Road to Gaurikund

2 comments:

  1. According to Dr. George Carman Shilajit is ... well, just remove the letters LAJI from the word and you'll see what he says it is. Shi****t. It is the feces of animals. He says, "The Giant Woolly Flying Squirrel in particular has a very waxy-leaf diet (my observations and supported by Zahler, 1998, 2002). It’s only relation to rocks is that it is collected from rocky sites where it was excreted."
    The joke is on those who buy and consume this stuff since the name contains within it the very truth about what it is.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Great article,I really enjoyed reading about your shilajit adventure.
    I take shilajit and have always been struck by its cow poop smell. Nonetheless it works and I keep taking it.

    ReplyDelete

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