In my life, I never knew a holy pilgrimage like this existed, let alone had an inkling I’d have the fortune to go on it.
Located in the Uttarakhand range of the Himalayas is the Dev Bhoomi, The Land of the Gods. The Char Dham – the Four Holy Seats – contains a divine package of Yamunotri, the origin of the Yamuna River; Gangotri, the origin of the Ganga River; Kedarnath, one of the twelve jyothilingas of Mahadev Shiva; and Badrinath, where Lord Vishnu resides.
All four heavenly abodes had a celestial magic upon them that mixed with the oxygen we breathe in. As they pass through each cell of our bodies, we are purified from any negative thought that runs through our minds. Basically you forget there is a fast-paced technological world living right below the mountains. When I left the natural and clean atmosphere of spiritual bliss, trust me, I did cry.
The pilgrimage ends with the arrival to Haridwar, a land famous for being blessed by the River Ganga where devotees bathe to cleanse themselves of sins, but Haridwar was where two tears leaked out of my eyes. The mountains with their simple dwellers had an untainted mark upon them that heavily contrasted with the posh and opulent people asking the Gods to fulfil their greedy wishes. This was where I got my answer to a question I ask my parents often.
‘Why don’t the Gods and Goddesses ever offer us a sight to view them like they did thousands of years ago?’
Because of how people have changed. Only three out of a hundred devotees at a temple will ask for His guidance. The others would want the latest Mercedes their next door neighbour is flaunting. They think God is a magician, pulling bunnies out of his hat at will. No one just wants His presence with them alone. I have a burning desire to deck the people bribing Lord Vishnu at Thiruppathi like a business dealer. They demand that he blesses them with millions of money so they will in return offer gold silk or ornaments to Him. The kind of wealth people madly throw for the temple renders me speechless and angry.
That’s like insulting Him, because the materialistic offers consist of nothing but selfishness. Not a hint of pure devotion.
Anyway, back to the Char Dham. It is something every single one of us who love God immensely will be blessed to go on. You wake up to life with a fresh meaning and morals.
This pilgrimage was a spur of the moment plan, because neither I nor my mother knew about it. It all started in the dining room of my grandparents’ home, where we were talking random stuff when my grandfather received a phone call from his close North Indian friend. Uncle was telling him that himself and aunty were going on the Char Dham and asked whether he would like to join them. He accepted and after he rushed off for some work, Mum prompted my grandmother to accompany him, because pilgrimages like this come only once in a while and we should grab the opportunity. She was hesitant at first, but then nodded her head and planned to take my second maternal uncle too.
The wheels in Mum’s head was turning too because she loves going to temples. My little brother is currently out of station for a course he is doing, and he is in the same club too, but he couldn’t make it because of an exam he had. Mum didn’t want to leave him and go but since she knew a lucky chance like this may never come our way again, she called him up to tell him about it and my brother’s immediate response was, ‘Mum, please go on it. This will bring you a lot of happiness and I want you to enjoy it. Don’t think twice and bring back blessings for our home.’
She was ecstatic by his assuring words and notified grandpa that she and I wanted to join them too. In a matter of four days, the flight tickets were booked and our clothes and coveralls packed and ready for the mighty Himalayas in Uttarakandh.
We were a team of seven: Mum, me, Grandma, Grandpa, my second maternal uncle, Grandpa’s close friend and his wife.
Before the day we flew up there, at home we watched the Char Dham DVD Dad once purchased during a North India tour four years ago, so we can know the directions and how to get to each temple. We also took note of the directions, distance to each one, landmarks, how far cars can go etc.
But little did we know so much of what we saw was actually mistaken?
Little did we know some of the things we thought were easy were not so?
None of us knew God was going to challenge us.
My experience with Yamunotri, Gangotri, Kedarnath and Badrinath is going to be taken out of my memory into separate chapters, since each Dham took us through fresh new experiences that cannot be compressed into a single one.
Here we go, the Char Dham Yatra …