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jorgesanchez Gangotri Glacier - A travel report by jorge
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Gangotri Glacier,  India - flag India
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jorgesanchez's travel reports

Seeking Shiva in the Himalaya caves

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India is, without doubt, the most fantastic country on Earth. Each of its states constitutes a world in itself. The Himalaya Mountains are very challenging for the independent traveller and, according to the Indian mystics, are the abode of the Gods.


Valley of the Flowers, near the magic lake Hempkund, holy place for Hindus and Sikhs
Valley of the Flowers, near the magic lake Hempkund, holy place for Hindus and Sikhs
The gate to the fabulous Himalaya region is Haridwar, on the banks of the holy River Ganga (Ganges), in the new State of Uttaranchal. There are daily trains from Delhi to Haridwar as well as buses. Then you still have to proceed to Rishikesh, and after two more days of travel by bus you will arrive to Uttar Kashi, or the Northern Varanasi, from where you can reach four holy places at the border with Tibet (and still 100 kilometres further the Kailas Mountain and the Ganges source). These four holy places are: 1 - BADRINATH, where there is a famous temple devoted to Vishnu. It is one of the four holiest sites marking the four cardinal religious points of India (the other three are Rameswaran, in the south, Puri in the East, and Dwarka in the west). In Badrinath the sage Veda Vyasa wrote the Vedas and the Mahabharata, and even “witnessed” the battle of Kurukshetra (the main argument of the Bhagavad-Gita) without leaving his cave, thanks to his telepathic powers. 2- KEDARNATH is located among glaciers and shelters one well known temple devoted to Shiva. The road and paths to get there are really overwhelming! Indeed, the Gods have good taste to have chosen that stunning mountains and valleys as their residence. From Kedarnath you can reach walking the Valley of The Flowers and the Lake Hempkund, which are holy places for Hindus and Sikhs alike because the tenth Sikh guru, Goving Singh, founded there a Gurdwara. 3- YAMUNOTRI has a holy temple at the banks of the Yamuna River. At some days walking distance you can attain the Glacier Pindaro, where some sadhus affirm that there live the legendary sages, or rishis, Muniraj (over 300 years old), and Babaji the Eternal. 4- GANGOTRI, where I stayed one month because I met an old friend from a recent Kumbha Mela festival in Allahabad. His name was Baba Ashoka Nanda, and he owned at 4 hours walk a cave called PRACHEEN GUFA. Thanks to his invitation I had the privilege to experiment life in that striking part of our plantet.

Favourite spots:
Indian girl that I met in the train to Haridwar
Indian girl that I met in the train to Haridwar
PRACHEEN GUFA CAVE. We woke up at 3.30 AM to look for firewood for the om-kund or holy bonfire, plants for obtaining ink to paint our foreheads, ears and Adam’s apples during the puja ceremonies, leaves for the tea, lovely flowers to decorate the temple; in the evenings Baba, or Babaji as I called him, played his seashell and chanted Hindu litanies, etc. Pilgrims visited our cave (one of the many hundreds that are inhabited by sadhus in that area), and gave us chapatti, roti, samosas, fruits, etc., and Babaji corresponded with prasad. One day we were visited by the guru Laxeman Das with eighty of his disciples with video cameras, in donkeys, accompanied by several porters of the low caste sudra who carried their trunks. They gave us a lot of rupees and food. Laxeman Das worships Laxmi or the Goddess of the abundance. Her followers ought to be millionaires of the caste Brahman. Some of the disciples were lying in chairs transported by four harijans (untouchables) on their shoulders.

What's really great:
Market in Rishikesh
Market in Rishikesh
GOMUKH GLACIER is at two hours walk from Pracheen Gufa. Besides the glacier there is a famous ashram ruled by Lal Baba. There I met “naga” sadhus naked, covered only with ashes, summer and winter. Others never move one arm, which soon gets atrophied, others never lay to sleep, but lean instead to a tree or tie to it with ropes, some never cut their nails, which are very long and curled, others never speak, and still others remain in the river without ever going out. Many carry a “danda”, or spear, that is called tridanda if has three points, and hold a “lota”, or milk can. Most smoke ganja. If pilgrims give food or money, the sadhus eat, if not they look for herbs or fast, and if they die from hunger they do not care, it is considered their karma. I also saw Sikhs with their turbans and swords, and sannyasins, or men over 50 years old, dressed with white loincloths, who had given up everything, house, work, family, etc., to pilgrimage around the holy places of India until their death.

Sights:
Sadhus in Gangotri
Sadhus in Gangotri
Ladakh with its Zanskar Valley is another Indian region that will enthral you. If you happen to be in Leh during the full moon of June, then do not miss in Hemis Gompa the Eight Manifestations of Padmasambhava Festival (although in Rumtek Gompa, Sikkim, where I lived some time like a monk, this festival, celebrated one moon earlier, is infinitely better), performing dances with masks. Padmasambhava introduced Buddhism in Tibet in the VIII century. The trekking through Padum (Zanskar) and down to Manali is very scenic and you will pass in the neighbourhood of many fantastic (like Meteora type in Greece, almost hidden up on the rocks) enchanting Buddhist monasteries practising tantric rites of the old Bon religion, where you will be more than welcome if you make the effort to climb to them. I was very gently treated in Phuktal Gompa, at about ten days walk from Kargil, probably the most spectacular monastery in Zanskar, sandwiched between a giant grotto and a vertical rocky wall.

Accommodations:
Baba Ashoka Nanda initiates my girlfriend in the Hinduism Religion
Baba Ashoka Nanda initiates my girlfriend in the Hinduism Religion
In Delhi everybody goes to the cheap hostels around Connaught Circle. Ringo Guest House was popular in the hippie’s times, although presently has deteriorated. The Sikh Gurdwaras are free in India and you will be even feed with chapatti and chick-peas. In Rishikesh the best places to sleep are the ashrams. Sivananda ashram is very suitable if you want to meditate, or try Maharishi’s, where stayed The Beatles. In Uttar Kashi there is a dharamsala where you can sleep and eat Gujarati Thali with roti for free. Up in Gangotri you have to ask the sadhus permission to sleep in their caves. Baba Ashoka Nanda never refuses guests in Pracheen Gufa cave.

Restaurants:
Having a holy bath in the fountains of the River Ganga, near Kailas Mountain. Look at the sadhu with
Having a holy bath in the fountains of the River Ganga, near Kailas Mountain. Look at the sadhu with
In Rishikesh and further north, alcohol and meat are forbidden; you have to observe the vegetarian diet.
If you have weight problems, then spend a few months in Pracheen Gufa cave with Baba Ashoka Nanda! (See my picture in Gomukh Glacier, how skinny I am after two months in the four holy places eating only herbs, tubers and flowers!)

Other recommendations:
In Lamayuru Gompa before starting my long trekking to Zanskar and Manali
In Lamayuru Gompa before starting my long trekking to Zanskar and Manali
In the Himalaya I saw stones floating in the River Ganga, and touched others that smelled like onions, I met hale and hearty sadhus older than 100 years with incredibly long white eyebrows, I heard pujas in Lal Temple that made the mountains around vibrate, and still I witnessed other wonders that I will never forget. The months that I spent in these mountains of the Himalaya were of the most precious of my life. I did not find Shiva but I think that I got to understand myself a little bit better. I must confess that I travelled up to the Himalaya with the hope to become a “Superman”, but when I returned down my only wish was to be just a man.

(This was my last report in GLOBO. Pretty soon I will travel to the French Antarctic Islands. It is dedicated to the friends of my Guest Book -by calendar order-: rangutan bear495 kandath bootlegga deriek-2 davidx gloriajames mistybleu mkrkiran polytrad eirekay
Thanks for your friendship and hasta la vista!)

Published on Monday July 11th, 2005


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Fri, Oct 06 2006 - 12:49 PM rating by mrscanada

There are no French Antartic Islands!

Fri, Aug 05 2005 - 01:35 AM rating by fymind

hi,
jorge really seems to like travelling! highly informative & enjoyable account of a small journey in amazing india . really envy jorge.
bye,
fymind

Fri, Jul 15 2005 - 09:18 AM rating by gloriajames

To my newfound globo friend,
Another excellent read.
Have a wonderful exciting travel adventure and looking forward to hear more of your tales.
Take Care,
Gloria

Wed, Jul 13 2005 - 07:56 PM rating by downundergal

Amazing!

Wed, Jul 13 2005 - 03:14 AM rating by mkrkiran

Wonderful report.

Wed, Jul 13 2005 - 12:47 AM rating by britman

Brilliant report

Tue, Jul 12 2005 - 05:02 AM rating by rangutan

One of your best reports (they are all excellent) and a true "best" example of travel writing, nothing to do with tousism but pure personal adventure!

Tue, Jul 12 2005 - 12:13 AM rating by ravinderkumarsi

excellent report,i enjoyed all your reports.

Mon, Jul 11 2005 - 05:08 PM rating by magsalex

Great report!

Mon, Jul 11 2005 - 03:49 PM rating by davidx

Outstanding, even for you! Thank you so much!

Mon, Jul 11 2005 - 03:33 PM rating by eirekay

Thank you Jorge for one more of your amazing reports. I have looked forward to reading your adventures for the past month. I will miss seeing them! Eire

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