When the desire for longing is strong, the calling will come. In my vision before I went, it was almost real, in reality it was like a surreal dream, and now, it is a living, palpable vibration that I carry along with me.
Words fall short, if one has to describe the individual experiences that Kedarnath brings. If one seeks it, one will experience it. I can say this with great clarity today, because this has been my second visit to this consecrated space. Thirty eight years ago, when I was a young teenager, I had accompanied my parents and trekked a distance of 16 kilometers, along with them through the lofty Himalayas, by the side of the river Mandakini from Gaurikund, the last motorable point, even today. In those days, I was never too attracted to temple visits, mostly because of the crowds and also the lack of cleanliness in such sacred spaces. Nevertheless, I was aware, that this abode of the Great Lord Shiva, high up in the mountains, must have something to it. What I do remember distinctly, was the majestic landscape, the beauty of the snow clad mountains, the narrow trekking trail, the river gurgling deep in the valley below, the sheer drop of the gorges, the Sadhus in deep meditation in the caves and the never ending stream of people making their way up , or returning after a satisfied Darshan. The ardous journey to reach this temple after eight long hours of trek had already exhausted all my energy, and the rest of the events including the Darshan happened mechanically for me.
Fast forward to 38 years later. We five school friends were already having restless feet, as the pandemic had kept our travel plans at bay. Then, one fine day, one of our friend informed us that the opening day of Kedarnath for 2022 was just announced and her husband who handles the chopper services for the Yatra asked if we were interested. Kedarnath Temple usually remains shut for 6 months as it is usually buried under heavy snow in winters. Almost instantly, all five of us just jumped into the plan , and thereafter there was no looking back. Although we were warned of a massive footfall with the opening of the Chhota Char Dham Yatra, we were optimistic that everything would fall perfectly into place. We had a vert tight schedule and it needed millions of variables to align accurately to make this event happen.
Our first halt was in Rishikesh, and we took the golden opportunity to attend the evening Ganga Arti at Parmarth Niketan Ashram. With the setting sun on the backdrop of the statue of Lord Shiva, and the occasion of the birth anniversary of Guru Adi Shankaracharya, this evening was one of the most poignant times to remember. As the Arti reached its peak, the atmosphere was electrifying and we actively took part in it. With Swami Chidananda and Sadhviji’s presence, the stage was set for a most enchanting and memorable evening. As we floated the diyas on the River Ganga, our hearts were full. Dipping our feet on the River Ganges , as the river flows by, gave us an experience to be remembered.
Next morning we headed for Guptkashi , via Dev Prayag and Rudra Prayag, the base from where we were to board the chopper to fly to Kedarnath.
The Universe makes this amazing network of planning, which we often don’t notice or consider it to be just random events. But our friend’s husband was a major connection in this whole sequence of events that were to follow and eventually culminate in our Darshan at Kedarnath. I cannot be more grateful and thankful for this connection which made our entire journey so smooth and fulfilling. Despite the rain Gods playing hide and seek, we eventually boarded the chopper to experience one of the most thrilling and exhilarating journeys I have ever taken. Through the mountains, valleys and gorges, we finally touched down at the Sacred land of Lord Shiva. As we stepped out amidst the lofty snow peaked mountains, the atmosphere was nothing short of heaven. I don’t know what heaven is, but if my imagination was to be matched , then this was just a perfect fit. The vibration , the energies and the air we were breathing, cannot be described in mere words. Divinity touched upon us and we were in His Divine Grace.
The first Aarti of the season took place that same evening at Kedarnath, and we were mesmerized in the truly electrifying atmosphere. We were in the same place where Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati would come and meet their devotees thousands of years ago. This was also the place where the Pandavas came to offer their penance, after the death and destruction that the Kurukshetra war brought upon. Twelve hundred years ago , Adi Shankaracharya came all the way from Kaladi in Kerala, on foot to find his meditative spot in this very place in the abode of Lord Shiva. He is said to have gained MahaSamadhi in this very place. The significance of Kedarnath holds an important position in Hinduism , as this is one of the 12 Jyotirlingas and considered to be the most significant one. With such a rich Divine presence, and the millions of devotees who throng this place each year, despite enduring treacherous hardships, the power of this space can only be experienced as a highly energetic place transcending all the boundaries of the material world. This journey is a test of human endurance, as children, the elderly, the sick and the frail , make their way to Kedarnath crossing all the hurdles of inclement weather, difficult pathways and long travel time, only to experience the power of Mahadeva, the formless unmanifested Absolute.
In fact the material world, under the veil of Maya or Illusion, seemed like an insignificant speck from where I was. There was immense clarity and a sense of Realization of ourselves as being manifested forms of the Cosmic Consciousness. I could stay on here forever, but for some earthly responsibilities. And it is in such moments that we realize a sense of purpose of our lives on this planet and the need to fulfil that purpose with full involvement, as this life has been endowed upon us as a gift, to learn our lessons, to understand ourselves as consciously evolved beings, who have the singular capacity to be driven to unlimited potentials and possibilities by their own free will. And that is the journey towards our ultimate liberation and dissolving into the Divine.
I can’t be more thankful for this incredible journey of a lifetime. The midnight Darshan in solitude of the Sanctum Sanctorum, the moments of embracing the formless image of the Lord which exists as a pyramid shaped stone, the whispering into the ears of Nandi, the energies of Bhimshila, the echo of the Mantras in the spiral space created for Adi Shankaracharya, the early morning trek to Bhairav Baba temple, the guardian of the Valley, through some breathtaking landscapes, all culminated into one unifying experience.
The shift is palpable. I find myself aligning and more in tune with the Cosmic Consciousness. There is no fear of the unknown , because the unknown is now known.