We woke up today to a clear blue sky outside our hotel room here in Nepalgunj and swiftly assumed that today would be the day we would embark on our next leg of our journey.
But our host, Lord Shiva, had other plans. Though it was bright and sunny here in Nepalgunj, the weather in Simikot was still unconquerable for a pilot.
To talk a little about how dangerous the airport at Simikot is, it is a single airstrip with mountains on 3 sides of it. Only a single side is open to sky through which flights enter and land, turn, and take off again. If a pilot overshoots due to lack of visibility, the flight would head straight into the mountain and it most certainly wouldn’t be the mountain that would take the hit.
I also took this opportunity to start an Instagram page for my travel photos. Do give it a look for amazing photos of my trip. @tedxplorer
Right in the morning, In a very optimistic mood, all of us packed our luggage into similar looking, Bright Orange duffel bags which would later on help us identify bags that belong to our group. The packing however isn’t done as we do normally. Clothes are sorted day-wise and rolled into polythene covers with a tag on each bag and then they are taped before finally keeping them inside the bag.
This kind of sorting serves 2 purposes. One, It makes it easier to quickly change on the go without the need of flushing through your entire bag to find the dress of your liking. And Two, it prevents clothes from getting soaked in case of rain or snow.
Another point to mention here is that I finally was able to have a hot water shower after 2 days of ice cold showers. Turns out, the Nepalese like to twist things a bit. For some strange reason, the hot water came through twisting the shower knob to the right (Clearly marked blue) and cold water came though twisting the knob to the left (Clearly marked red), which is the exact opposite of how it works everywhere else the world over. I’m yet to find out if this is a blatant mistake or a misunderstanding of how the global colour coding system works.
As we were waiting for the call from the travel operator to go to the airport, we found out that there was a Rudrabishekam happening in the hotel. This is a very holy puja that happens on a Monday during the ‘Shravan’ month. This month is a very holy month with respect to Lord Shiva for various reasons. The most popular reason for this is that Lord Shiva drank the deadly ‘Halahala’ poison to save the world during the Shravan month.
Halahala is the name of a poison created from the sea when the Devas (Gods) and Asuras (Demons) churned it (see Samudra manthan) in order to obtain Amrit, the nectar of immortality.
Fourteen different rathnas (gems) were recovered in this exercise, mostly retained by the Gods after the Demons tried to cheat them. But before Amrit could be recovered, Halāhala was produced, which started killing both sides. As no one could bear the poisonous fumes emitted by the poison, both Devas and Asuras began to collapse due to asphyxiation. They ran for help to Brahma, who directed them to Vishnu who advised them only Lord Shiva could help them. So both parties went to Kailasha and prayed to Lord Shiva for help. Shiva chose to consume the poison and thus drank it. His wife Goddess Parvathi, alarmed, stopped it in his throat with her hands, thus earning him the name Visakantha (the one who held poison in his throat). He was later saved by the [mahavidya] Tara, a form of the goddess Parvati. The poison made his throat turn blue; hence, he is also known as Nilakantha (the one with a blue throat).
Apart from this, there was also a beautiful Pashupathinath Lingam at the hotel near the place where the Puja was happenning.
Pashupathinath is a form of Lord Shiva where he has 5 faces, each representing an incarnation of Lord Shiva. The 5 faces are Sadyojatha, Vamadeva, Tatpurusha, Aghor and Ishana. They face West, North, East, South and Zenith(Sky) Respectively and they represent the 5 basic elements namely Earth, Water, Air, Light and Ether.
The Pashupathinath temple in Nepal is one of the biggest in the country and also is home to one of the 12 Jyothir Lingams, the only one outside India. Also, Tibetians worship Goddess Parvathi in the form of Taradevi, known as the ‘Mother of Liberation’ and represents virtues of success in work and achievements
Later, as we sat in our room, eagerly waiting for the call to come, we did get a call, but it wasn’t from our tour operator. Our relatives from Chennai called us and were very worried. Apparently, the media had sensationalised that there were pilgrims stranded in Nepalgunj and Simikot without any food, water or shelter. It took us a while to convince our relatives that we were perfectly okay, seated in a nice comfortable place with sufficient amenities.
One has to understand that going to a place like Kailash isn’t a vacation or a holiday where you expect luxury along the entire journey. When going on a spiritual pilgrimage, one must come prepared to face all kinds of tests by the Lord and luxury most certainly shouldn’t be one’s main concern. If we offer ourselves with a sense of complete surrender to the Lord, he will surely make things happen your way. After all, I strongly believe that we are the Guests of Lord Shiva and he surely won’t let us down.
Update: Just as I’m about to publish this post, we get a call telling us to be ready and that flights will start operating soon. I wish and pray that my next post is from Taklakot, about the amazing flight through the mountains and entry into China.
नमः शिवाय च शिवतराय च
Salutations To Shiva, the Auspicious one, unto Shivatara, the one other than whom none more Auspicious can exist