A Day of Trances: 15+ photos
August 21, 2014, Thursday
Yesterday finding camping space in Kansuwa was an uphill task. Shortage of the camping space triggered arguments between some pilgrim parties and officials who were competing for the same piece of the village land. Our camps were at almost on one end of the space available. We however had a luxury of permanent washroom although plumbing either was poor or floor slope was faulty that slowed the drainage. This was not an official washroom. One of local families allowed us to use their washroom. Waiting time was therefore almost nil. These private necessary moments of performing morning chores in a relaxed way created a stock of happiness that fueled the walking pace on the following day.
Voluntaries continued good work of serving free breakfast. The repetitive menu (potato curry, halwa, and puri) did not reduce the number of pilgrims who fully relied on free meal facility along the entire pilgrimage route. They in fact awaited their turn in long queues. The barefoot journey began again around 10:00 am after a puja in the village.
The first stop along the trail was Bileshwar Mahadev Ghat Temple at the banks of the Mahadev Gadera (stream). Architecturally and aesthetically, the temple is not significant but the faith keeps it alive. The cella is actually a cave featuring a natural shivling. My porter told me that the women from Kanswa did not accompany the procession beyond this temple. Musicians from Nauti returned. Many new faces joined the procession that day.
The path connecting the temple and Chandpur Garhi (fortress), the first capital of Garhwal, was relatively broader. By the time we walked up to the fortress, the ruins were fully packed with people. Devotees awaited the procession and puja on that auspicious day. The onlookers occupied the remaining wide walls. That bright afternoon accompanied by soft wind probably witnessed maximum number of people falling into trances and swaying freely. Large chatty crowd further curtailed the monotony of a wait.
As the procession approached the fortress edging the road, monotony turned into a noise with a purpose. Everyone moved to get a glimpse of the parasols and the ram.
The representative of the King of Tehri, Thakur Bhawani Singh and his relatives, worshipped in the Shri Raj Rajeshwari (Dakshin Kali) temple, around the huge tree, and in a small Mohammedan shrine. The last shrine called Kaila Peer is mere an arch in the fortress wall and dedicated to Mohammedan god worshipped by the royal family. The Raj Rajeshwari Temple is a traditional stone temple that houses wooden statue of Raj Rajeshwari (Nanda Devi).
The Archeological Survey of India maintains the ruins in Khal in Chamoli district.
Different generations gathered in the fortress premises and followed the age old tradition together, showing strong bonding and social unity. Women were more comparatively. Pilgrims were not ready to make a queue for worshipping in the temple. Young kids, toddlers, and adults awaiting their turn in crowd pushed each other to get into small assembly area in front of the temple. They offered gifts and got back a part of it and blessings.
The trail stopped at Mahadev Ghat, Miroli, Hadkoti, Chandpur Garhi, Ujvalpur, and Top villages before halting at Sem for the night. About forty-five (45) minutes slow walk to Chandpur Garhi from Kansuwa involved a number of short ascents. During this walk through the crowd, sometimes sun patted our back and other times it directly stared into our eyes. Top village was about fifty minutes’ walk from Chandpur Garhi. School kids welcomed the procession at the village. The village musicians crossed bhankoras for the first time in the pilgrimage.
When we reached Sem, it was dark and overcrowded. Parasols of Chamola and Garoli joined the procession with usual fanfare.
Browse the pictures from the 5th day of Nanda Raj Jat 2014.