August 19, 2014 Tuesday
In early morning, mist moved over the mountain crowns. The plants bathed in drew drops and some of the devotees enjoyed a bath with buffaloes in the pond. A puja was performed at the temple in Ida Badhani. The devotees offered bangles, bananas, corncobs studded with kernels, cucumbers, mithi (sweet) phuliya… The songs sung during the puja narrated joys and pains of leaving the natal home.
Ida Badhani folks living in simple stone houses covered with grey slates generously served the devotees. The folks allowed charging of camera and mobile batteries and offered camping sites. They even did not mind trampling of the fields by devotees.
For this rare occasion, the village served rich breakfast: puri (fried Indian bread), halwa (a sweet dish of semolina), daliya (porridge), and alu sabji (a dry dish of boiled potatoes).
All this was free!
Around 11:00 am the devotees followed a thin trail from Ida Badhani. The villagers bid adieu to the ram that was selected for its innate ability to find its own way in the mountains. Many woman devotees with wet eyes folded their hands in humility. Local drummers did not accompany the procession beyond the village boundary.
The lovely views of the mountains draped in new green blankets somewhat lifted the sagging spirits. White-brownish water of the Alaknanda that partly contributed to greenery separated the blankets.
The trail initially enjoyed the protection of green umbrella but it was a climb. As we approached Jakh, the natural umbrella made way for the sun. The strong sun even faded the blue sky. The sun made us thirsty. But quenching thirst was not an effort on this trail because every village along the route served free drinks, snacks, and water to all devotees. For example, we were served orange-color juice in plastic glasses at an open grassland with a few trees before Jakh.
At this rest point, an ambitious vendor tried to sell small bags with long shoulder slings but the devotees did not show interest in the product.
The 10-kilometer-long trail snaked through Ritholi, Jakh, Dayar Kot, Kukrai, Puryani, Kanot, Jharkande, and Naini villages before we reached back to Nauti around 09:00 pm. In all villages, folks eagerly awaited the royal parasol and the ram. They assembled at entry points of the villages as soon as they heard summoning sounds of bhankora played by the musician accompanying the procession.
The last trail section linking Naini and Nauti was very narrow. The pitch-dark night further narrowed down it along the entire length except some small sections lightened with temporary street lights powered by Aksa generators. En route, at Shivalya, the devotees enjoyed a free dinner.
At Nauti temple, devotees sang devotional songs about the goddess up to 03:00 am. My tent was within earshot distance of the temple. One of my neighboring campers, snored at the loudest pitch like he did on the first night at Nauti. However, the sleep befriended me.
Thanks to the day long joyful exertion!
This visual re-narration of woes of women fall on deaf ears of wife-takers who probably have no alternatives for the emotionally exhausting tradition of leaving the natal home forever.
I think I have a solution for the problem. You may find it funny and impractical at the first instance. But every new tradition starts with resistance. For instance, abolition of child marriage and sati was a long rough ride. So, do read it and give a thought.
You may know that retirement age is calculated based on life expectancy of a country. Similarly, we can calculate average duration of married life taking into account two parameters (1) average lifespan and (2) average age at which marriages take place. A couple can spent half of the married life in wife’s natal home and other half in husband’s natal home.
I visualize the first problem: how we will decide which half shall be spent in which natal home?
Do you know?
All chhatolis representing natal villages are made of bamboo (ringal) and that from the villages comprising husband’s territory are of the Himalayan birch (bhojpatra). For example, the royal chhatoli from Kanswa, one of natal villages, was made of bamboo.
Now is the time to experience 51 sights from the trail.
Click on a picture to watch the photo story from the 3rd Day of Nanda Raj Jat 2014.