19th Day of Nanda Raj Jat: Lata Khopadi to Sutol

Enthusiasm and Trail Go Downhill

September 4, 2014 Thursday

The 10-kilometer-long trail connecting Lata Khopadi and Sutol was still miry. But it was bright and the sky was blue. The pilgrims’ mood was a mix of cheer and despair. The thought of going back home safely created cheerful vibes. Separation from the dear daughter cast a shadow over successful completion of the pilgrimage. A number of steep ascents and mire doubled as speed breakers along the downhill trail. Away from the road, the lush trail was rustic. For example, Tatada,(Tatra) home to a handful of traditional huts, was surrounded by rich fields of chaulai / ramdana adorned with reddish flowers and freshly bathed vegetation.

As we descended, enthusiasm evaporated. Ritual performances ran out of steam. The instances of the performances reduced. Pilgrims did not make deliberate efforts to plug dissipating energies. Because urban conveniences of low altitude were close by and remoteness of high altitude was not a hurdle anymore. Pilgrims tried hard to make the most of water bodies – small and tiny – to get rid of the mire. The stubborn mire was the third emotion that overwhelmed them. But there was a friend too: Weather. The sky did not spray them with fresh rain except a very brief spell of drizzle. This dryness was dear and helped them to increase walking speed safely.

Sutol was busy because it sits on the tongue of tar. But Sutol folks planned a nice surprise for the pilgrims: colorful folk performances. Principal one was Pandav Nritya, a rendition of Mahabharata.  Oral edition of the epic popular in Garhwal is slightly different from the Sanskrit edition. One of the longest pilgrimages of Asia ended with the Garhwali version of the longest poem of the world, Mahabharata.

The long performance started after dinner when the stars twinkled in the sky and the moon shined. I watched the performance for two hours or so. Thereafter, goddesses of sleep had possessed me and embraced me tightly. I left the performance and negotiated dark stony and mucky trail back to my night halt, a shepherd’s house.  But the house was bolted as the hosts were also watching the performance. I sat on the steps leading to the bolted door and fell asleep. Early morning the host returned when the performance was concluded. They opened their room at the terrace and I slept at the bed after more than a fortnight. Again I slept like a dead who woke up to frantic knocks at the door around 8 am. There were three men, the shepherd, my porter, and YJ, who were suddenly worried about my well-being.

But you should browse the mini slideshow from the 19th day of Nanda Raj Jat 2014 without worries. Click now.