Last Natal Village of Goddess
August 23, 2014 Saturday
On the weekend, under the leadership of the latu from Bagoli, the parasol procession started from Koti for a long day although total distance was just 12 kilometers. The procession stopped at several villages, including Dhatoda, Naulapani, Bamiyala, Chekura, and Kandwal, to meet the devotees who could not join the pilgrimage. It was like home delivery of pilgrimage benefits. You must be thinking that home delivery is a modern concept that is mainly limited to restaurants and of lately to ecommerce. No, home delivery is an old concept and it even applies to services. Although these villages are part of the mountain road network, age-old tradition of walking was also followed.
From Koti, the trail descended and again climbed up steeply before resting at a rolling meadow above Dhatoda village, home to Negis and Rawats and a special spot in the life of the goddess.
One folklore says that the husband of the goddess, Lord Shiv, sent his men to Dhatoda to test her prowess. A malyudh took place between the men of the husband and that of the wife. Another folklore says that demons were besotted with the goddess so she fought and taught them a lesson. And demons started fighting among themselves. The goddess continued her journey to Mount Kailash.
Priestly Performance at Dhatoda Meadow
For their dresses, the priests preferred shades of saffron that added spice to green surroundings. The bold red color scarves with golden work hanged loosely from necks of many priests or covered their heads. The red has an important place in the Indian culture. It is generally the color of bridal wear and the wear of many Indian goddesses. The parasols were also mosaics of these colors and yellow.
The non-orchestrated performance was an integration of individualities of the priests from different villages. The moments were delicate as well as heart-pounding. The prop was parasol that actually protected them from steaming hot sun that day true to the philosophy of having parasols. These parasols represent powers of the respective deities. The barefoot performances probably symbolized the pains and sacrifices of the goddess. And challenges posed by the terrain and the weather could not dampen their dedication.
Malyudh at Dhatoda Meadow
A mini version of the traditional combat wrestling match (malyudh) between the demons and the goddess’s men was performed during the pilgrimage. Only young boys participated in the performance.
After all male performances, women enjoyed a light dance and moments of togetherness.
Traditional Houses: Minimalism
Simple houses made from locally available material did not have urban frills. However, these rustic dwellings shared a characteristic with urban houses: They followed the source of sustenance. On the other hand, the dwellings did not encroach the landscape, the smart choice, unlike greedy urban houses that always eat into the landscape.
From Dhatoda, the trail continued to climb up till Naulapani Dhar where women sung mangal. Then the trail descended to Bamiyala. Again the trail gently ascended to the Jhijhoni Dhar where devotees from Marghat and Budhera villages also assembled. Thereafter the trail became very steep till Chaikuda (Chhenkuda) village. From there onwards it was all downhill to Kandwal and Bhagoti.
The last destination in the natal region of goddess Nanda Devi, Bhagoti wore a wrap-on of bright lights that shimmered under the inky sky. The queue to visit the ram, touch parasols, and visit the temple was long and fat. Brimming with pilgrims, Bhagoti opened its terraces for the pilgrims. Some pilgrims pitched tents on the terraces for privacy while others slept in open.
At night in my hot tent secured on one of the terraces I was thinking about the ram. The ram, the leader of the pilgrimage was never unleashed. The leader was mere a puppet in the hands of the priest community. But neither heat nor the irony could steal sleep from my eyes because I was fully spent.