HIMALAYAS–ABODE OF GODS
Himalayas ,Asia ‘s largest mountain range , Indian peninsula’s cap , has always made me stand awestruck.
During my school days, studying about Himalayan ranges, I never dreamt that I would be able to explore its vast range. By seeing Hindi movies I have dreamt a lot about the winding roads of Shimla, snowfall, playing around with snow.
In 1990 when we were transferred to Delhi, My dreams started materializing & incidentally,,with blessings of God, my first trip to Himalayas itself was to Badrinath, Kedarnath.
HImalayas, 2410 Km, curved stretch is referred as “Abode of God” or Dev Bhoomi. The vastness is so much that one feels the humanity began there.
I believe we worship nature, as humans are an existence of nature.
Himalayas is the starting point of everything, glaciers like Gangotri, Yamunotri,
Hot water springs, pure air , rarest of rare herbs, all in one. That is why Hindus believe the visits of these holy abodes of Gods can never be planned,, it has to be the call of God or God willing one can reach the heights or visit these places.
I am really blessed to visit most of the temples which I am planning to write about.
Hindukush ange: Range:
This region is mostly in Afghanistan , Pakistan, but parts of Kashmir is in this range.
Mughal emperors had this region as their capital but Amarnath, Vaishno Devi are the ones no one could destroy. Amarnath yatra starts from Sonmarg. As the name says the place is a paradise on earth. The shivling formation in the cave is naturally formed when the snow melts in July, August months. This formation is visible only in these 2 months. As the name says Amar, this is the ultimate trip to God.
When one reaches & gets darshan one feels that is the ultimate trip to God.
Vaishno Devi is one of the famous Shakti peeth in which one has go trekking 14 km up the winding hills of Trikuta hills.
The Sakti Peet’s are the places where Goddess Sati’s parts of the body fell as believed. There are 51 shakti Peethas spread around Himalayan region. These temples do not have any idol, but very powerful ones, with Pinda rupams ,i.e no face. Vaishnodevi is the place where the head of Sati is worshipped in pinda rup, as maha kali, maya Lakshmi, mahasaraswati..The temple is situated in a cave above the Trikuta hills of Himalayas. By the call of Goddess I have visited at least 7 times by climbing the tough terrain.
Nowadays helicopter facility is available from Katra.
From Kashmir when we go towards Kargil , the Karakoram range starts. It is mostly barren deserts throughout the year covered with snow. Leh, Ladakh fall in this range. Though Buddhism dominates this border area, Sankaracharya has found many Hindu temples which are time unknown. Sikhism is equally found here. Bordering Tibet ,Kailash, Manasarovar can be reached through this route also, though people go through Nepal also..HInduism is so vast & time unknown that in Hindu vedas, & Upanishads Mt.Kailash in TIbet is quoted as Lord Shiva’s permanent abode.
Every stone in Manasarovar is considered as Lord Shiva, the saligrama form. The sight of the mountain itself is worshipped . It is very tough to reach with high altitude cold desert winds.Though I have visited Leh, Ladakh, could not plan Kailash yatra.
The presence of Lord is felt in every part of Himalayas ,we see the vastness & the beauty of nature.As per Hindu philosophy we use the word Sat-Chit-Anant Swarup in Sanskrit. Which means the Truth Felt is ultimate Happiness/Anand.One feels that in the Abodes of God.
Uttarakhand region known as Dev Bhoomi or the place of Devas start from Rishikesh.
Ganges the eternal river gets its name from this place. Though the origin of Ganges is a glacier gangotri, it is known in different names & different tributaries join, in the name of alaknanda, mandakini, bhagirathi, etc, etc.
Every Sangam of the river Alaknanda has different names, Devprayag, Rudraprayag, Karnaprayag, VIshnu prayag etc.
This entire region has best natural beauty, but the terrain is a tough one, that while traveling one automatically feels the driver is God & He takes you reach the temples of Badri, Kedar, Gangotri, Yamunotri.
Adi shankaracharya ,believed as avatar of Lord Shiva(788-820) ,walked throughout this region ,found out the hidden statues of Gods & constructed temples , started puja. Finally after Kedarnath temple was found ,He attained Mukti behind the temple.
After finding out Badrinarayan in the midst of badri (ber) forest shankaracharya was meditating in joshimath, praying for his salvation, Lord Vishnu came in dreams & told him still more work is left & that is how he again started his journey to find Kedar.
Badrinath is in Neelkanth parvat, snow clad Himalayas throughout the year. .But right in front of the temple , natural hot water sulphur spring,piping hot fumes can be found.This is known as Tapta kund.
In Bhagavad Puranas & later in Mahabharata, Badrinath is mentioned. Lord vishnu is in the form of Nar Narayan among the badri bushes.
It is believed that Mahabharata was written at the Mana village near Badrinath by Vyasa Muni. There are places to believe the epics.
The route from Badri to Kedar is a scenic one through Guptkashi, Ukimutt, Chopta, Gopeshwar.
Chopta is a beautiful valley, a mini Switzerland. A trek to Thungnath is worth trying as it has lot of wild flowers, rare birds, animals can be watched.
Enroute from Badrinath to Rishikesh,Valley of flowers is another beauty that people stand awestruck.
From Joshimutt it is 23 KM travel , either by pony, trek or helicopter, to reach Hemkund saheb, which is a Sikh temple where Sikh Guru Govind Singh attained salvation. Sikh followers believe this as their ultimate destination to God.
Valley of flowers is a protected national forest in which one can see variety of wild flowers only in July,August. Brahma Kamalam , a variety of lotus, known as god’s own flower blooms here.
Auli is a beautiful peak to enjoy winter sports, skiing etc. One can reach this spot by cable car or by road from joshirmutt. Excellent place to visit in winters.
Kedarnath: Sitapur is the base camp to reach this temple situated at a height of approximately 11000ft. After the cloud burst of 2013 visible disaster is seen everywhere.But facilities to reach the shrine by helicopter is improved .Gowrikund once the hot water sulphuric spring is washed off & river Mandakini is split into two after the disaster. Kedarnath is the natural rock form of shiv ling, the shape of a
Hump of a Cow.
The story goes after Mahabharata war, the pandavas prayed to Lord Shiva for moksha from the sins of killing own kith &kin in the war. Lord shiva avoiding to give darshan to them hid himself in the form of a cow &tried to pass the pandavas. Bhima spread his legs&allowed the cows to pass through. Knowing this Lord Shiva
Tried go beneath the earth, Bhima caught the hump of the hiddencow & prayed for salvation. So they got. The Kedar Linga is so in the form of a hump. Once AdiShankara found this place of worship, he was not seen,only his Dhanda was found near the temple. That is how Adi guru Shankara is known as avatar of Lord Shiva.
The Kedar temple structure is a proof of ancient Hindu architecture, & the huge rock which saved the temple from devastation in 2013 makes one feel God is there to protect.
After visit to Kedar one can visit Triyug Narayana temple, another ancient one where Lord Vishnu got Shiva & Parvathy married. It is believed that the Agni kund is there time unknown.It is really worth a visit as the whirly, winding curves to reach the place is tough ,& beautiful. Only jeeps from sitapur to be hired.
Himachal Pradesh, Punjab are also rich its Hindu culture worth mentioning.
The Hidimba temple in Manali speaks the Mahabharata era, Hidimbi wife of Bhima
Though Daramsala is famous for Bhudda pagoda, where Dalailama lives, Kangra valley has all Sakti pitams , when sati’s dead body was cut into several parts by vishnu’s sudarshan chakra.
These temples are in beautiful locations.
Naina Devi- where eyes fell
Jwala Devi-where tongue fell, so fire form.
Chinta Purani -goddess without head
Vajreshwari-the shoulders are worshipped as pinda rup.These temples are in the 7th century sculptures form.
We covered these temples in 3 days from Chandigarh. Manasa Devi, Chamundi are near Haridwar.
From Himachal, If we go to Annapurna range of Himalayas which are above Nepal.
The Pashupathinath temple in Kathmandu is one of the oldest identity of Shiva temple with 7th century inscriptions on them. In Mahabharata it is known as Nemuni Desam.
The Bhaktapur , Durbar square is a historical proof of Royal Kings as Hindus & Temples of Krishna, Devi are present in the square. This place was shattered by earthquake in 2013.
Pokhara is a beautiful hill station.
Jhumsum is the base camp for Mukthinath.
The Mukthinath temple is in the form of saligramam, or stone . All stones found in river Kandaki which flows from the hills are saligrama as written in scriptures of Vishnu Puranas.
This part of Himalayas are cold deserts, hardly any vegetation is found.
To reach Jhumsum by a small aircraft is really dangerous . The small aircraft cross sharp mountain peaks, one feel so risky & god willing will save you from death.
The wind speed is so high at Jhumsum that it can take away the planes to a distant. So after 12 pm , no flights take off due to heavy wind and they are tied with a rope.
Muktinath temple is so unique.Vaishnavites consider this as most important of Divya desam, to attain mukti. The Buddhism also says so. Buddha bhikshu is the main priest here. So religion may be different but aim is the one.
Here I have to mention about india’s national integrity, implemented even in 8th century by Adi shankaracharya.when he crossed the length & width of india by foot to identify the temples & their importance, He decided the priest from Kerala Namboodiris would be in Badrinath Temple , the main priest of Rameshwaram temple would be North Indian Pandits,the temple priest of Puri would be from Gujarat & Dwarka priest from Orissa pandas. Till today the tradition is followed.
North eastern Himalayas.
Coming to the north eastern part of Himalayas , Buddhism dominates many parts as this range borders China & Bhuddist monks entered india through these ranges. But the Hindu temples of 5th century till 12th century are still predominant & worshipped.
Kamakhya temple of Guwahati is the famous of Shakti peeth where birth part of sati fell as believed.This temple dates back to 350-650 AD & written by Yuanzhang. Assam is known as Pragjotishpur in history as ahoms kingdom is known for Jyotida Sastras. Astrology was formed or developed here with Sun & Navagrahas. There is a temple in Guwahati where Navagrahas are in shivling forms facing the nine directions of earth. Again a proof nature worship.
The temples are in Nilanchal hills.
The Himalayas of Arunachal Pradesh also has equal importance for Buddhism and Hinduism. Bomdila, Tawang dominates Buddhism. Tawang is the china border where. Yuan zhuang came in.Stupendous Hills, unspoilet beauty, north east is pearl in the necklace of Himalayan range.
Tripura, Assam, Manipur mainly has lot of Hindu temples aging back to 4th century.Tezpur shiv ling is huge & time unknown. Tripurasundari temple in Tripura is again time unknown as Tripura name comes from the temple. Vaishnavites dominates these areas. The Kashi hills of Shillong & Kashi tribes are mostly Christians. I am really lucky to visit many places of north eastern Himalayas.
I can go on writing, but as earlier said Himalayas & Hinduism go hand in hand throughout the stretch.Hinduism started with nature worship & Gods are connected with sun, moon, stars.
Lord Shiva has Appu(water), Vayu(air), Jyoti,(fire) Linga forms.
Maha Vishnu is considered The protector with beautiful decors on Him to show Life. All Rivers are worshipped as Mata, Mother Earth, feminine form.
So let me conclude that Hindu Abodes of Gods may have many names but purely nature worship. For our own convenience we have idols & names for identification.