Day 123 – Himalayan Hermits

Hello again everyone,
Before I begin I should mention that the delays between this post and the last post have a legitimate reason; David and I have had extremely limited access to the internet the past 3 weeks. This is simultaneously a bad thing (I cannot communicate with people, or submit a job application on time) and a good thing (I cannot communicate with people, or worry about jobs haha). In fact, the laptop has been used for very little other than periodic picture dumps, which is a cool change in lifestyle. David is going to step in for a bit to help catch up…
So, picking up where Janak left off, the day after we went to Rajaji, we headed up into the mountains with Swastiji and Naresh. The drive was beautiful and also full of amusing signs in English and Hindi warning you not to go too fast on the steep and winding (but very well maintained) roads. Our favorites included “Be gentle on my curves”and “License to drive, not to fly.” The Hindi ones are apparently even better, Swastiji translated one for us as “I am the cobra of the hills, play with me and I’ll kill you.” Anyways, we arrived at our destination: a mostly outdoor temple on the top of a mountain. It was very peaceful and the views were, of course, amazing.
Afterwards we went back to Rishikesh again. One of the things Rishikesh is known for is its wool, and since Kenny is a fan of Indian textile products, he was having a good time going into all the shops and looking for shawls, vests, etc for himself and friends/family. We stayed for arati, which was even nicer than the last time we were there, since there was no rain and they weren’t using a sound system this time, so we got to hear just the voices and instruments by themselves. Finally, to top off an already good day, Naresh took us to a local sweet shop with ridiculously good rabri and gajar halwa.
The next day we stayed in Haridwar. We walked along the Ganges for a while, went to Keshavananda and Anandamayee Ma’s ashrams, went to the Haridwar arati, and went back for more robri and gajar halwa.
On our last day in the area, Janak and I slept in while Kenny went and meditated by the Ganges. Then we made one final trip to Rishikesh (sightseeing, wool, arati, cool statues, etc) before getting ready to depart the next day.
The ride to Devprayag went quickly, so Janak and Kenny had lots of time to go down and bathe in the confluence where two rivers come together in the Ganges. That night there was a full moon and all the power for the area went out, which was quite beautiful if a little inconvenient.
The drive to Dwarahat was much longer than the one to Devprayag, but it was very scenic and Kenny and I amused ourselves trying to take pictures of everything (Janak spent a lot of the time asleep). For much of the time we were driving above the Ganges and other smaller rivers, but we eventually left these behind as we climbed higher and higher into the mountains.

We arrived in the mountain abode of Dwarahat by nightfall, seated behind Raniket near the base of Nanda Devi (himalayan peak of 22000 feet), where we were graciously welcomed into SRF/YSS’s ashram retreat by Swami Nirvanananda and Bramachari Sadhananda. Over the course of the next 6 days, I enjoyed a simple life of meditation, hiking, contemplation and discussion amongst good friends. The power in Dwarahat failed quite often, which we enjoyed because of the vibrant stars in the mountains. The rooftop terrace on which we hung our laundry doubled as a perfect observatory. Two of our hikes included meditations at Babaji’s Cave, the historic site in which Babaji taught Lahiri Mahashay the meditation technique of Kriya. Needless to say, the hours flew by and before I knew it we were headed back to Delhi…
We arrived in Delhi at 4am on Republic Day. This was an almost eerie feeling, because I have never seen such tight security on such empty streets in India. Many times we were the only civilians on the road, because the inner city had been shut down for the parade. For those of you that don’t know, being in Delhi on Republic Day is like being in DC on July 4th, and then some. After wandering around for almost an hour looking for temporary shelter, we found ourself back at the YSS Kendra under the kind hospitality of Mr & Mrs Swamy. After a refreshing breakfast we hiked to India Gate (the Arc d’Triomph of India) to watch 2 hours of patriotic and cultural display, as well as flexing of of military might. Sadly, cameras were not allowed, otherwise I would post a pictures and video. For those of you that know Sanskrit, I have to mention I was amused/terrified by the appropriately named ‘astras’ that were mounted atop a TATA missle launcher. After enjoying the festivities of the parade and thousands of people marching/dancing afterwards, we returned to the Kendra, repacked, and made our 3rd trip to the rail station.
Another overnight train brought us to Dharamsala, home of the Tibetan government in exile. It’s beautiful here, and for those of you who know me, I am in cultural heaven. Visiting Tibet has long been a life-goal of mine, and this is the closest I have come thus far. A Dharamsala post will go up at the next internet oppurtunity.