He was the organiser and part of Panikker Travels to whom our group the School of Bhagavad Geetha of Thiruvananthapuram had entrusted to conduct the tour .
They had conducted many such yatras over the years to Mt Kailas ,Amarnath and to the Chardhams for Swamiji and Chauhanji an old hand had always been its central piece .
Panniker travels itself known to many in India have been a travel agency in Delhi for many decades and have earned a name for reliability and efficiency ,for them Swamijis tours have been more than a business and more of a personal commitment .
Swami Sandeepanada Giri in youthful forties led many of these tours himself going every year even more than once to these holy but difficult terrains and taking many with him,an yeoman service to the many who longed to see such places safely .He is a very positive person full of mirth and fun and always encouraging people to go beyond their limits either in bathing in icy cold turbulent rivers or climbing high above the clouds feats that normally would not be dared at
.I dont think any other group would have this inspiration We also could listen to lectures on our scriptures in elegant malayalam and also know the significance of every place and its details in our puranas this was mind lifting indeed
All our hardship in the tour melts when we see what we achieved and we are ever grateful to Swamiji for making this possible
now let me come back to our Chauhan ,in his forties Chauhan was a smart guy trim and slim he was full of energy ,climbing mountains was second nature to him as he is a native of the very Uttarkhand the abode of Gods we travelled to ,he knew tons of interesting information about every possible thing .
Chauhan had also been production mgr for many movie and shooting groups including that of Dil Se where he used to organise the hill parts .
We reached Barkhot our base stay from Rishikesh after a drive of more than 10 hours one can hardly paint a word picture of this drive with full justice as it needs to be experienced but still it was glorious and stupendous ,as we climbed u the narrow roads with loose pebbles draining in from the hill sides our tyres skirted nothing ness as our efficient drivers hung to their steering wheels with concentration bit into their profiles .
The landscape changed surely but slowly as the pines and deodars appeared and disappeared, terraced fields of golden maize winked at us while brilliantly coloured flowers nodded in the breeze the distant hills were blue and green , some bare and some wooded .Small villages went by with shepherds leading their flocks and chubby red faced children played on the sides. Small shops sold trinkets and eatables and the air was full of nip and cool winds .
we reached the gurgling Yamuna banks and its pebbled stones to walk and take an icy dip
The roads are built and maintained by our Border road Organisation which was like the army itself disciplined and talented they have built some of the best roads in the world .
The river dips in such places are very refreshing one has to be very careful as the current was very fast and one could get carried away in a jiffy as one amongst us a senior Urologist almost did.
luckily we were many and he was caught in time before he went on a different yatra !
The first dip is always shocking to the system as it feels like an electric shock but then it is bliss as somehow one feels warm and comfortable the river waters come from melting glaciers carrying so many plants and herbs minerals and stones of much medicinal value down and bathing in such rivers somehow makes you feel reborn leave alone the spiritual part of it .
We then went up and up and reached Janakichatti where the road ends .
Janakichatti was a small town full of shops ,there were lot of ponies waiting to take people up ,Dholies were chairs lifted by four people , there were also small baskets called Pitthas which were carried on the backs and a person had to sit on it with legs leaning out !
this was unimaginable specially for an obese person like me .
we opted to climb the hard way
The climb was steep initially and steeper later !
slowly many in the group were up while I trundled along gasping like a fish out of water
my wife was way up as I lagged behind slowly taking my photos and videos resting in small shops having tea and chitchatting with one of my friends Babu who like me was as slow climber .
hours of climbing gave us a far glimpse of a temple roof high up we thought we had reached the place but when we managed to reach that temple it was disappointing to know we still had more than 3 km of climb up and this was just another wayside temple
by the time I reached the top Premila my wife was waiting for me taking snaps of my exhausted climb she had already gone inside the temple had a wash in the hot springs there and waiting for me to start her climb down !
I went up and into the crowded temple for mother Yamuna
Hinduism celebrates the holy rivers as mother divine .
After all every creation is from divinity including ourselves
So worshipping nature is worshipping God .
The place we as full of priests who lured people for several pujas to me a non believer of rituals the temple itself and its pristine surrounding s and the gurgling Yamuna with its steaming hot springs was soul filling .and I had no need for any pujas .
The limb back after some refreshments was tiring and knee breaking as we needed to put our brakes if we didnt want to tumble down like jill in jack and jill
After more than 3 hours of arduous climb with horses jangling us Dholies creating traffic jams and pittas making us gasp in surprise we reached janakichatti exhausted .
The plan was once filled the buses in our tour numbering three would start and go back to our hotel in Barkhot so that peole who returned early need not wait till evening for others and can have their well earned rests
2 buses had already left and the last one was waiting it was 5 pm already and slowly getting dark and colder .
one couple were yet to return .
We had been told that return should be before 6pm as the roads were dangerous in the dark ,
there was no trace of the couple and Chauhan was anxious
suddenly he decided to go up and find out ,but as he went up the couple came back in another route and he missed them .
we tried to call him by mobile but there was no range and so we waited for Chauhan to return as the drivers would not budge without Chauhans saying so .
Now Chauhan was missing !
it became 7pm and Chauhan returned irritated at the whole episode as he had almost gone up to the top in search of the couple fearing many things .
all of us were at our nerves ends as he declared we would go down albiet the risk and we were praying loudly as the bus skirted narrrow corners in pitch darkness
one single mistake would send us crashing down to wilderness below where we would not even find our remains
with the grace of God we reached Barkhot safely and an anxiously waiting group had a hot dinner and hit our beds for a deep slumber to continue our yatra the next day
which would be in the next post of course