Friday, Nov 28, 2014

Along the hills with Nanda Devi

Pilgrims at a stop along the route. Source: Deepak Singh Kathait Pilgrims at a stop along the route. Source: Deepak Singh Kathait
Written by Sanjay Singh | Nauti/ Badhani | Posted: September 3, 2014 12:10 am | Updated: September 3, 2014 5:15 am

On March 17, a male lamb was born in the house of shepherd Bharat Singh Choudhari at Ladoli village in Uttarakhand’s Chamoli district. When it started to grow horns a few days later, he informed the Nanda Raj Jaat Committee of the birth of a chausingha khadu, or four-horned ram. It was the gift they were waiting for ahead of the Nanda Raj Jaat Yatra, held once every 12 years in the upper Himalayas.

Recognised as a gift of the deity Nanda Devi, the khadu is “guiding” villagers on the tough, 280-kilometre trek. “We believe a chausingha khadu is born preferably in Chamoli before the beginning of the yatra,” said Bhuvan Nautiyal, convener of the Shree Nanda Raj Jaat Yatra Vikash Parishad. Two of the sheep’s horns are visible; Nautiyal says the other two are under fur.

On August 18, the khadu reached the starting point of the yatra at Nauti village, about 50 km from Ladoli. It was first brought to Kasuwan village, 10 km away in the erstwhile Chandpurgarhi estate , where it was handed over to rajpurohits (priests of the erstwhile estate) by the family of raj kunwars (princes). Hundreds gathered for a darshan but the priests did not allow anyone near the khadu.

The devout believe that Nanda, wife of Lord Shankar, is on her way to her sasural after 12 years; the khadu needs to accompany her till she reaches Kailash, abode of Lord Shankar, after crossing Homekunda. On Wednesday, when pilgrims start on the return leg, the khadu will stay back in these uninhabited areas 17,000 feet above sea level so that it can complete the rest of the journey to Kailash.

On its toes

The government’s worries began with the arrival of the khadu at Nauti village. The return of 5,000 pilgrims Monday from Vedani bugyal (meadow) brought some relief. The government has made “search and rescue” arrangements along the route, besides deploying police and setting up residential facilities, communication systems, and facilities for meals.

The yatra Monday crossed the most difficult stretch of 9 km between Vedani and Patarnauchaniya, where temperatures hovered between 4°C and 8°C. Shila Samudra at 4,210 metres was Tuesday night’s stop. “We have allowed about 2,000 pilgrims to go ahead (on the last stretch),” additional DGP R S Meena said.

A Nehru Institute Mountaineering team has helped the government construct the route. The PWD, Jal Sansthan, Rural Engineering Services and the forest and tourism departments too have taken up various tasks for the 20-day yatra that ends Saturday when returning pilgrims reach Nauti.

It is the first time the Uttarakhand government is looking after the arrangements for the yatra, which comes a year after the June 2013 flash floods. “The government extends its cooperation to the organisers of the yatra,” media adviser to the CM Surendra Agrawal said.

The RSS too has pitched in. “We continued…

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