Saturday, February 13, 2010

Shiva-ratri to Neelkanth

On Shiva Ratri, a group of students and I decided to walk along the forest path leading to Neelkanth. You have to take the road across the Barrage, through Rajaji Park about 10 kilometers and then, not far from Ram Jhula, is the path that goes up the hill. Right at the junction of the road and the path, there are a number of langars, or places distributing free food to pilgrims. A right royal mess it was too.

We crossed that block and started heading up. It was probably another ten kilometers walk, nearly all uphill.

The path has been nicely constructed, avoiding the long, 35-km route by car, which follows the Ganga north from Laxman Jhula and then winds through the mountains. But many people try to go more quickly by taking these shortcuts. These people are coming downhill. Giancarlo and I tried going up one, but found that the expenditure of energy was so much greater that it was not worth the savings of time. Getting old, I am.


Here you can see a picture of the road as it looks for a lot of the way. There are much steeper parts of course, some of them with steps. Most of the people were in small groups, but occasionally there were bigger ones, shouting the cry, "Bom bom Mahadeva!!" and so on.

There were many spectacular views of the Ganges and Rishikesh town to be had from the mountain. The day was hazy and even a few drops of rain fell.

These Hanuman monkeys sit quietly on the trees over a pretty steep cliff. You can see the Ganga in the distance. This point is actually looking down over the Swami Ram Sadhaka Grama, but the camera could not get that kind of closeup.

The view after you get over the hump. My camera is not that great so I could not get a closer shot of the Neelkanth temple itself. It is in the lower left hand side of the picture. At the top of the hill is an ashram. The fields are nicely terrassed and there are crops growing in the lower areas.

This is the lineup waiting to get into the temple. It was about a 75 minute wait. After a 4 1/2 hour walk.

This is a kind of an encaged pathway channeling pilgrims into the temple.

This shows the Neelkanth temple from inside the encaged pilgrim channel. People tie the colored string as the pray for boons from the deity. I don't recommend going on Shiva Ratri, as the guards and police push you through the temple so quickly that you barely have time to even pour water on the linga. As a matter of fact, Giancarlo told me afterward that the linga had been removed for some reason.

The walk was nice, but the maintenance is pretty poor, in the sense that there seems to be no cleanup and people are throwing plastic cups, bags, bottles and other garbage all along the way. In some places, the hills are so steep that it may be impossible to ever remove it at all. Certainly, though, for such a beautifully scenic walk, it is a shame that there is so little consciousness of preserving the natural beauty. The samskara just isn't there.

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