Wednesday, 23 March 2016

Pilgrimage along The Poisonous Trail

Relatives? Siblings?? Parents??? Family????
After I got abandoned to my own fate, I became a wanderer: a wanderer of sorts; both within, and without.

Family gone, property gone. Job, income, money... I had almost nothing. A midlife crisis, one would say, but I am a believer in my own way. Then came a friend who wished to visit sacred and holy places where Shiva dwelt, one way or another. We had already done a major pilgrimage, in PashupatiNath, within the confines of the Valley called Kathmandu itself. Relatively nothing once you are in Kathmandu. The centuries old temple on the right bank of Bagmati River is a place of rituals for Kathmanduites like myself. Once I die, I would be burnt there: fire, ashes, smoke... I had already composed a poetic piece about my fate as that.

But for my friend it was not enough. NO, it would not be enough even for myself so easily. I agreed without a hesitation. It happened during a time when the celestial spheres had a different note, a different music to play.
Planetary Positions
Uranus Opposition: midlife crisis. Sun in Pisces; Mercury in Pisces; Uranus in Pisces. Goodness, it’s about long-distance travels, voyages, journeys, pilgrimages…

Uranus rules surprise and all things unexpected. It also rules the future and new technology, including all that is newly invented and all that is un-imagined and yet to come.

Innovative, unpredictable, resourceful, imaginative, idiosyncratic and experimental, Uranus also rules creativity and scientific genius. Uranus' job is to break rules and demolish established patterns or structures, creating sudden, even radical, change. Uranus always works in sudden ways, and is called the Great Awakener.

Uranus gives a strong impulse for rebellion, independence, and even shock. Exciting and liberating, Uranus will overturn anything traditional, conventional or orthodox that it deems has outlived its usefulness.

This planet produces quick, liberating results, blending fact with intuition in its quest to discover universal truths. Uranus is considered the higher octave of intellectual Mercury, and is strongly objective and brainy, with no emotional side. Those people with strong Uranian influences in their charts are trailblazers and forerunners in their communities.

Since Uranus also holds sway over social change, it also regulates the global brotherhood of man and all humanitarian concerns, including environmental issues. Uranus rules the Aquarius. Finally, Uranus rules astrology.

This planet stays in a sign for seven years and therefore takes 84 years to circle the zodiac.

This little guy is the mythological messenger, communicating information to one and all. Mercury represents non-emotional, highly rational, objective thought. Its placement in a sign determines that sign’s intellectual style. As a quickly moving planet, Mercury is flexible, responsive and adaptable. A big part of Mercury’s job is to disburse information; as such it rules perception, language, writing, editing, research, speaking, all kinds of learning experiences and learning styles and the assessment of data. It rules telecommunications, computing, software, electronic gadgets, the postal service, shipping, couriers, and all forms of transportation. This planet has a LOT of responsibility.

When Mercury is retrograde, it scrambles information, causes static and confusion. Its effects are felt universally. Mercury retrograde episodes are highly unreliable to sign contracts, complete important transactions, access accurate information or make big decisions.

The sign and house in which Mercury resides in one’s chart reveals a great deal about that person’s natural style of gathering and giving out information. Mercury also rules sibling relationships, maps, letters, travel plans, appointments, roadways, vehicles, advertising, publishing, sales, and public relations.

Mercury rules both Gemini and Virgo. Mercury spends about two-three weeks in each sign, but when it retrogrades, which it does three to four times a year, it can stay in one sign as long as ten weeks. Never far from the Sun, it takes about one year to circle the zodiac.

The Sun
As seen from Earth, the Sun is the brightest star in the universe. It is the center of our solar system, and the vital heart in any horoscope. Without the Sun, there would be no life. The Sun rules your will, your pride, your determination, your heart, health and vitality, the recognition you receive for work well done, your sense of purpose, and motivation for future goals. It is you, the individual. The Sun is your ego, governing how you see yourself, your self-esteem. It represents you, the individual. This planet also determines how others view you. An essentially masculine force, the Sun also wields influence over the significant men in your life, especially those in positions of authority. This may be your father, your current boyfriend or your husband, a guy-friend, or a male boss or client.

The Sun rules all daylight. In the same way it rules public recognition and self-image by illuminating who we are, the Sun also clarifies the characteristics any planet it touches and reveals truths about that planet. For example, if the Sun and Jupiter communicate in a special configuration, Jupiter’s goodness would be illuminated and made even more brilliant by the Sun. Under the nurturing light of the Sun, Jupiter’s strengths intensify, as do the benefits it bestows upon us.

The Sun takes one year to move through all twelve constellations (signs) of the zodiac. The Sun guards the heart. It is the ruler of the sign of Leo.

Pisces have an intuitive and psychic ability more then any other zodiac signs. Pisces is the sign of mysticism, mystery and the spiritual unknown. Pisces have formidable intuitive ability. Most Pisces are somehow involved with occult or spiritualism. Pisces are very good at understanding people for they have the ability to delve into the psyche and see behind a person's motivations. Pisces are not the pushovers that they may seem, in fact they have strength of character and will stand up for what they believe in and they can do hard work for something they believe in. They can be very lazy but only in matters that they do not care about. Pisces is the most sensitive of all zodiac signs.

Having said all that about the planets, their transits and all the significance it all merits, a spiritually inclined friend had a knack of an idea to visit some divine holy place, where Shiva could be found, in some sort of a pilgrimage, and I had to comply. I am an eager traveller myself, as opportunity permits, and this was one not to be missed. It is not that I do not like to travel, I very much love to, beyond measure, but the pilgrimage chosen was a difficult one, and was fraught with many dangers. It is not that I am incapable of protecting my friends in times of need, but at some point one has to realize one’s limits and needs to plan and act accordingly. My friend chose to go to Gosain-Kunda, a high-Himalayan lake of many legends.

It was early spring. Lower down the valley, the days have already begun to grow uncomfortably hot. But as we climbed up, there were still no signs of new buds except some rhododendron flowers reddening the forest greens. The afternoon air was still chilly and the morning, cold. Trails were still covered in snow after we crossed the 3300m mark. During the day, the snow melted, and the trails became wet and soft; in the afternoon as the sun grew to the west and its energy subsided, cold winds blew and the path froze again. Icy winds lapped the mountainsides with much ferocity. This trail is not for the faint-hearted or for the careless. Here, you need to respect the mountains, if you fail you simply become forgotten!

What then? You might ask. It’s just a lake, no?

NO, NOT AT ALL. It’s not just a lake as that, it is Shiva’s Lake, at an altitude of 4380m, and one has to climb up to 4400m just to have a glimpse of it. Imagine, an altitude where experienced mountaineers need about 7 days for acclimatization before actually being there!

This is a story of legends, of old times, of some distant past. The gods and demons both agreed they needed to churn the Sea to produce some elixirs, just as they use the butter churn to produce butter. They used Mount Sumeru as the churn while Shesh Naga, the serpent god, agreed to be used as the rope. They wound the rope around the mountain and tugged from opposite sides; the sea thundered in turbulence, the universe shook with the sheer force. After ages had passed, two entities with two different qualities surfaced: one was the Immortalizing Elixir, “amrita”, while the other was the Universe-destroying Dark Poison called “Kalakut Veesh”.

The vessels were brought, the elixir was safely kept in one. They could not contain the poison as it would destroy the surrounding even with its mere vapour. What would happen to the universe if it got spilled???

Quickly realizing that there was no safe place to contain the poison, Lord Shiva hastily gulped it. Damn!!! The poison could not go down to the stomach as it would kill Shiva, and the Universe Herself, so it chose to stay where it was: declining to go down the throat, the Poison chose to get stuck inside Shiva’s throat… And Shiva, with the Hell-burning Pain in his throat, became helpless in alleviating the suffering it caused. He ran…!

Ordinary solution would not help in any way, no! He needed something cold enough to put the fire in his throat down. He climbed the Himalayas in faltering steps, oftentimes coughing along the way. Tiny cough droplets laden with traces of the poison soon spread out along the trail. Higher and higher He went, and when he could go no further because of the pain, he struck the ground with his trident the force of which made a huge bowl. Icy waters soon filled the “bowl of the mountain” and Shiva then reclined beneath the surface, merely to put the “fire of the poison” down.

Many pilgrims suffer from altitude sickness along the trail while climbing up and need to be evacuated every year during the monsoon season when the major pilgrimage falls, for mysterious reasons. And where there are no vehicles, it is a risky venture fraught with dangers when the only thing that can carry you down to a safer altitude is another human being. The legend says it happens because of the poisons spread there due to Shiva’s coughing. Others assign it to the wild red, white and blue flowers and their particular repugnant scent.

Pilgrims, who manage to make it up to the lake and take a cleansing bath in its icy waters claim they can see Shiva’s reclining image beneath the surface.
We kept wondering, how the majority of pilgrims would do it when there was rain and the slopes became as slippery as Hell: one missed foot and you could go beyond the cliff, even eagles would find it difficult to find your bones later!!!

Ours was a more or less philosophical pilgrimage combined, personally, with a visual one. My friend had an i-phone, I love my D-SLR. Another friend was only thinking about a downhill on his mountain bike. Anyway, we did it and found the journey to be awe-inspiring. It made me more humble in many ways, and taught me my limits as a human being.

While climbing up beyond 3600m, I could feel my fingers and toes slowly go numb with a tingling sensation and so did my face. I knew I could take time at a lower altitude to acclimatize and do it safely but time was in short supply. So, I rather chose to do it fast: climb fast, and descend fast. I did exactly that and found my friends still climbing up when I was climbing down to the safer altitude after paying homage to the Old Man under the surface of a frigid lake.  I had given them a spare torchlight and I waited below, straining my eyes every now and then. I was planning to organizing a rescue party if they were not to show there by the evening. And I heaved a sigh of relief when they showed up late, but just before night fell. I was happy to see everyone safe and sound although one of my friends coughed dangerously. I was alarmed but it was now safer, far far safer than above 4000m.

My friend, despite suffering from lung and respiratory problems (it was already there before the long strenuous accent, and we thought it was just a cold) is safely back in Kathmandu where advanced medical help is available for her treatment and recovery.

I still cannot fully comprehend how I did it. That, indeed, was a pilgrimage along the trail of poisons.

[Text by the author, with help from Lara Burmistrova. All photographs by the author. Images related to planets and/or their related positions belong to their respective owners. Sourced on-line and used for educational purposes only.]