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Pilgrim Centres on Mountain Tops

Nearly all my trips, solo in particular, are chronicled in pocket sized diaries.

From writing the expenses of the day to the events and occurrences, I like to chronicle it all simply because when I go back and read them, it gives me a lot of insights.

And then, I also read some notings that revive a memory.

On the Valley of Flowers trek in Uttarakhand, I had found myself a cozy tea shop in Ghangharia. It was a temporary structure on top of the roof of a house that must have been “under construction” a few years ago. Now it was just an abandoned rooftop with a chai wala selling biscuits, Maggi noodles and cigarettes, among other things.

After the treks, I’d go to this place to relax my aching legs and to write in my notebook. A cup of hot lemon tea, my book and the goings on around me. It was blissful.

One such evening, two friends sat discussing the trek for the following day — Hemkund Sahib — which is a pilgrimage for the Sikh community, and considered to be the highest Gurudwara in the world. I wasn’t trying to overhear, but they were seated close to me and they were quite loud.

The girl animatedly said, “Everest pe mandir bana do to yeh log wahan bhi pahunch jayenge.” (“If someone constructs a temple on the Everest also, pilgrims will reach there.”)

I was so amused by this observation that I quickly wrote it down!

And she wasn’t off the mark!

Most pilgrimages in India are located on mountain tops that devotees have to climb to! Vaishnodevi, Kedarnath, Sabarimala, etc. You do get help to scale those tops — ponies, palanquins, even human carriers called ‘pithu’ in Hindi, but most people just like to walk up to prove their devotion!

I know that the most important Bhutanese monastery, the Tiger’s Nest or Taktsang is also on a mountain top, accessible only by foot. (You can take a pony, but only half way up, and it won’t bring you down).

And somehow, in my experience, a lot of the charm and excitement is in the hike itself, not because it is a place of worship.

Does your country have pilgrimages on mountain tops too?

This was first published on Travel Shots

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Ritu Goyal March 11, 2022