Friday, February 24, 2012

The Village Woman By The Riverside

The following article is written as part of the IndiBlogger and Travel Around the World with Expedia Contest (http://www.expedia.co.in/) under the topic -->

Share with us the stories about interesting people you've met when on your travel in India or overseas and what connected you together – a hobby, interest, belief, etc.

Hope you enjoy reading it!

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Wow! It’s simply breathtaking! These are the words that spring to my lips as I slowly walk down the dusty and uneven pathway at a small town in the Himalayas. The Kalp Kedar temple stands above and a large Shiva statue with a trident looks on benignly...

Lord Shiva Temple - Harsil
The Kalp Kedar Temple with the Lord Shiva statue, Harsil

The sentiment was apt for what I was looking at was the gorgeous Ganga as she tumbled and bubbled her way over the rocks at Harsil, a campsite set in an apple orchard, framed against a backdrop of sylvan pine trees reaching the skies and icy mountain peaks. A chance halt at Harsil, on our way down from the pilgrim town of Gangotri had meant me strapping the laces of my running shoes to explore more of the nearby town.

I came out after paying my respects to Lord Shiva at the local Kalp Kedar temple when I heard the gentle swishing sound of the waves – actually it was the River Ganga. Attracted by the sight and with an eager keenness to meet Her, I took the route down. Bordered by thick hedges and apple bushes, intermingled with puzzling paths branching off and seemingly leading to nowhere, the unpaved dirt track was leading me to my destination in sight.

Apple orchards, Harsil in Himalayas
The apple orchards lining my way down towards the banks

Down at the river bank, it was silent, serene and I was overwhelmed by the surreal beauty of the landscape: such remoteness – Is this real or am I dreaming?

There was this light blue-green sacred water making its way downhill through boulders and pebbles and the complementing horizons marked by the magnificent mountains reaching for the skies, some snow capped while others in all shades of browns, greys and greens.

River Ganga - Harsil
Surreal beauty at the river bank

Amid all this beauty, a figure in shades of emerald and crimson caught my eye. In her late fifties, she was short with distinct hilly features, looked a bit frail and her face bared a few wrinkles, proof of the hardships she had encountered in her life. It was a woman from the village cuddled up in a green sweater and a light blue scarf, knelt down with folded hands drinking Gangajal (sacred Ganga water) from the cusp of her hands. Her religious kit consisting of a diya, incense sticks, a match box, vermilion powder, rice flakes, etc all lay scattered neatly besides her. On noticing me, she radiated a pleasing smile and offered a few drops of water to me as well. I gulped it down. The water was crisp and cold, the strong winds striking me hard but the warmth of her smile comforted me.

"Yatri ho? (Pilgrim?)" , she inquired in her brusque Hindi.

I nodded affirmatively adding, "Coming down from Gangotri and going towards Badrinath."

Her weary eyes sparkled as I mentioned the two dhams and she asked me if I was aware of the significance of the place where I was standing. Curious to know more, I knelt down besides her and as if taking cue, she started her narrative –

"Once, Rivers Bhagirathi and Jalandhari had an argument about which was more significant. Lord Vishnu aka Hari intervened by taking the form of a stone or shila (Hari-shila or Harsil), and absorbed their anger. Even today, the waters of the two rivers become a little less turbulent from here onwards. So these stones that you see in the river, these are not ordinary stones, Beti! These stones have life... They are Lord Vishnu. Close your eyes and make a wish. Pray to them with a sincere heart. They will make all your wishes come true!"

I was awestruck by the conviction she exuded in her account.

"Have all your wishes been granted till now?", I asked.

To this, she giggled like a young girl, stood up and turned around. She then lit up her incense stick and holding it in the direction of the river; spoke to me for one last time, very clearly and distinctly –

"Most of them are and I am sure God will answer the rest too. But in His own time and own way!"

A certain sense of peace and divinity was oozing out of her and I felt something pulling me towards her; perhaps it was her childlike simplicity, perhaps it was her unwavering faith and conviction, perhaps it was her utmost devotion; something about her had touched me at the deepest level.

Garwali village Woman in the Himalayas
The Garhwali Woman lost in her prayers

Several questions came popping in my mind – From where was she manifesting her faith and positivity? What was it to live in a small town cut off from all the pleasures of a city life? Had she ever been out of town? But it was too late. She had already lost herself deep in thoughts, imploring God with a silent movement on her lips.

Framed by the endless horizon, I stood up to take in the incredible grandeur and breathe in the fresh country air. As I stepped back towards the stones, I found myself valuing the sanctity of the unspoilt place even more - a place that wasn’t even part of my itinerary originally!

I rolled my fingers along the clefts and crevices of the stones,

‘These are not ordinary stones. They have life…
They will make all your wishes come true’

A few minutes back, I had no idea what these stones stood for and now… suddenly they looked magical!

River Ganga - Harsil
Magical splendor!

I closed my eyes... breath became the silent prayer, our belief and faith the holy mantra. It was a complete moment of bliss, a divine moment connecting me with the divine force. I felt completely blessed and I felt happy. Even amid such overwhelming beauty, faith here was more daunting.

What in the world was I doing here? Who was she? Had something beckoned me here? Unable to find any answers, I felt goose pimples on my arms. It was now time to leave... as I began filing, I gazed at her for one last time - her head still bowed, her palms slightly extended, camphor vapors billowing in the breeze dissolving into nothingness - she was wiping her tears...

1 yr on... Though I could never learn her name but my ephemeral meeting with her has left lasting impressions in the chambers of my heart. Walking down the memory lane by writing this piece, I can still feel her — standing by my side, her face - wrinkled and round like the sun, intermingling like an ever changing psychedelic with the currents of the fast flowing river moving beyond us, I still keep hearing her words – sweet, sober and soft; yet strong and steady flawlessly blended with confidence and conviction of the highest degree... And...

the voice from those speaking stones -
they still very much resonate in my ears...

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If you have any such stories to share, please do so in the comment section. Would love to hear them out!

PS: If you are an IndiBlogger and liked reading my article, Please vote for it on IndiVine HERE! Else, please do send across your best wishes for me. :)

82 comments:

  1. I hope ur wish comes true.... It was a good read and I loved the pictures.... In life some places n people leave a lasting impression on us... A connection we feel to the divine through them... :)

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  2. That river looks so gorgeous :)
    nice snaps.. Keep sharing :D
    Interesting and loved the post title...
    Glued
    --Dee

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  3. Absolutely gorgeous captures and what an awesome place!! Terrific post for the day, thank you so much for sharing with us, Arti!! Have a great weekend!

    Sylvia

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  4. All the best for the contest . These are very few instances that lite up our life forever .

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  5. Gives you goosebumps...I wish I have such stories to share. Beautiful narration with some lovely pictures.

    All the best for the contest...Keeping my fingers crossed for you...:)

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  6. A very mesmerizing story. So you wrote it? It is compelling. I thought you would turn around and the woman would be gone, maybe an apparition, magical!

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  7. Arti, Harsil has a divine beauty and I had stopped there for a night! The belief of people makes them live their lives with smile despite harsh living conditions in most months in a year! Lovely post..

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  8. wonderful experience..and nice pics..hope you win...my travels are all about places..and i hardly interact with people much!!!!

    http://sushmita-smile.blogspot.in

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  9. Gorgeous pics and a wonderful narration were as if not enough...
    the concluding para left everything else behind...superb Arti ma'am!

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  10. I remember her from your post, Arti. Faith is something that we can never fathom and which gives us the strength to bear life's burden with a smile.

    all the best for the contest. :)

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  11. it always is a great experience to meet people living in an entirely different world and know their perspective of life. but how often we understand them?

    beautifully narrated and lovely pictures. it was an amazing read :)

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  12. good luck with the contest. Such a life affirming post, if only there were more people and places that lit up our lives like this.

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  13. Those pictures are sparkling awesome!! :) And I never knew about those Lord Vishnu stones.Amazing to know..I really love everything spiritual. It lets us transcend more into the known depths of unknown right? :)

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  14. Delightful Post Arti...loved the pictures and the beautiful location...best wishes for the contest!

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  15. Beautiful. Rivers reflect our thought and culture.

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  16. These are some of the experiences that make a particular trip very special. Liked the undercurrent of spirituality as always in this post.
    Best of luck to you!

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  17. Hi Nice Post!!! Near the Himalayan terrain you come across quite a few people like this i suppose!!

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  18. That woman has such a slim figure, she looks like a young girl! Wonderful that she spoke to you and told you the legend. I hope your prayers and wishes are granted.

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  19. Hey Arti,

    i believe through this post you've made a wish to those stones to win the contest :P

    all the best for the contest .. if i was judge, the contest would have been closed after reading this post as i'd had my winner in you !

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  20. Wish you good luck Arti. May all your wishes come true. Such a captivating narration and lovely pictures...I got the goose bumps reading the post.

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  21. This incident had touched my heart earlier too and reading about it again I had the same feeling.. Wish you all the best for the contest Arti.

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  22. This is a very beautiful post, Arti. I can feel the faith of that woman. She's a benchmark for holding on tight with our faith. I prayed after reading this. I thanked God for people like you who's very inspiring with the works you share.

    Happy weekend, my dear Arti. The photos are wonderful as always. Surreal indeed.

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  23. Arti, your pictures are beautifully done and your writing paints a picture. Bravo and thank you!

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  24. Beautiful read Aarti .For me no travel is complete without interaction with locals.Have voted for you. Good Luck .May you win the contest.Happy Weekend.

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  25. I love the pictures and the feelings I had reading you account of the woman at the river.
    I just stopped by from BPOTW

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  26. It was a great pleasure to read...
    And let your wishes come true.....

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  27. Awesome post didi :).
    A Lifetime experience :D.
    Loved it :).

    All the best to the contest <3 :D
    Hope you win ;) :D.

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  28. Passei para uma visitinha.
    As fotos são deslumbrantes, amei o texto.

    Tenha um belíssimo dia!
    Bom fim de semana!
    Beijinhos.

    ¸.•°`♥✿⊱╮
    ღ°ºBrasil♫º

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  29. Sometime God try to touch You with the unique way and from that story i can feel it, how lucky are You with all that experience....

    Strong faith and believe, this is the secret :)

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  30. "But in His own time and own way!"- a million $ realization!
    Good-luck Arti :)

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  31. Such a beautiful piece of writing Arti! Your meeting with that woman has touched me as well - it was life speaking to you! Have a lovely weekend!

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  32. your blog generated nostalgia, my home is in Haridwar, beautiful Uttarakhand , now feeling home sick...

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  33. Beautiful narration. Pictures are superb. I feel the chill looking at the. "I am sure God will answer the rest too. But in His own time and own way!" I would have made her my Guru.

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  34. awesome...:)
    best luck with your contest!!!

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  35. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  36. An amazing post. Loved the connection you shared with that lady. The story behind the stones, the way you have expressed the emotions behind them so eloquently, I am amazed. Beautiful pictures. :):)

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  37. We never know what consequences will occur from a chance meeting. Lovely story and photos, Arti! I enjoyed this post very much.

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  38. Very nice post Arti,interesting and wonderful pics..

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  39. Wow...beautiful pictures! The one of Lord shiva is so divine, and that of the blue hued flowing river is so mesmerizing!

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  40. Impressive story beautifully written with beautiful pictures. Nothing gives more pleasure than to meet people who have been a great influence on you through your life while travelling.
    Someone says nothing happens accidentally.
    I believe you were led to meet that woman by some divine force or strong wish inside of you.
    Wishing you will win the contest.

    cosmos

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  41. Beautiful narrative and photos, Arti. Best of luck with the contest!

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  42. It's an honor to read this beautiful story! All I can do (of course) is wish you good luck on the contest, which you very much deserve.

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  43. Goose fleshed! :)
    ...in his own ways....

    Superb, like always! :)

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  44. Hi Arti,

    What a beautiful story and lovely photographs, thanks for taking us along.
    Best wishes to you and enjoy the week

    Hugs
    Carolyn

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  45. This competition is like a dream for every travel blogger!! And who better than you Arti!! :)

    Fantastic article, and I hope you win the competition :)

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  46. You had a unforgettable,precious experience. The divine force may be near Ganges river.
    I hope you win the contest.

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  47. Arti, the woman who gave you such a great impact shines more in your writing. The woman looks to be one with her faith and prayers and I believe when we become one with nature, the magical world start whirling around us. The photos are breathtaking.

    With best wishes for the contest.
    Yoko

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  48. beautiful pics
    excellent read
    good luck to win the competition.

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  49. Beautiful post. Your write really well. I think you should write your regular travel posts also like this. This makes it much more interesting than just the pictures and descriptions. Best of luck for the contest.

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  50. This is such a mesmerizing post. I really hope that your wish comes true.

    All the best for the contest.

    Have a lovely day, dear Arti :-)

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  51. @ALL

    Thank you very much everyone for all your appreciations and best wishes. If you do plan a trip to the Char Dhams in the Himalayas, do make it to this place - Harsil. It's beautiful and the best thing is that it is still unspoilt and pristine. And the simplicity of the locals, really touches a chord in your heart..

    Thanks again, your blessings and good wishes is all I need :-)

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  52. What a tremendous experience ! Your post has captured the essence of travelling !

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  53. I am not an Indi blogger, but I like to travel like you! The water captures are so awesome!

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  54. Great post and the pictures <3
    You are like a perfect travel guide :)
    All the best

    Love
    http://www.facebook.com
    Facebook:
    https://www.facebook.com/pages/MeghaSarin/276091209123944

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  55. hi Arti, just in case you're interested to read, i too blogged for the same cause: http://imakemytrip.blogspot.com/2012/02/seashell-seller-girl.html :-))

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  56. All the Best Arti!...ur captures are always so beautiful and lovely, beautiful post as well:)

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  57. Thanks Arti for dropping by my blogsite, i was able to come here. You have wonderful travels, and thanks for letting me see places and cultures i might not be able to see in this lifetime, but might already have in previous ones. You write well and the photos awesome!

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  58. I felt goose pimples in my arms as I was reading...The river looks so beautiful I could stay there and just watch the water and yes pray too for several hours even a day....nature offers the best therapy...thank you for sharing and yes best wishes for you....

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  59. Best wishes for sure!!!

    Loved the photographs, and the way you narrate the tale.

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  60. What an excellent post. The pictures are beautiful, but your writing is so good it would make me want to visit this place even if I hadn't seen the pictures.

    Thank you for visiting my blog. I will keep coming back by yours.

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  61. What lovely shots and thoughts.

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  62. so beautiful words and photos, thanks for sharing your reflective thoughts in your journey, nature is so therapeutic it does transform us and the world around us.

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  63. Arti,
    While reading this blog, I remember one novel, published in 1993, "Deep River" written by Shusaku Endo, a Japanese writer. Five Japanese play important roles in the story. And each of them has Karma. The last scene ends in Ganga which is depicted as the divine, transcending everything, not to be confined to one religion and having an universal divinity. The photos of the river are stunning , spiritual and I feel as if they were giving me energy.
    Thanks a lot. I want to learn more through your blogs.
    Have a great weekend.
    keiko

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  64. Great work, beautiful words and photos!

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  65. Nice one. All the best. I do not remember my Indiblogger password :-(

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  66. Wow! That was something? So did you make a wish?? Loved the pictures....

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  67. Lovely post Arti.
    All the best for the contest! :)

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  68. Great post Arti:) I just joined your Blog:)

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  69. very touching post.picks are breathtaking:)

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  70. Hey wow.. congratulations.. Lovely piece.

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  71. Beautiful post.. some people leave an unforttable mark in our lives, however briefly we met them for!

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  72. Arti,
    You write so beautifully, I can picture those moments as I sit here in front of my computer.

    I believe in life changing moments. They stay with you. Don't they? They awake your inner self and teach you things that no one can.

    When I was a young girl, I had an opportunity to visit some of those places. I still see those images as if it was just yesterday!
    Thanks for taking us along on your journey.
    Sujata

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  73. Arti - what a beautiful post, and touching experience. I hope that whatever you wished for comes rushing to you tenfold! You are a beautiful person. :)

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  74. Beautifully narrated. I loved the pictures & the place!! I have a lot of wishes too... :-)

    Pixellicious Photos

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  75. Amazing where a link will lead me. I was at you last blog on the Japan trip and saw the link on how you had won it with this story. I had missed it the previous winter without internet. Your words brought me also to this special place and time with the special women you met. You have such a gift in expressing those special moments that life can bring. With this gift others are able to envision and feel such moments. You have brought a smile to my heart in this wonderful story you have shared. Many blessings to you.

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  76. Loved reading this post Arti. I too came in a circuitous way and reached this soul stirring point on your blog.

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Delighted u stopped by... Your suggestions, feedback are really appreciated. Thanks a lot! Hope you visit again!

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