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A Tryst with Tranquility

by lilrav 5 year, 9 months ago

This article is about a holiday my family and I went on some years ago to Jageshwar in the Kumaon Hills. It is memorable for its serentiy and charm.

Alighting from the car, we feel as if we have turned back the wheel of time some five centuries!  Frenzy, hectic, deadline, tension – all these familiar urban terms are blissfully forgotten and are quietly replaced by tranquil, serene, laid-back, enchanting – as we land in Jageshwar.  A small temple town some 40 kms from Almora, nestled among dense deodars at a height of 1875m above sea level it lies completely at peace with itself, quietly compelling the rare tourist to extend his stay there, and few can resist its charm.

A cluster of 124 lingams, the oldest (Mrityujay Mandir) dating back to the 8th century AD and the latest to the 15th, make up the complex.  At the entrance we noticed a large bell with the lower half broken away, still being tolled to herald the arrival of the devout in the abode of God.  One of the 12 Jyotirlings of our country is located here in the Jyotirling Jageshwar Mandir.  One can sit undisturbed in the shrine without the intrusion of cacophonous aartis or marauding priests.

Jageshwar comprises of the temple complex and the U.P. government-run Kumaon Mandal Vikas Nigam (KMVN) hotel bang opposite the temple.  There are about a dozen daily-needs  shops along the only road that passes through this little temple town.  That’s all of Jageshwar for you!  This scenic town is enveloped on two sides by lofty mountains most of which we can see around us.

Climbing the uninhabited one behind the hotel to the very top was exhilarating to say the least.  The absolutely breathtaking scenery from the summit ensured that our exhaustion magically melted away!  The mountains and valleys rolled on from one into the other, receding away from us in shades ranging from a lush verdant green to a sedate silent blue-gray and finally into a faint haze. How strangely peaceful it was up here – away from the deadline-infested pace of the mortal world below.  A lonely pine was vainly trying to reach up into the wispy cloud that was scurrying away in a tearing hurry.  Those mountains must know every little bit of history that ever happened in these areas, but they have kept them a closely guarded secret.  There is a wonderful magic in the mountains that cleanses us, even if only temporarily, of all materialism that we invariably harbor as we climb the corporate and social ladder.  These petty feelings simply vanish as we experience the sublime and are transformed into a brand new and clean person.

On the opposite hill the needle-shaped leaves of the deodars glistened in the sunlight.  Below us the sprawled terraced fields of potatoes and spinach; and some peach and plum trees heavily straining under the weight of the fruits.  Way down below us we caught the silvery sparkle of a babbling brook as sunlight danced on its little ripples.  I became an island of ecstasy amid all this beauty; and I strongly suspect each of the others was also experiencing a similar wondrous moment.

A climb up the deodar-studded mountain on the other side of the road was not without apprehension.  In this dense forest dwelt kaakar (barking deer), and tigers.  Terrified but not the ones to sit hotel rooms, we steeled ourselves before venturing forth into the thick grass and bush covered paths, brushing against and getting stung by the leaves of the bichchu plant (stinging nettles), attractting the attention of nothing more than a baby leech on the way!  Icy chills raced up and down our spines as we dreaded coming face to face with India’s national animal. The woods were indeed lovely, dark and deep, but less than half way up and paralysed with fear, we decided to let the sleeping tigers lie and sheepishly trudged back to a clearing near the foot of the hill, from where we were content with immersing ourselves in the picturesque beauty of this quaint Kumaoni hill town.

When it was time to go away, we each took a little piece of the treasure that was Jageshwar and tucked it away in the depths of our heart to access it at any time we willed, in the heat and dust of our mundane lives.

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