It was year August 1989.I along with my friends Sanjay Bharti and Naveen raina decided to have some adventure. Being a native of Kashmir,It was natural for me to have love for mountains and hence I loved trekking and hiking nearby mountains like Zabarvan, Amarnath, Dhyaneshwar(Bandipura). Zabarvan was my all time favourite, since it was the closest to my home in Rainawari. Apart from trekking, swimming also used to give me an adrenaline rush.
Raksha Bandhan, A sacred festival among Hindus of Kashmir used to be celebrated with lot of enthusiasm, KP devotees used to pay their obeisance to their deities by visiting various holy places, especially places connecting to Lord Shiva, Like Amarnathji,Harsher,Sersher,Dhanshewar,Shankarayacharya temple etc.
I along with my two friends had decided to go to Mahadev. My elders had warned me that Journey to Mahadev is strenuous , Tougher than Amarnathji. We had decided to meet on Aug 16 at the lal chowk bus stand .We all met at the desired place at around 1.00p.m.
We boarded a bus to a village known as Dara. Village Dara is very near to haarvan, and famous Dachigaam national park. We took some snacks along with us…some biscuits and bread and started our ascend. I was wearing a brown baggie pant and a brown and white check shirt which our family tailor Gulzaar had made and whose shop was at jogi lankar bridge. I was also wearing a liberty sports shoe(white with orange stripes).
We started our ascend at around 2.00p.m and were ascending through the narrow gorge which accompanied us right up to our next base camp at lidwaas. After one hour’s ascend,we were already feeling hungry and satiated our hunger with whatever was left with us. We were ascending at a leisurely pace and occasionally stopping at some places and resting on boulders. We could not see a single person in our first 3 hours of ascend. After 3 hours or so, We met some people. My Muslim neighbor was also among them. His name was “Arif” I asked him “what are you doing here!”, He said” I had been to tarsar and marsar and I am in these mountains from last 4-5 days” (Tarsar and Marsar are high altitude mountain lakes). They were a group of around 4-5 boys and they were fully equipped with tents, haversacks, carry mats etc.(After some years after this incident came to know that ”Arif” had become a militant and mentally co-related our last meeting ).
we were enjoying our trekking, it took us almost six hours before we reached a place known as “leedwas”.This place is a small meadow with some 10-20 houses, at around 10,000 feet above sea level, belonging to nomads known in kashmir as” Gujjars”. For these gujjars their lives revolve around their livestock. By the time we reached leedwas, it was around 7.30-8.00p.m. We met some other Kashmiri pundits(KP) also . Total number of devotees were around 8-10 people. We were told normally every year at least couple of hundred devotees come to Mahadev, But that year situation was somewhat different.(It was an early stage of Militancy in Kashmir).As carefree teenagers, we could not understand politics neither had any inclination.
We had thought that we will be able to find something to eat once we reach leeedwas,
but to our disappointment, there was nothing that we had hoped for. However, another group of KP devotees, had before hand seen coming events and had brought a stove, utensils and enough rice and raw bottle gourd with them to feed at least a dozen mouths. In the late evening all of us (8-10 people) contributed some way or the other in making our dinner which consisted of cooked rice , bottle gourd and pickle. We were already hungry as wolves and guzzled our dinner in no time. Next thing that was forcing me and my friends to get worried was to find a place to stay put for night. That worry was also taken care of by other KP’s, as they had arranged 2 Gurjar Kotha’s for all of us. We were given a place to sleep in a Gurjar Kotha by the local Gurjars at a very nominal cost. We three friends were the youngest among all the devotees, and we were well guided and looked after by other KP’s.
Gujjar “kotha” or gujjar house is a rectangular shaped single room and single storey house, may be 15 yards long and 10 yards wide, made of mud. Inside the Kotha, there is a low horizontal partition whose height will be approximately 2-3 feet. Front side of the partition is used as living, dining and bedroom by The Gurjar’s and the back side is used by their livestock. This means both gujjars and their livestock share that one room or kotha. It was a bit uncomfortable sleeping in that kotha as there was hardly any decent flooring. We used deodar twigs covered by a blanket as Mattress. We spread one Blanket on the flooring and one to cover our bodies. I remember vividly the eyes of goats and Sheep’s, looking directly to me over my head.their eyes were shining like fireflies in the night. That night, I slept like a log…
We were woken by our fellow KP’s at 4.00 a.m. For our next and final stretch, an experienced and elderly person of around 55 years took the charge of leading the way further up to Mahadev shrine. It was a Full moon night and we were all walking in a line, ambling and climbing the mountain very cautiously. We were following literally each other’s footsteps. Our leader and other KP’s had constantly captivated our minds by their interesting anecdotes. “I had seen many a times a Hangul here in my previous journeys, maybe we will see a Hangul today also” said the Leader who was also acting as a guide.Another one said,”look at these lights twinkling below in the plains,that is chandpur,my village”.Another Gentleman took his monocular to look a the the village below that was described as “chandpur”.
After some 3 hours we reached a place, where we saw a huge boulder. That boulder must have been at least two story tall and standing at the edge of a precipice. We were told that we have to climb this rock as Mahadevji is on the other side of Rock. Our little ascend on that rock boulder was bare footed. The rock was very rough and I could feel the rough edges piercing my foot soles. That rock was right on the ridge of the mountain, just above the famous dachigaam national park. Finally, I had the darshan of Mahadevji. It was a image of shivlingam naturally carved on the rough rock and looks quite distinct than its surroundings. It was like a smooth black/grayish marble carved on that rough rock, just above the ridge. It must be around 4 feet tall and two and half feet wide .At any given time, maximum, two to three persons can stand in front of Mahadev as that place is cramped.The danger of falling down the precipice is very high there. It was an early morning by the time we reached there , everything looked so beautiful, scenic and divine…
After having darshan, we immediately started our journey back to leedwas. We reached leedwas in less than 2 hours. I remember from Leedwas, we could see a bus, which was moving down somewhere in valley. From that height it looked like an ant. It was already 10.00a.m, I was worried as I was given a deadline to reach home back by 10.00a.m…
From leedwas, I with my friends Sanjay and navin hurriedly descended back. we were actually running and It took us another two and half hours to reach back to Village Dara.We could not find any transportation back to the Srinagar Bus Stand as a “Harta” was called by the Muslim fundamentals in memory of Pakistan Military Dictator Zia-ul-hak’s first death anniversary. Instead of waiting we started walking and running back to Srinagar and after 2 hours we got a lift from the truck driver. That truck dropped me midway at Nishat. From Nishat, I knew there was a short cut via the famous bundh to reach Rainawari.It was another 4-5 Kms ,before I could reach my home. Alone, walking through the bundh, my only accomplice was a big water pipe which comes from haarvan and quenches the thirst of many in Rainawari and adjoining areas. It was a hot day, My only consolation was that pipe which was icy cold and water was oozing out at some joints, those weak joints acted as my thirst quenchers. I crossed the famous 7 bridges before I reached back to my home in Rainawari. I was exhausted and tired by the time I reached my home at 5.00p.m. I don’t need to write how I faced the fiery stares of my Parents. ..
Today, my friend Sanjay Bharti is working in Mumbai and Naveen Raina in Delhi, Occasionally in touch through a phone call or e-mail .Mahadev episode pops up each time we meet as That trip was our last in Kashmir and thus remains one of our most cherished trips……