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13 August 2012

Himalayan Pilgrimage For kalmstrom.com Designer

The kalmstrom.com graphic and web designer Jitendra Joshi took a couple of week’s vacation recently. He is a Hindu, and during his time off he went on a pilgrimage to the Himalayas. Now he is back, and when he told me about his journey he made and showed me the photos he took I decided to invite him to tell his story in the kalmstrom.com blog. I know our blog readers will find it as facinating as I did.
Pilgrimage Photo 1

Sacred Himalayan cave

According to Hindu mythology Lord Shiva is the originator and destroyer of this world, and in the sacred Amarnath Cave he is worshipped in the originator form. The cave is surrounded by snowy mountains, and most of the year the cave is also covered in snow. It is therefore open for only 60 days every year, and to visit it you have to register first. My parents and I have been planning this journey for a long time and this year we could finally go. To me it was a fantastic experience to come so near the kind of nature I have earlier seen only in pictures.

Pilgrimage Photo 2

Pilgrimage Photo 3 Northwards by train

The journey started with seventeen hours on the train from Indore to the town Jammu tavi in the northern part of India. After a well needed rest we set out for the Amarnath Cave, which is situated at an altitude of 3888 m. There are two routes to the cave, the Phalgam and the Baltal route. The Baltal route is 16km, but it has a very steep gradient and is quite difficult to climb so we had decided to take the 35 km long Phalgam route instead.


By car to tourist town
We took a taxi to Pahalgam, which is 192km from Jammu tavi. Pahalgam is a well-known tourist town and health resort, and there are numerous tracks leading from the town into the spectacular mountain landscape. Many places in this area are legendary for Hindus, and when I now visited them for the first time I felt both joy and reverence.

Pilgrimage Photo 4
On foot
Next day we could take another taxi to Chandanwari , but after that we had to walk by foot up in the mountains. In the evening we slept in tents on the banks of Lake Sheshnag. Now we were already 3574 m above sea level, and we all felt that the air was thinner than we were used to. I had no problems with it, but my mother got an attack of altitude sickness. She got good medical care by the Indian army stationed there.
Pilgrimage Photo 5
 On horseback

The following day she was feeling better, but we still had to hire horses to manage the steep climb over the Mahagunas Pass at 4276 m. When we had descended to the valley of Panjtarni , where Lord Shiva left behind the five elements- Earth, Water, Air, Fire and Sky, we stopped and spent another night in an tent.

At AmarnathPilgrimage Photo 6
On the morning of 27 July we mounted our horses again, and after a couple of hours ride we finally reached the Amarnath Cave. Inside the cave is an ice structure created by nature, the Shiva Linga, which grows and shrinks with the phases of the moon. It reaches its height during the summer, when the cave is open for pilgrims like my family and me.

It was here Lord Shiva explained the secret of life and eternity to his wife Parvati, who was daughter of the Himalayas. Another ice formation in the cave represents Parvati and a third one Parvati’s and Shiva's son, Ganesha.

It was a very spiritual feeling being at this sacred place, and I found it easy to focus on love, compassion, forgiveness and social harmony. After worship and requests of peace for everyone, we returned by horse via the steeper Baltal route.

Impressive arrangements
Except for the visit inside the Amarnath Cave I thought the best part of the journey was the long track in the valley of the Himalayan Mountains where we had to go on foot. (Although there are horses and helicopters for not physically fit and seniors.) The environment was lush and green, and the top of the mountains were covered with white snow and ice. I was also impressed by the philanthropic groups who provide shelter, food and medical aidfor the full 60 day period in very tough conditions.
Pilgrimage Photo 7
Now I am back in Indore again, but the pilgrimage to the Amarnath Cave lives inside me and will never be forgotten. It is too early to say if and how it will influence my work but I am already certain that the journey has added to my vision both as a human being and as an artist.

Jitendra Joshi
kalmstrom.com Business Solutions