By Rachna Singh Chopra
The path cutting through Sarahan and Jeori up till Sangla was first dusty (with dams and hydroelectricity projects on the go) and then dangerous.
Travelling along the fierce Sutlej on steep narrow roads was not easy. The river enters India from this region and literally cuts the Great Himalayan belt into spectacular gorges. The river did not look like a river, rather an awakened army of sleeping monsters, full of renewed fury and vengeance. But one is more than compensated on reaching Sangla, the posterior of Kalpa or Kinnaur Kailash, when a stunningly beautiful valley stares back at you.
As night fell, the clouds hung low amidst a most spectacular crisscross of hills, the stars took their positions and began to converse. A halt here got me comfortable with the beauty of the terrain before I embarked for Kalpa for a face-to-face with Shiva in his winter abode. The haul sure seems worth it when one reaches Kinnaur, the tribal district of Himachal Pradesh, with a spectacular terrain of lush green valleys, orchards, vineyards, snow-clad peaks and cold desert mountains.
Under a magical spell of beauty inconceivable by a human mind, three conspicuous peaks of the Kinnaur Kailash range, namely Shiva, Parvati and Ganesha, sit majestically in eternal samadhi. Adjoining hills look like graceful village elders draped in snow-white shawls. A tribe of thick pine forest surrounds the range and tall thin trees swing cautiously from side to side when the breeze moves through them, as court ministers in a kingdom extending council on the news brought by the messenger—the breeze.
A path beckoned me. With each step, the view got closer and clearer. When face-to-face with the Shiva peak (as though ushered into Shiva’s most private chamber) I bowed in court style and muttered Your Highness! Just then a chunk of snow floated up from the peak and became a cloud. As I gazed mesmerising, I got convinced that the breeze was indeed Shiva’s breath, the mountains his lungs, and the clouds the rings of his smoke!
I climbed up higher and rested awhile on a green patch alongside harvests of peas and pulses, and plucked a purple flower whose cold petals refreshed as they pressed against my palm. The path called me further into the woods and I mindlessly followed even as darkness grew and birds whistled. Not all paths that call may be safe, and they may be calling for different reasons, I was reminded, and I compelled myself to return.
I knew just how the earth must feel, as I experienced the gradual melting of snow in my bones the next morning. Just as one is about to get snug in the chilly cover, the sun steals it away. The morning brought with it brand new sets. To think that it is the same village like last evening would be a folly! Mothers flash contented, sunny smiles while strewing their little girlies’ hair into plaits, while young boys carrying straw baskets kick-start the day by hitting stones with sticks. The silence of the region was flirted by the tinkling sound of the rolling prayer wheels, as the whiff of rhododendrons mingled with the aroma of thukpas and mutton momos being cooked by a giggly village family.
Legendary myths are living creatures in Kalpa. For one, the entire village is under the benign governance of the living and loving presence of Mataji, none other than the revered Durga. To infer this is not presumption since Durga was, after all, the brave village dame who killed the bad guys and in her later years came to be regarded as Mataji! Now disembodied, she selects individuals through whom she passes on her directives, answers only on Sundays, and that too by nods only few can decipher!
The village is sprinkled by monasteries and Kali temples alike, and it is said that the natural 70 metre Shivalingam peak of Kalpa (rising to 6,050 metres) changes several shades during the course of one day. I kept a watch to no avail. To my eyes it had only one colour, that of the snow!
But I felt Krishna Lila in this abode of Shiva when I saw snow linger lovingly over the peaks before drifting away forever, as I saw the last and final light over the possessed peaks. My chant of Om Namah Shivaya switched to Sri Krishna of its own accord, as I sighted the milkiness of the moon playing hide and seek with the fake denseness of the clouds, and the boundaries of the mountains merge with the darkness while patterns of their silvery hung freely under moonlight. It seemed as though the watercolours of a child (God?) were spilled and the painting smudged. The entire region looked like a cot in which creation has been lulled to sleep.
I too slid into a reverie and in a brilliant vision I saw the Shivalingam change hue from a transcendental blue to a flaming orange, then to a white, a yellow and red and I understood! An integration of the manifest (Shiva) and the most beautiful expression of the manifest (Krishna), yes, that is what Kalpa is all about.
GETTING THERE: Situated at the height of 2758 m above sea level, about 110 km from Sarahan, 250 km from Shimla. Nearest airport and railhead are at Shimla. Buses and taxis are available at Shimla and Rampur.
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