Some Legends Last Forever
Continuing with the amazing journey of Prof. Kailas Nath Kaul
‘My Trip To Gangotri’
In 1937, I went to Gangotri. The Pandas (Brahmin priests) showed me the signature of Rajnath Atal (my ancestor who had visited Gangotri).
Even though I protested, they took very good care of me. They came with me till the “Goumukhi” Ganga. Coincidentally, on that day, there was a lunar eclipse.
Near the Gangotri Glacier, someone had built a small wooden hut. I slept in that hut. The floor was ice. A ‘nanga baba’ (naked priest) was with me. When he felt cold, he burned dry leaves. The hut was filled with smoke. I fell asleep watching the snow-covered mountains on one side and on the other side was the shining moon.
When I woke up in the morning, I had cold. My doctor had warned me that if I get a cold in that climate, it will quickly develop into bronchitis and then into pneumonia, which would be fatal. He had advised me to take some brandy with me.
I had never even tasted brandy and did not even know what a bottle of brandy looked like.
I was in a quandary. How was I to get a bottle of brandy? I made a courageous effort and entered a liquor shop. I felt as if I had entered a brothel. I was afraid someone might see me entering the shop.
I asked the shopkeeper for some brandy and he asked me how much I wanted. I replied… The smallest bottle… He gave me a one-pint bottle. I quickly hid it in my pocket and walked out looking here and there. I was so afraid that I would be recognised.
I opened the bottle only when I reached the shores of the Goumukhi Ganga. I did not even know how to drink the brandy and swallowed it neat without water. I felt a fire in my chest, but the cold disappeared!
When I had started my trip, my neighbour had told me, “We know you do not believe in these things but we request you to seek blessings for us at the holy site of Gangotri.” So, I thought of them and prayed that they would receive the full benefits of my pilgrimage.
The mouth of the glacier is shaped and spread wide like that of a cow. Hence the name Goumukhi which means mouth of a cow. From this springs the Bhagirathi river. It is surrounded by large rocks. The water is icy cold and flows so forcefully that one’s feet cannot touch the ground.
I held on to a rock and made three quick dips in the water. My body became numb but I concentrated and recited my neighbour’s name and that he may receive blessings of my efforts.
I returned from Goumukhi accompanied by the panda. These pandas know how to be of service and use religion as a means to con pilgrims. I had no intentions of giving him anything.
He accompanied me to Harsil. He was a shrewd man and he told me he did not want anything from me. But his son was in school and he said if I could give something towards his fees. I relented and in this way he took what he wanted from me.