I was sitting in my garden enjoying my morning cup of tea and going through the headlines of newspaper when my smart phone started ringing. It was Bashir who was calling me from Anantnag. I picked up the phone with smile on my face and spoke to my old companion from Kashmir. He was inviting me to visit Kashmir Valley. He told me number of advantages of moving out from hot and overcrowded Delhi and spending a few days in Kashmir. When he found that he was not able to convince me much due to my business commitment; then he played the trump card and said that “Baba Barfani” had called me to his abode. He was aware of my spiritual inclination in life and was sure that I would not refuse it. I readily agreed to his invite and planned to visit the holy shrine of Shri Amarnathji during the proposed period of pilgrimage this year. Then we exchanged good wishes and kept the phone.
I sat back on the chair with my eyes closed in the garden and whole scenario of my journey to the holy shrine of Amarnathji flashed in my thoughts. Memories of my trip stretching over a fortnight moved in my mind like a movie. It was four years ago that I landed up at Pahalgam with keen desire in my heart to visit the holy cave. I came across Bashir at the base camp who enthusiastically agreed to be my guide cum porter during my visit to the holy cave. It took me six days to travel up to the holy cave and have a glimpse of “Shivlinga made of Snow”. We went through Chandanwadi, Sheshnag and Panchtarni before finally reaching the final destination. We had to have forced halts at times when it would start raining but nothing could defeat our determination.
During our long discussions en-route I came to know that this pilgrimage not only had spiritual significance but also social, cultural and financial importance for the local people. The porters, guides, pony owners, taxi drivers and hoteliers would wait for the whole year for the tourists and pilgrims to arrive since it would provide them good earning. In the earlier days and even now also the people of Kashmir are mostly confined within the valley. They hardly have a chance to move beyond Pir Panjal. This month long pilgrimage period gives them an opportunity to mix up with the people of Indian mainland and exchange their cultural thoughts. Secondly, it reaffirms the belief that is those for thousands of years. Since pre-historic ages, Kashmir has been an integral part of India having same cultural and religious affinity. This pilgrimage would give a chance to the pilgrim to look inside his own self and do some soul searching. It would provide the much-needed relief from running around of daily life of the city and bring him closer to the nature thus opening the realm of spiritual world. A fortnight of stay in the mountainous premises in close association with nature would do tremendous good to our health.
Bashir kept on narrating various folk tales associated with the yatra and various places en-route that we came across. He had a deep knowledge of cultural past and was working as a porter cum guide since more than a decade during the Amarnath Yatra. People from various parts of the country had thronged the trek and it appeared like a cultural mix of the country. Everyone was connected with a common cultural and religious bond that had brought him/her here in this beautiful spiritual journey. The security forces were keeping vigil at all the times and ensured that all the devotees were safe. There was enough support from the organizers for our comfortable stay. When I had completed my first journey to the holy abode of Shri Amarnathji, I had one question in my mind. “What all good must have happened to this place had there been no social unrest and militancy?” Although the situation had improved much more as compared to what it was three decades ago, still there are miles to go in times to come.
I was sitting with my eyes closed in the garden of my Delhi home and all the memories of my previous journey to the God’s abode at Amarnath were reeling in my mind. The desire to visit that spiritual place which is a part of our eternal culture and history had got rekindled in my heart and soul. I felt like putting on wings and flying off to that place immediately. It was really a call from god’s abode.