As I wandered around the banks of the Ganges, I stopped at Haridwar and Rishikesh, the Vedic towns of India. By lacing steep into spirituality, these towns did wonders to my health and vitality. I used to bathe in the river early in the morning and then go for long walks as I admired the ancient traditions and cultures of the place. My first major religious journey was to Char Dham which consists of the four spiritual pillars of the Uttarakhand region namely Gangotri, Yamunotri, Kedarnath and Badrinath.
It was Kedarnath and it’s snow peaks that fascinated me the most as I reached there by helicopter. The temple is made of grey stone and in the middle lies the Shiva linga. This linga is crooked stone with many edges and not your typical Shiva linga which is round and cylindrical. Outside the temple is a huge stone statue of Nandi. Near the entrance sat a group of fierce looking aghori. They were covered in ash, tridents, tiger skins and were smoking and puffing away at their ganja leaves through their mighty chillums. I too got pulled towards them as I sat myself down amongst them to share a smoke.
The air was chilly, dry and a bit thin but the sub-zero temperature was bringing the fast breeze from the Sumeru Mountains. “You know, life can be strange and one has to go through it to understand its meaning and decipher the many experiences that one goes through.” I said as I looked at the most fearsome aghori who sat opposite to me. “We are the outcasts. We are just lowly beggars. I am happy that a man like you came up to us to talk and share a smoke.” he said with a smile as he passed his smoke to me. I took a puff and bellowed in the vicinity as, slowly, thin and fluffy snowflakes started falling from the sky. It was as if the boards wanted to shower us with his blessings. “You know, Bhola saved this temple from ruin and destruction. When the floods came in the river Ganges, the Mata roared across the hills. It turned the mud and the stones upside down. Trees, houses and huts all washed away. Man and animal buried under the same mud. It was sheer distraction except…” he looked around as some pilgrims offered some money to him. He bought a cup of tea with the money and started sipping it to feel warm again. “Except what… Yes, I believe this place has a story. A shila rolled over from the mountain and stopped right in front of the temple.” I said with faint recollection.
“Yes, the shila broke the path of the flow of the Mata and the river passed from the side of the temple. It kept the temple complex totally safe and unharmed by the landslide and flash floods that destroyed these hills a year back.” The aghori smiled with self-admiration as if he was gloating on his knowledge. I said “Well, I am here also after a major upheaval in my life. My dad got murdered and I was left all alone by the horrific incident. Somehow, I blame myself for his death which could have been prevented. This guilt has brought me here in search of redemption and some peace.”
“Your father… Ahh, he was a brave man, very brave. He fought two of those guys with no weapon in his hand. He was strong.” the aghori said with pride as his eyes swelled. “Yes, he saved my life by sacrificing his as those people were going to kill me next.” I said with some panic in my voice as I tried to recollect the horrid incident. The aghori put up his arms as if he was blessing me and said “Bheem Shila, don’t you get it? The meaning is so simple. It stares you in the face. Your father was your Bheem Shila. He protected you from death and sacrificed himself so that you could live.” As he said those words, a bulb lit up in my head “Yes, indeed, Dad was my Bheem Shila. He was my rock and he saved me to the very end.” I looked up to the skies and prayed for peace and his soul.