Saturday, October 2, 2010

Of Mountains and Folklore

I believe that urban ‘superstitions’ had some logical basis once upon a time….its just that those logics don’t apply to the current situation anymore. And hence you tend to ignore them. But when you travel closer to nature, deep in its interiors and you hear certain folklores……somehow you don’t want to tamper with them. Many people listen to them as that only i.e. folk tales and forget about them. But I find them fascinating and mysterious. And I believe always, always told in order to respect and protect nature.

The first interesting one that I heard was on the trek to Dzongri in Sikkim. We had reached the base of the Dzongri peak and were getting excited about going up to the peak in the wee hours to see the sunrise. The sunrise there is said to be spectacular and pinkish in colour. In the night the guide told us quietly….that if a person is a sinner, he or she won’t be able to see the sunrise on Kanchendzonga. We saw a muted sunrise as the clouds floated in and out. On our way back, the same guide pointed to a group of foreign trekkers of a particular country and said that they are not good people and they will never be able to see the sunrise. Lo and behold, a storm engulfed us the very same night.

A very fascinating folklore exists in GHNP. The final destination of our trek was to the origin of the river Tirthan in Bhuindari. On our second day just before our climb started, there was a tree filled with stuff made of iron. The guides refused to go ahead without lighting incense there. For our safe return, they informed us. Anyway….this is not the fascinating folklore I was talking about. There are two glacial lakes in Bhuindari from which the Tirthan originates. Women are not allowed to go near them or see them. Men can go to only one lake….the other remains untouched by human hands…in its very pure form. It’s the only other place in India where Brahma, the Creator is worshipped and rightly so. We womenfolk stayed away.

Monal, the state bird of HP is brilliant and elusive. The locals say that when God created the Monal, all the birds of the world presented it with one of their feathers. That’s why you can see every possible colour in that bird.

My favourite folklore however is about a place where I have not been yet – the Valley of Flowers. This valley was hidden from humans for a long time. It was only in the 1930s that a British mountaineer stumbled upon it. The locals however knew about this valley but refused to go there ever believing it to be visited by fairies. They say that if you enter their dwelling place, the fairies will carry you away. Some believe that that’s how the female botanist from England also died there. Even now the locals refuse to go into the interiors of the park which remains off bound to humans. And yes….I do believe in fairies!

In the grueling trek to Tso-Moriri in Ladakh, bad weather followed us constantly making us change our plans everyday. Out of pure frustration, B a fellow trekker started abusing the mountains. J and I jumped on him and immediately told him to stop. It’s a cardinal sin to curse nature especially when you are out there in nature…for nature. Why do we forget that we don’t and can’t ever control nature? It is nature that always controls us.
And then there are the prayer flags…it’s not a folklore but I simply love the concept. The prayers written on the flags flutter in the wind and gets carried up to heaven. Up there standing on top of the world, with nature in its purest form……it’s simple to believe that the prayers will always reach the right ears.